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A call for citizens who care about social justice to abandon the concept of discreet politeness when it comes to racial justice, and support more disruptive actions and complete calls for liberation. The idea and practice of civility has always been wielded to silence dissent, repress political participation, and justify violence upon people of color. Although many progress A call for citizens who care about social justice to abandon the concept of discreet politeness when it comes to racial justice, and support more disruptive actions and complete calls for liberation. The idea and practice of civility has always been wielded to silence dissent, repress political participation, and justify violence upon people of color. Although many progressives today are told that we need to be more polite and thoughtful, less rancorous and angry when we talk about race in America, civility maintains rather than disrupts racial injustice. Spanning two hundred years, Zamalin's accessible blend of intellectual history, political biography, and contemporary political criticism shows that civility has never been neutral in its political uses and impacts. The best way to tackle racial inequality is through "civic radicalism," an alternative to civility found in the actions of Black radical leaders including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Audre Lorde. Civic radicals shock and provoke people. They name injustice and who is responsible for it. They protest, march, strike, boycott, and mobilize collectively rather than form alliances with those who fundamentally oppose them. In Against Civility, citizens who care deeply about racial and socioeconomic equality will see that they need to abandon this concept of discreet politeness when it comes to racial justice, and instead more fully support disruptive actions and calls for liberation, which have already begun with movements like #MeToo, the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests, and Black Lives Matter.


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A call for citizens who care about social justice to abandon the concept of discreet politeness when it comes to racial justice, and support more disruptive actions and complete calls for liberation. The idea and practice of civility has always been wielded to silence dissent, repress political participation, and justify violence upon people of color. Although many progress A call for citizens who care about social justice to abandon the concept of discreet politeness when it comes to racial justice, and support more disruptive actions and complete calls for liberation. The idea and practice of civility has always been wielded to silence dissent, repress political participation, and justify violence upon people of color. Although many progressives today are told that we need to be more polite and thoughtful, less rancorous and angry when we talk about race in America, civility maintains rather than disrupts racial injustice. Spanning two hundred years, Zamalin's accessible blend of intellectual history, political biography, and contemporary political criticism shows that civility has never been neutral in its political uses and impacts. The best way to tackle racial inequality is through "civic radicalism," an alternative to civility found in the actions of Black radical leaders including Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Martin Luther King, Jr., James Baldwin, Malcolm X, and Audre Lorde. Civic radicals shock and provoke people. They name injustice and who is responsible for it. They protest, march, strike, boycott, and mobilize collectively rather than form alliances with those who fundamentally oppose them. In Against Civility, citizens who care deeply about racial and socioeconomic equality will see that they need to abandon this concept of discreet politeness when it comes to racial justice, and instead more fully support disruptive actions and calls for liberation, which have already begun with movements like #MeToo, the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests, and Black Lives Matter.

44 review for Against Civility: Race and the Dark History of an Idea

  1. 5 out of 5

    Sahitya

    This wasn’t a book that was on my radar but I just noticed it while browsing on Edelweiss and decided to pick it up. And now when I read it, it feels so prescient. We all have seen the political discourse for the past five years where many moderates/centrists have lamented the loss of civility in politics than the authoritarian tendencies of an openly law breaking president and his administration. So, it wasn’t a surprise that we got to read many such calls for bipartisan compromise and democrat This wasn’t a book that was on my radar but I just noticed it while browsing on Edelweiss and decided to pick it up. And now when I read it, it feels so prescient. We all have seen the political discourse for the past five years where many moderates/centrists have lamented the loss of civility in politics than the authoritarian tendencies of an openly law breaking president and his administration. So, it wasn’t a surprise that we got to read many such calls for bipartisan compromise and democrats to reach out to their right wing counterparts, after the 2020 election. But the farce that has been playing out since then, with a party and the president trying all they can to disenfranchise a complete section of voters and overturn a democratically elected next President - it clearly shows that calls for civility and compromise have no place in our politics anymore, because we can’t be civil with people who will usurp our rights at any given chance so that they can maintain their white supremacist power. And the author shows through his writing - tracing back such calls for civility and morality from the days of slavery to civil war to reconstruction to Jim Crow to the civil rights movement to BLM - that anytime a group of civic minded people come together to create a movement that tries to disrupt the status quo and fights for rights like equitable justice, eradication of poverty, antiracist and anti discrimination policies, climate action etc, all the elite who benefit from the status quo try to undermine the movement through calls for civility. Strongly worded speeches, protests, sit-ins, boycotts - these are legitimate forms of nonviolent action that have the power to energize people to fight more proactively for their rights, and that’s what scares the beneficiaries of this racist inequitable system and they try to frame all the protests in terms of a law and order issue, diverging from the core narrative of what the activists are fighting for. The author rightly points out that being civil has never worked out for any of the progressive movements before, and only disruptive activism has led to some systemic changes. But the work is still a lot incomplete, which is even more glaringly obvious after the results of this election and it is the duty of every civic minded person to unfailingly question the inequities of our society and the role government plays in perpetuating them; while not heeding to the voices of those who call for moderation and incremental changes instead of radical progress. From the author’s own words — Inequality and exclusion have always been evident in American culture, and these conditions have always been maintained through violence. The plea for activists to be civil—in the past, now, and always—subverts this reality and implies that things can’t really be that bad. After all, how can one even call for civility if catastrophe is staring one in the face? Isn’t the call to civility a product of a smug insistence that individual moral virtue will magically fix an ailing society? It can’t and it hasn’t. In conclusion, though this book looks back at lots of important movements through American history, it is much more relevant to our current political reality and I would definitely encourage anyone to pick it up. Learning from the past is very important, especially when our country is going through turmoil - and history teaches us that progress happens only after a prolonged collective fight for it, not by being silent or civil individuals.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kim Bakos

    I found the history of race relations and resistance in the book to be quite interesting. I learned a lot about political figures and movements I hadn't known about before. As far as the call to end civility, I have mixed feelings about that. The author never really says how far is acceptable to go outside of civility to bring about change. I do think that disruption of the status quo is necessary to bring change. Any disruption will be called uncivil by those who are threatened by the desired c I found the history of race relations and resistance in the book to be quite interesting. I learned a lot about political figures and movements I hadn't known about before. As far as the call to end civility, I have mixed feelings about that. The author never really says how far is acceptable to go outside of civility to bring about change. I do think that disruption of the status quo is necessary to bring change. Any disruption will be called uncivil by those who are threatened by the desired change. However, there is a difference between being uncivil and uncivilized. The BLM protests were, for the most part, quite civil. Most of the speeches and signs were actually civil, even if one didn't agree with it. However, the riots, looting and destruction were uncivilized. I think there is a fine line to hold to - when it turned into violence, I think it has the opposite effect that is desired. It simply reinforces the negative stereotypes and turns people off and provides a justification for continued racism. There was one section I found quite disturbing - the author states that black-on-black violence is because of segregated neighborhoods. Does this mean the blacks should instead be killing whites in desegregated neighborhoods? I looked up the statistics and black-on-black violence is only slightly higher than white-on-white violence. But more integrated neighborhoods don't solve the problem. In fact, black-on-white violence is double that of white-on-black violence.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alicea

    While I found much of the content interesting, the tone of this book reads more like a manifesto than a researched nonfiction book (which is what I thought/hoped it was). The main point of Against Civility is that historically activists striving for change whether it be to benefit the disenfranchised people of color, marginalized LGBTQ+ groups, women, or all of the above have been cautioned to approach agents of change with a civil tongue. And this hasn't worked to anyone's benefit for meaningfu While I found much of the content interesting, the tone of this book reads more like a manifesto than a researched nonfiction book (which is what I thought/hoped it was). The main point of Against Civility is that historically activists striving for change whether it be to benefit the disenfranchised people of color, marginalized LGBTQ+ groups, women, or all of the above have been cautioned to approach agents of change with a civil tongue. And this hasn't worked to anyone's benefit for meaningful systemic change. Civility washes over real issues and keeps the oppressed people under the heel of the elites which have always been rich, white, and ma!e. Therefore, the answer is to be uncivil and unapologetic. Each chapter focused on a different activist from history with a variety of critical or congratulatory comments about their particular approach to standing up for what they believed in and fighting for change. This was interesting but I found myself feeling annoyed at how bombastic the author sounded...which I guess was deliberate based on the subject matter. However, I expected a more academic look at this topic which would have been delivered more objectively and that is not what this particular book does.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mo

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sourour

  6. 5 out of 5

    Nick

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    Michael

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    Maggie Mattmiller

  10. 5 out of 5

    Maxamed Ibrahim

  11. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Casey

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ena

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jon

  14. 5 out of 5

    Esmeralda

  15. 4 out of 5

    Arabelle Sicardi

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    Jim

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    Angie Johnson

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    Remaur

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

  20. 4 out of 5

    LynnDee (LynnDee's Library)

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kris - My Novelesque Life

  22. 5 out of 5

    Millie

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    Fred Slusher

  24. 5 out of 5

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  29. 4 out of 5

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  30. 4 out of 5

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    Brenda Maki

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    PirateBookLady

  42. 4 out of 5

    Christine Hensley

  43. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Gerhart

  44. 5 out of 5

    Micielle

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