Race against time The politics of a darkening America

Keith Boykin

Book - 2021

"As the upheaval of 2020 has made clear, America has utterly failed to atone for its original sin of racism. As America turns blacker and browner, the combination of fearful whites, angry and newly empowered blacks, and an inexcusable absence of leadership from Washington has created ideal conditions for conflict. There is a way out of our burning race crisis -- but in order to prepare for the future, we first need to learn the lessons of the new age of reckoning. The current racial reckoning is the culmination of two decades of political miscalculations and ongoing organizing. In Race Against Time, national political commentator Keith Boykin offers a nuanced, in-depth account of political maneuverings from Washington to the streets, s...howing how Republicans, Democrats, and even populist movements have failed to address the dire realities that threaten the nation. Boykin details the effects of the emergence and persistence of the Black Lives Matter movement; Democrats' failed strategies of incrementalism during the Obama era and the legacies of Clinton-era policies; the minority, obstructionist policies of the Republicans; and the Bernie Sanders coalition's well-meaning but race-neutral economic reforms. With few exceptions, Boykin contends, we have refused to learn from the mistakes of these efforts, leaving us utterly unprepared for the future. Drawing on on-the-ground reporting and political analysis based on his years as a Washington insider, Boykin argues that the path forward is a race-based restructuring of the country where equality -- not marginal improvement -- is the goal. This is what the Black Lives Matter era has demanded of us, and it is the only just future for America"--

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2nd Floor 305.8/Boykin Due Apr 3, 2024
New York, NY : New York, NY : PublicAffairs 2021.
Main Author
Keith Boykin (author)
First edition
Physical Description
vi, 292 pages ; 25 cm
  • Introduction: Our weary year
  • The hope that the present has brought us. From Trayvon Martin to George Floyd ; Reckoning
  • The faith that the dark past has taught us. The never-ending civil war ; George Bush's kinder, gentler racism ; Bill Clinton's calculated triangulation ; George W. Bush's "soft bigotry" ; Barack Obama's unreciprocated optimism ; Donald Trump's white nationalism
  • Let us march on. Till victory is won ; Atonement ; Accountability ; Equality.
Review by Booklist Review

CNN political commentator Boykin (Beyond the Down Low) reflects on America's violent past and policies made by white politicians concerning the country's shifting demographics and its dwindling proportion of white people. Drawing on both legal scholarship and his own experiences, Boykin argues that the fear of a darkening America has a deep-rooted history, and outlines how this fear transpired in the rhetoric and policies of all political parties. Boykin reflects on his upbringing in St. Louis, his work during the Clinton Administration, and moments of racial violence in history, from the American Civil War to the East St. Louis Riots to the murders of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor. He writes lucidly on these crises and explains how we must eradicate racial disparities and move beyond glib gestures and reconciliation for African Americans. Readers interested in American politics and the role of racism in U.S. history should pick up this insightful and alarming book to better understand how America's political system perpetuates racial injustice.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

CNN political commentator Boykin (Sex, Lies, and Denial in Black America) delivers an accessible breakdown of how systemic racism has contributed to today's political dysfunction. Contending that "the problem of racism in American politics transcends specific political parties and leaders," Boykin examines pre--Civil War compromises made to "prioritize peace between the states over justice for Black people," and describes white Northerners' rush to reconcile with the South after the war. By the late 1960s, Boykin argues, the Republican Party had planted its seeds "deep in the poisonous soil of white racial resentment," using tough-on-crime policies to appeal to white voters' "sense of racial superiority" and to stoke anger over Black advancement. Boykin also describes Bill Clinton's initiatives on racial issues as "more symbolic than substantive," argues that Barack Obama did not center Black concerns as much as Republicans feared he might, and casts Donald Trump's election as the "logical extension" of America's long history of "half-measures, symbolism, and cyclical moments of feigned reconciliation." Though many of Boykin's arguments are familiar, he has a firm grasp of U.S. history and enriches the narrative with reflections on his experiences as a gay Black man in American politics. The result is a persuasive diagnosis of America's social and political ills. Agent: Jane Dystel, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Sept.)

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Review by Library Journal Review

In his latest book, CNN political commentator and best-selling author Boykin (One More River To Cross) examines the history of 20th-century American political parties and the pivotal role of Black Americans in relation to each party. This provocative chronicle of race relations and political maneuvering is divided into three sections that offer an incisive look at the county's present, past, and future. Beginning with the economic and political chaos of 2020 and ending on a hopeful note, Boykin peels away the layers of partisan alliances and hypocrisies. The book's strongest section looks at the history of slavery and race relations in concert with the pivotal role of the Black vote during the late 20th century. Boykin does not hold back in his critique of the modern Democrat and Republican parties and provides astute insight on the white politicians' record of systemic racism. However, he does have a cautious yet positive outlook about the impact of modern political protests, especially after the murders of Trayvon Martin and George Floyd. VERDICT A must-read for anyone interested in the history of American politics and race, and a call-to-action for aspiring activists.--Leah Huey, Dekalb P.L., IL

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Prominent journalist and author Boykin, co-founder of the National Black Justice Coalition, looks deeply into our dangerous era and the unraveling social order by which Whites feel threatened by Black progress. Four "cataclysmic crises" have faced America in the recent past: the pandemic, the ensuing economic shutdown, the emergence of a formidable racial justice movement, and the crisis of democracy produced by the Trump administration and its retrograde supporters. All four crises came together, Boykin writes in a spot-on analysis, in the murder of George Floyd, who was found by autopsy to have been infected with Covid-19, had been laid off when the restaurant in which he worked closed, and was inarguably a victim of a racist regime led by a president motivated by "a repudiation and attempted erasure of the nation's first Black president." Floyd's death, writes the author, "would provide the pretext for the president to instigate a new crisis of democracy," one that led to widespread efforts on the part of the police to suppress dissent--at least on the left, since no such effort was made to suppress the disaffected Whites who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Trump was despicable, but Bill Clinton, in some ways his moral opposite and in others a kindred spirit, wasn't much of a prize, either. In Boykin's view, his assault on the rapper Sister Souljah was unquestionably racist. "For the vast majority of Black people at the time, Clinton…was the best we thought we could do under the circumstances," he writes. "Reexamining the Clinton administration some decades later, it seems we were wrong." What remains to be done, Boykin suggests, is to surmount the four crises and force White constituencies at last to recognize that "ignoring the pleas of Black and brown voices" is a threat to the social structure that can no longer be tolerated. A troubling, provocative book that raises essential questions about our path forward. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.