K.J. Charles's Reviews > Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire

Natives by Akala
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bookshelves: british, non-fiction, politics

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 because of his skin. On the evidence of this book he has a brain the size of your actual planet.) This aspect is really well done, the personal testimony and anger anchoring the more general history, politics, and historiography.

I keep seeing this called a polemic but I'm not sure that's fair. There is nothing controversial about what he's saying, unless you're a white supremacist or you don't want to confront the flagrant evidence of racism and specifically anti-blackness. And it's written with measure, calm, and understanding. It's not a war cry, it's a dissection (even if it leaves the reader wanting to burn everything down and start again).

Probably the most readable political book I've ever read, and with so much to think about that I'm going to have to read it again to get it all in. I highlighted so many quotes my ereader crashed.

If I had a criticism, it's that there's basically no reference to black women. It's about either black boys/young men, or general treatment. Maybe he felt that wasn't his to write, and no book can do everything, but I did notice the absence given that it wasn't specified as being about masculinity. So there's that. Still an amazing book, but not the only one you need, as if that were possible.
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Reading Progress

June 3, 2020 – Started Reading
June 3, 2020 – Shelved
June 4, 2020 – Shelved as: british
June 4, 2020 – Shelved as: non-fiction
June 4, 2020 – Shelved as: politics
June 4, 2020 – Finished Reading

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