Strange Fruit: Why Both Sides Are Wrong in the Race Debate

Kenan Malik, Author
Kenan Malik, Author . Oneworld $24.95 (341p) ISBN 978-1-85168-588-2
Reviewed on: 06/23/2008
Release date: 06/01/2008
Paperback - 341 pages - 978-1-85168-665-0
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In 1996, a 9,000-year-old skull was excavated near Kennewick, Wash., and quickly became the focus of a charged debate between scientists and Native American groups who battled over the race of the skeleton and which group could claim “ownership.” The controversy over race, biology and genealogy is an ideal touchstone for this smart and sensible book that brilliantly encapsulates the incident, asking: “Who owns knowledge?” and why “antiracism has come to be defined in opposition to scientific rationality.” While race is increasingly regarded as a social construct, not “biological reality,” Malik (Man, Beast and Zombie ) demonstrates how the contemporary “obsession with identity” has propelled a dangerous—and liberal—tendency to romanticize race. Commonalities are being downplayed, according to the author, as individuals are seeking “answers in terms of history and heritage.” Malik’s argument will likely stimulate further controversy—he wrestles with Enlightenment and Romantic philosophies, political correctness, identity politics and racism, not to mention the repatriation of cultural artifacts. A neat summary of the history of thinking behind race, the book projects not a milquetoast middle ground but rational approaches for moving forward in a racialized world. (Aug.)

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