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Process North reviews Why Race Still Matters

For Process North, Mike Makin-Waite write about Why Race Still Matters. He opens by noting:

As Alana Lentin states in her new book, ‘speaking clearly about race is difficult’.  Reasons include the different forms and levels of knowledge which people apply to the issue; the many ways that race interconnects with many – all – other social issues; peoples’ varied and not always well-informed or well-considered views and assumptions about these issues; the ‘multiple and competing meanings’ that are contested as we discuss race and racism; the ‘myriad interpretations’ which are possible of different situations; and the strong emotions and interests which people have invested in their positions. Even defining racism has itself ‘become a site of political struggle’. These difficulties and issues underline Lentin’s achievement in Why Race Still Matters. Although the issues she covers are sometimes complex, her writing is clear, her arguments coherent and systematic, and her points are always concretely illustrated by reference to varied episodes and arguments. This book will help focus the thinking of any reader concerned with ‘trends in the politics of race’.

I was especially happy that the review paid attention to my approach to antisemitism in the book’s fourth chapter:

The book’s fourth chapter is an impressive negotiation of issues around the contemporary uses and abuses of opposition to antisemitism. One of Lentin’s achievements here is to demonstrate how care and thoughtfulness can go along with the firm and unequivocal assertion of controversial points. She looks at how failures to theorise antisemitism adequately have led it sometimes being reduced ‘to a cipher for performative outrage’, stating that ‘in the present moment, publicly performing opposition to antisemitism and support for Israel – the two having been made equivalent – has also become a proxy for politicians and public figures’ to express a commitment to antiracism. On this basis, right-wing politicians can implement racist policies whilst being seen to ‘absolve’ themselves from the ‘sin’ of racism by making ‘the right noises’ about antisemitism and Israel.

Mike Makin-Waite, Process North, June 2020

Read the full review

Alana Lentin