Reviews

From #blacklivesmatter to Black Liberation, by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor

anteeniya's review against another edition

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challenging dark emotional hopeful informative reflective medium-paced

4.5

janeanger's review against another edition

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5.0

I very, very highly recommend this book. Read it. The day I finished it, Terrence Crutcher was murdered. This book could not be more relevant. You do not have to be in social work school to appreciate it. The author was kind enough to sign mine. I also recommend hearing Taylor speak!

mark_kivimaki's review against another edition

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challenging hopeful informative reflective medium-paced

3.5

dexcg's review against another edition

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informative
Taylor wastes no time explaining the very basics, instead jumping into a focused critique of current movements and the ways to build solidarity for success. Her tying the Black Freedom Struggle to global anti-colonial and anti-capitalist efforts throughout the book, but especially in the conclusion, was some worthwhile analysis. I also found Taylor to just be unabashedly critical in much of her writing which I loved, she isn’t holding back with her words or evidence. 

lukenotjohn's review against another edition

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5.0

I genuinely cannot recommend this book more to anyone who's interested in building their capacity for analysis of the current struggle for Black liberation as well as their sense of the history of that fight throughout American history. Taylor reaches across time to demonstrate commonalities, some obvious and others less so, across the movements to abolish slavery, endure Jim Crow, and gain civil rights alongside the contemporary BLM movement today. She is a robust and rigorous historian who expertly weaves insightful analysis into her micro- and macro- level detailing of a broad swaths of American history. Throughout the book, she works through a number of central focuses which each build off each other, including the construction of pseudo-colorblindness, the elevation of Black leaders into the stratus of the political elite, and the evolution of American policing. Most critically, however, she doesn't simply describe each of these phenomena, but offers arguments for how and why they came to be, what systems they serve and in what ways do they function.

At the core of her argument is the notion that the reality of the Black American experience, when brought to light, exposes the fundamental untruths about this nation that uphold the myths it purports about itself. Those are namely that it is a country that's never lived up to its constitutional ideals of being a place where all are equal and opportunity is there for the taking for all who pursue it. And this, she suggests, is exactly why those who hold power have worked so doggedly to shift blame onto Black culture and individuals, projecting an alleged moral failing that obscures the generational legacies of violence, oppression, disinvestment, and injustice that are actually at fault for their enduring struggles and so fundamentally counter to the society America believes itself to be. Taylor is unflinching in her analytical commitments to the most vulnerable and marginalized of the Black community, and so at times she presents some incisive and damning critiques of not just the white elite but those Black men and women who've slowly ascended to their ranks, including the Congressional Black Caucus, Rev. Al Sharpton, and most prominently President Obama (who has a chapter devoted to him).

Taylor's most generous with her analysis of the burgeoning #BlackLivesMatter movement, which was even more recent when the book was published in 2016. That said, one gets the sense that while she appreciates their decentralized leadership (certainly in contrast to the contrasting "old guard" of activists she's not shy from declaring essentially futile), Taylor is also hopeful for a more organized manifestation of the movement. While affirming BLM's unprecedented capacity to catalyze protests which have radically shifted public consciousness around police brutality, she also suggests that a movement must go beyond protests and raising awareness. She offers encouragements to coalition with efforts around the minimum wage, Black educational justice reform, and organized labor and to promote solidarity among other non-Black people of color and white people who share a vested interest in societal transformation. The final chapter, which most vividly showcases Taylor's anti-capitalist lens, is a critical unmasking of white supremacy not as an expression of emotional hatred but a calculated tool of capitalist power that has effectively blunted America's potential for class solidarity. She concludes with a compelling call to move the movement towards enduring efforts that include those most directly afflicting Black life while simultaneously seeking liberation for all from the corrupt systems in place at the roots of American society.

krayfish1's review against another edition

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5.0

It looked a little intimidating, but was a straightforward book that put #BlackLivesMatter into historical context. Writing began in 2014 and the book was published in 2016.

Talks about: why did #BlackLivesMatter start under a Black president? What happened after the civil rights movement? i.e. how did Nixon, Carter, and Reagan start rolling back the progress made? (Answer given: they got people to reject explanations of systemic racism and start blaming individuals by talking about a "culture of poverty" -- which explanation Obama took up when he entered office).

Then Chapter 3 talks about the work to get Black people into elected positions and why that didn't take care of police brutality. (The Black elected officials bought in to the mainstream narrative about Black people).

Chapter 4 gives historical context to the police force, then talks about the rise of "broken windows" policing, militarization of the police, and the drastic increase in the number of people incarcerated (200,000 in 1970 to 2-4 million now).

Chapters 5 & 6 cover how Obama handled talking about Black issues (he avoided it), and the recent history of deaths & protests that led to the start of #BlackLivesMatter as a movement.

Chapter 7 talks about the relationship between racism and capitalism.

danni_faith's review against another edition

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informative inspiring fast-paced

5.0

joeh's review against another edition

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5.0

Probably the best book I've read about the Black experience in America. Taylor does a masterful job of dissecting the interlocking racial, political and socioeconomic realities that have contributed to the ongoing marginalization of Black people and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. She's an incisive writer and injects a level of elegance that exceeds many of the other offerings I've read from her peers. That said, her analysis is erudite and can be fairly complex, particularly when the enormity of her arguments resonate. This makes this particular book probably not something I would recommend as an introduction to the subject. That said, it's beyond excellent and something that everyone/anyone should read at some point.

amckiereads's review against another edition

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4.0

This book was great, but ultimately I wanted a bit more. I think it was strongest in its last chapters. In the earlier chapters it covers a lot, quickly, and I felt it could have used more explanations for some of the history. This may be in part because I've read full length books on most of the first chapters and so these overviews felt too short. That being said, the shorter length will, I hope, make it more accessible to more readers. I would still recommend it to all as required reading.

txfu's review against another edition

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4.0

As a political strategy book on how to achieve Black liberation via intersectional working-class solidarity, I would say it's lukewarm, but that's fine with me- I did not pick this up anticipating a comprehensive, cohesive, cogent strategy for the future of the BLM movement.

As a historical and political analysis book that economically details the events and conditions that led to the genesis of the Black Lives Matter movement during the Obama presidency, this was a fantastic. I have either studied or knew of most of the historical events/developments contributing to the racial oppression in this nation that were referenced, but had not connected them as creating and upholding structural racism until recent years (with the aid of lucid, deft writers like Keaanga-Yamahtta Taylor). What this book newly articulated for me was the failure of having "Black faces in high places" in fundamentally improving the lives of Black working class people. The hope that went into believing that if Black elected officials were leading Black communities, if the community finally has power over itself, then that guaranteed brighter futures ahead. And what came out on the other side of Black electoral success: a different, perhaps more insidious, way to uphold and re-entrench the very systems Black communities thought they could change and be free from by electing Black representatives and leaders. I didn't realize I needed new language for the deep cynicism that I've developed around treating a singular focus on channeling political energy into voter registration and having non-white representation in electoral politics as a panacea for inequality, when it's at best a sorely inadequate proxy for the social, economic, and political change needed to eradicate anti-black racism and at worst a deliberate distraction from the policies and practices that could be truly transformational for Black liberation