Against Civility: The Hidden Racism in Our Obsession with Civility

Beacon. Feb. 2021. 176p. ISBN 9780807026540. $27.95. SOC SCI
Civility has no role in the fight to gain freedom for the marginalized, declares Zamalin (African American studies; Univ. of Detroit Mercy; Antiracism: An Introduction). Politeness simply will not do in the centuries-old culture wars against white supremacy and exploitation in America. Civility is a distraction and leads to hiding or keeping private; it has never advanced equity; rather, civility has served as a mask and muzzle, acting as an instrument of coercion, pushing politeness to displace justice, he argues. Only civic radicalism committed to speaking truth to power and mobilizing to use every means at hand to persistently attack structural inequality has effectively countered reactionary policies and practices, Zamalin insists. To demonstrate his point, he arrays radical leaders who chose to be disruptive as they articulated democratic ideas of social equality, unconditional freedom, and liberation for all while also engaging in fearless direct action in order to mobilize, organize, provoke, and unsettle.
VERDICT Zamalin’s brief and blunt critique of failures and successes in the struggle for human rights in the United States calls to readers who care about racial and social justice to commit to a progressive, multiracial democratic movement to fight oppression, end discrimination, and extend economic freedom. Critical reading.
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