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Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire

4.58  ·  Rating details ·  13,462 ratings  ·  1,190 reviews

From the first time he was stopped and searched as a child, to the day he realised his mum was white, to his first encounters with racist teachers - race and class have shaped Akala's life and outlook. In this unique book he takes
Paperback, 308 pages
Published March 21st 2019 by Two Roads (first published May 17th 2018)
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Nov 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First things first, I didn’t know anything about this guy before the book was recommended to me by Mimi. I got most of the way through before it even occurred to me he might be somebody. Today, after writing most of this, I thought I had better listen to some of his music. I can’t help it, I find rap just too repetitive and it all sounds too angry to me. One of the songs I listened to I literally couldn’t understand what was being said at all. I’m not the audience for his music, I accept that.

K.J. Charles
Absolutely outstanding, essential reading for anyone British or who wants to understand Britain.

One of the most enlightening books I've ever read in its treatment of how race, class, colonialism and empire intersect, mainly in Britain but also across the world. It's in part a personal memoir, some of which is blood-boiling about the injustice and casual cruelty of teachers and the institutional bigotry that continues to underestimate black kids. (Akala was put in a special needs class basically
Asim Qureshi
It is incredible how much knowledge Akala draws on to develop a very personal and compelling argument about race in the world today. It is not just about the story he tells, but the way he tells it. His humour, wit and sardonic tone throughout make this a very easy and engaging book to go through, even making me laugh out loud at times despite its dark subject matter. A must read for all.
Ruth Elizabeth
Apr 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish I had a pocket-sized Akala to whip out whenever I hear someone talking ignorant ****, so that he can drop some knowledge on them!
I first came across Akala via this awesome track: Comedy, Tragedy, History, a wonderful twist on Shakespeare. Then I came across a review of ‘Natives’ in the Guardian (of course) and was immediately intrigued. This book is a moving account of growing up mixed-race in Britain and an incisive account of racism’s history in America and Europe which also asks wider questions about class, historiography, and politics. I learned a lot from it, notably about Cuba’s role in the fall of South African apa ...more
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
"What happens once money no longer whitens? When whiteness is no longer a metaphor for power? When whiteness is no longer default? When Chinese or Indian actors can be ‘universal’ sex symbols in the way that Brad Pitt and George Clooney are thought to be? When the world’s leading economies are decidedly in Asia? Whiteness will have to find a totally new meaning."

In short, read this book.
Jul 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I'm utterly disgusted with the level of racist abuse that the three Black English players received on social media since missing penalties in the European Championship Final.

I felt that one way to support them was to learn more about systemic racism in Britain and this was a brilliant starting point.

The most obvious section that stood out was with the press handled sprinter Linford Christie's Olympic success in 1992 by spending more time acknowledging his 'lunchbox'.
There's similar parallels tod
Superb. This should be required reading for at least every white person in the UK in 2018.

Akala dissects British culture and puts it firmly in its place in the world and in history. He mixes this in with accounts of his own life growing up in Camden in the 80s, from the moment he realised his mother was white, to "Linford's lunchbox". He shows us how thoroughly British society disadvantages black people, how it is does it, and why it does it. I couldn't help but be constantly impressed by his r
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
This book is about how the British class system interacts with and feeds off a long and complex relationship with empire and white supremacy, and how these social forces can manifest in and shape the life experience of a random child, born to a father radicalised as black and a mother radicalised as white, in early 1980s England.

The above quote (at the end of the first chapter) summarises nicely the central premise of this book, which (as a number of reviewers here have commented) should be
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-bookshelves
This made me sad, it made me angry, it changed the way I think about things and I may have to go back and listen to parts of it again. Akala is coming to Dunedin as part of the Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival, I'm a trustee and try to read the books prior to the writers arriving. This was an unexpected read for me. I didn't really know much about Akala prior to him being booked for our festival but I'm so pleased that I have learned some more about this interesting person. He is articulate, ...more
Jan 23, 2021 added it
Shelves: non-fiction
Please note: I don't rate nonfiction and memoirs.

This was enlightening. In a nonfiction category that's normally over saturated by Americanised literature, this was a breath of fresh air. Well researched and argued, Akala has a passion and intellect that's quiet and pervasive at times, at loud and opinionated in another. It's nuanced, well researched and informative and helps build on knowledge that I acquired from Black and British: A Forgotten History. In particular I was, yet again, appalled
Kunal Thakker
Jun 22, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Akala seems to think that people who oppose his views either deny racism exists or that they don’t care about minorities (I’m ethnically Indian myself). This couldn’t be further from the truth. Of course racism still and, to a certain degree, will always exist. Black communities in the West do indeed have problems that need to be addressed but there is no evidence to suggest that in the 21st century these problems are due to rampant racism. In fact the Left’s solution of tearing down Western cul ...more
Jul 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: blm
* I audiobooked this and I highly recommend that as the author read it and was excellent at getting his points across succinctly and in a super engaging way *

This book is challenging, fantastic and thought-provoking. I went into reading this one straight after another book Black and British: A Forgotten History which was a long history of Britain's slave past. I found that one harrowing, but also a little disconnected from 'me' as it covers a long course of history and although it's a brilliant
Carlos Martinez
‘Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire’ is at once a memoir, a detailed sociological investigation of racism, and a whistle-stop tour of global politics from London to Beijing, with stops at Johannesburg, Kingston, Havana, Glasgow, New York, Hanoi, Bahia and Harare. We get an engaging and nuanced analysis of several themes, including the state of British culture, the historical function of racial superiority theories, the legacy of colonialism, the pernicious racism that can be found th ...more
A rapper’s journey to adulthood, armed with emancipatory histories…

--Diaspora: coming from an educated immigrant family, my awareness of this personal perspective varies. The reason the global division of labor (and thus global capitalism, or just capitalism) is such a compelling subject for me should be obvious; it has completely changed my life’s path on a visceral level. For parents to migrate in search of a better standard of living, and sacrifice their own social roots as well as
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
this was not an easy read, but an important one. I admire most about this book the tangents and the systematic unpicking of all sorts of arguments one hears about the conversations about race, privilege and “equal society”. And not just about Britain but about the reaches of empire and impact of Empire way past its expiry. I found this super interesting, instructing and it taught me a great deal. and I am left with this feeling of hope that this sudden surge of these types of books is not just a ...more
Mar 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have had to leave this for a little while before writing any kind of review... so here goes.
Akala is an intelligent, thoughtful and impassioned man who writes brilliantly of his experiences of race and poverty in the UK. As someone who grew up in a poor single parent family in the 1980s, I could certainly recognise many of the elements of this side to his stories. Many of the insights into race relations however were a depressing eye opener to how little we have moved on, his experiences at s
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: society
This is a difficult book to read, if you are white. It forces you to confront with your own prejudices and to dig deep under expressions such as "black-on-black violence" that you most probably have somewhere in your mind as a category to (not) understand the news. Have you aver tried to frame the conflict in Northern Ireland, or the Mafia wars, as "white on white violence"?
Of course, slavery is the beginning of the problems. And of course we all reject slavery (and have celebrated the end of a
Nawid Adelyar
Akala gives a nice overview of his life growing up as a mixed race child and clearly outlines his difficulties in every day life and how that sculpted and shaped his worldview. It is clear that race in the UK does have an impact on our lives and those around us, though many may not realise this.

This book gives a good account of problems concerning race in the UK and mentions some clear historical moments where racism was very evident in society yet nothing was done about it. This continues to ha
Inderjit Sanghera
'Natives' mainly explores the history of Commonwealth citizens in modern Britain, with the primary focus being on those of a African of Afro-Caribbean origin as Akala slowly, patiently, yet quite thoroughly debunks the myths and misconceptions perpetuated by the various institutions, from the police to the education system, which perpetrate the insidious, yet pervasive, form of racism which has dominated the West.

The crux of Akala's argument is that the concept of white supremacy is embedded wit
Peter Dray
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a sadly enlightening read, which makes sense of much of what we see in the areas of racism and ethnicity in the UK.

I'm around the same age as Akala. Like Akala, I grew up in a multicultural part of London - I was the only white British person in my class at school, and the church that my Dad pastored was black-majority in its attendance. I am familiar with the kind of poverty Akala describes (my family too was below the poverty line). Today my family is relatively wealthy, and I am univ
Jan 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A much needed filler for my ww2 and tudor-focussed history curriculum education.
Feb 20, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Natives by Akala is a conversational journey through race and class as told through the eyes of a mixed race Londoner born in the 1980s. Particularly enjoyable in the voice of Akala himself on Audible, I related to some of his sarcasm and nostalgia. I felt he wasn’t holding back on his views which emerge from a Pan-African radical tradition – his frankness surprised me at times and I’m glad this book has been such a bestseller of late!

Most of the book revolves around the British education syste
Mark Hebden
Mar 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, history
Knife crime is in the news a lot at the moment, understandably since the victims are all around us in every major city of the UK, the families mourn, the perpetrators get locked up, revenge must be gained and the cycle repeats. Also less mentioned in the news is the story of a teenager called Joy who has been missing since Boxing Day. The former, when such things are reported are portrayed as “black on black” violence while the latter was barely reported and the missing girl happens to be black; ...more
Anna Stephens
Apr 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoughtful, incredible well-researched and politically astute, this is an exemplary analysis of the state of Britain in the 21st century.
I'm a few years older than Akala, and grew up white working class on the outskirts of Birmingham, while he grew up racialised black working-class in the heart of London. To say our experiences are dissimilar is an understatement despite the diversity of my home city. Seeing the same cultural events I grew up with recollected from his experience is more than ey
Eoin McGrath
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Akala draws on an impressive amount of knowledge and uses personal experience to create this outstanding book. It's clever, accessible, enlightening, and manages to be quite funny at times. ...more
Nikki Mcgee
Dec 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is so much to love about this book. It is on one level a “rags to riches” story in which Akala is very clear about his success but he manages to do this with some humility and a lot of self awareness. At first I found his self confidence a little jarring but I think that says more about me than him, it is actually refreshing.

When recalling memories with key figures from his childhood he writes with a moving sense of nostalgia. Any parent who has battled to give their child the best start w
Jul 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Absolute must read for any person currently living in the Western world!

We don’t deserve Akala, he is so on point In articulating some incredibly complex points here in a way no one else could, it manages to be both a personal memoir and a well written thesis, densely packed with (backed up!) information about class and race in Britain (& by extension Australia, USA, and South Africa).

As a white passing person living in Australia, this has provided me with a strong start into gaining a truly n
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this and have recommended it to so many people. There isn't much written from a Caribbean black British perspective, and there was much to identify with, from the pan- African Saturday school to rememberings of events from the 80s and 90s. Akaka was a lot more woke than me, things he reflected on, like Linford's Lunchbox, I remember, but don't remember giving them anywhere close to his depth of thought. The mixture of history and systemic analysis with his personal reflections a ...more
Jul 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incisive, nuanced and well-researched. Its point that the British are taught very little about this aspect of our history was demonstrated pretty starkly to me by how much I learned in just 350 pages. This book thoroughly dismantles the sanitised story about the Empire that Britain still clings to, as well as offering some very thought-provoking analysis on Brexit, Trump, and the West's attitude towards China. This is a fascinating read which I'll be thinking about for a long time after finishin ...more
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Kingslee James McLean Daley, better known by the stage name Akala, is an English rapper, author, poet, and political activist.

Originally from Kentish Town, London he is the younger brother of rapper/vocalist Ms. Dynamite. In 2006, he was voted the Best Hip Hop Act at the MOBO Awards. He was awarded an honourary doctorate by the University of Brighton in 2018.

In May 2018, Akala published Natives:

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  Some people love books. Some people fall in love. And some people love books about falling in love. Every month our team sorts through...
31 likes · 1 comments
“I often look at the world and just think fuck it, why bother, but I know that’s how we are supposed to feel, that’s why the corruption is so naked and freely visible – to wear down people who have the conviction that things could be better.” 13 likes
“Why can’t you just get over it? It’s all in the past.’

These two statements often run together. Apparently, history is not
there to be learned from, rather it’s a large boulder to be gotten over.

It’s fascinating, because in the hundreds of workshops I’ve taught on
Shakespeare no one has ever told me to get over his writing because
it’s, you know, from the, erm, past. I’m still waiting for people to get
over Plato, or Da Vinci or Bertrand Russell, or indeed the entirety of
recorded history, but it seems they just won’t. It is especially odd in a
nation where much of the population is apparently proud of Britain’s
empire that critics of one of its most obvious legacies should be asked
to get over it, the very same thing from the past that they are proud of.
But anyway, let’s imagine for a second that humanity did indeed ‘get
over’ - which in this case means forget - the past. Well, we’d have to
learn to walk and talk and cook and hunt and plant crops all over again,

we’d have to undo all of human invention and start from . . . when?
What period exactly is it we are allowed to start our memory from?
Those that tell us to get over the past never seem to specify, but I’m
eager to learn. In reality, of course, they just don’t want to have any
conversations that they find uncomfortable.”
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