American poison How racial hostility destroyed our promise

Eduardo Porter

Book - 2020

"A sweeping examination of how American racism has broken the country's social compact, eroded America's common goods, and damaged the lives of every American--and a heartfelt look at how these deep wounds might begin to heal"--

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Subjects
Genres
Creative nonfiction
Published
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2020.
Edition
First Edition
Language
English
Item Description
"This is a Borzoi book published by Alfred A. Knopf."
Physical Description
258 pages ; 22 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780451494887
0451494881
Main Author
Eduardo Porter (author)
  • American Poison
  • Social Insurance for Whites
  • From Welfare to Prison
  • The Black and the Brown
  • The Suffering of White America
  • Tearing Ourselves Apart
  • The Future.
Review by Booklist Reviews

Economics journalist Porter packs an enormous amount of information into this powerful treatise on how America's enduring race problem is inhibiting the nation's social health. Rather than harp on the known history of racism's origins (which is available in many other titles), Porter looks hard at the twentieth century, especially the post-civil rights era, to consider how all the things done to eradicate, or even mitigate, racism have been woefully insufficient. With a scintillating rhythm and pointed language, the author exposes all the ways in which racism has infected everything from unions to welfare to education and immigration policy. With whipsaw precision, he lays down historical evidence, academic studies, and political decisions to support his thesis, taking readers through a kaleidoscope of modern history which points to one irrefutable truth: racism is holding America back. The potency of Porter's argument is bolstered by his impressive source list and straightforward prose. American Poison is a work for our times from a writer who has found his subject. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Booklist Reviews

Economics journalist Porter packs an enormous amount of information into this powerful treatise on how America's enduring race problem is inhibiting the nation's social health. Rather than harp on the known history of racism's origins (which is available in many other titles), Porter looks hard at the twentieth century, especially the post-civil rights era, to consider how all the things done to eradicate, or even mitigate, racism have been woefully insufficient. With a scintillating rhythm and pointed language, the author exposes all the ways in which racism has infected everything from unions to welfare to education and immigration policy. With whipsaw precision, he lays down historical evidence, academic studies, and political decisions to support his thesis, taking readers through a kaleidoscope of modern history which points to one irrefutable truth: racism is holding America back. The potency of Porter's argument is bolstered by his impressive source list and straightforward prose. American Poison is a work for our times from a writer who has found his subject. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Choice Reviews

Porter's American Poison is a clearly written meditation on the destructiveness of racial animus in American life. Porter, an economics reporter for The New York Times, contends that overt racism has become an increasingly common part of public discourse in recent decades. According to the author, racial hostility poisons political efforts to buttress democracy through a robust social safety net. Since president Lyndon B. Johnson's signing of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in 1964 and 1965, respectively, the Republican Party has pandered to white fears about "welfare queens," rampant crime, and xenophobia. The result has been an assault on social safety net programs and efforts to suppress voter participation. Porter clearly demonstrates how the rhetoric of freedom, fearmongering about "super-predators," and pandering to white anxieties about the changing demographic makeup of American society choke the promise of the republic. Porter narrates a familiar tale in which American democracy is imperiled by an increase in demagoguery in American politics and the unequal and unfair distribution of wealth. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers.--G. D. Smithers, Virginia Commonwealth UniversityGregory D. SmithersVirginia Commonwealth University Gregory D. Smithers Choice Reviews 58:06 February 2021 Copyright 2021 American Library Association.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

America's social contract is shattered, and there's likely no putting the pieces back together, according to this fierce, incisive analysis of why we are a deeply divided nation. New York Times journalist Porter (The Price of Everything) describes over a century of mounting resistance to government, and to the safety net it offers, on the part of working-class white citizens (whose own livelihoods would be greatly improved by a stronger welfare system), because of ingrained fear of the other and demographic change. Porter considers racial animus to be the primary driving force of our social dysfunction; the root cause of the polarization that has made bipartisanship and civil discourse all but impossible. Porter brings his own experience as a longtime observer of American economy and society to this sobering study, showing how fear and resentment have been driving forces in politics. In glimmers of hope, he notes that younger generations are accustomed to diversity, and that integrated neighborhoods and schools have proven beneficial to all. But, he notes, many young adults hold similar views as their elders, and several schools have re-segregated. VERDICT Bleak, but perhaps inspirational, this challenging critique is recommended for policymakers and readers concerned about civic engagement.—Janet Ingraham Dwyer, State Lib. of Ohio, Columbus Copyright 2020 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

New York Times journalist Porter (The Price of Everything) delivers an anguished and incisive treatise on how racism has contributed to 21st-century America's economic and social decline. According to Porter, white working class voters have undermined their own opportunities for advancement by allowing the social safety net to erode under the false belief that minorities abuse it. He traces the problem to early 20th-century labor disputes, Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty, and Ronald Reagan's deployment of the "welfare queen" trope. Porter describes American communities that have been ravaged by unemployment, poverty, and lack of healthcare, yet elect representatives who attach work requirements to Medicaid and blame immigrants for job losses that were caused by automation. He points out that anti-immigration policies could leave Social Security underfunded just as baby boomers retire en masse, and without enough workers to handle such a large increase in the elderly population. Unless American society is able to heal racial divides and create "social trust," working-class people of all races will continue to suffer, according to Porter. His pessimism ("I can't imagine much boundary-breaking solidarity emerging from this America") gives the book a bleak and mournful tone, and he doesn't offer many concrete solutions. Nevertheless, his cogent presentation succeeds in making the problem of racial animus relevant to all Americans. Progressive readers will concur with this bracing sociological study. Agent: Zoe Pagnamenta, the Zoe Pagnamenta Agency. (Mar.)Correction: An earlier version of this review listed an incorrect subtitle. Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

An economics reporter for The New York Times discusses how America’s racism has stunted the country’s development in organized labor, public education and the social safety net and offers a path towards hope, change and a better future. Tour.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"A sweeping examination of how American racism has broken the country's social compact, eroded America's common goods, and damaged the lives of every American--and a heartfelt look at how these deep wounds might begin to heal"--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

A sweeping examination of how American racism has broken the country's social compact, eroded America's common goods, and damaged the lives of every American--and a heartfelt look at how these deep wounds might begin to heal.Compared to other industrialized nations, the United States is losing ground across nearly every indicator of social health. Its race problem, argues Eduardo Porter, is largely to blame.In American Poison, the New York Times veteran shows how racial animus has stunted the development of nearly every institution crucial for a healthy society, including organized labor, public education, and the social safety net. The consequences are profound and are only growing graver with time. Leading us through history and across America--from FDR's New Deal through Bill Clinton's welfare reform to Donald Trump's retrograde and divisive policies--Porter pieces together how racial hostility has blocked American social cohesion at every turn, producing a nation that fails not only its black and brown citizens but white Americans as well. American Poison is at once a broad, rigorous argument, and a profound cri de coeur. Even as it uncovers our most tenacious national pathology, it points the way toward hope, illuminating the ways in which, as the nation becomes increasingly diverse, it may well be possible to construct a new understanding of racial identity--and a more cohesive society on top of it.