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

Kenan Malik

My review 2018-03-16

Kenan Malik reviews the fascinating, scary and winding ways that race thinking has mutated during the last 500 or so years in the primarily Western debate. The book is 10 years old but has lost none of its urgency and timeliness. If anything, its arguments are needed more than ever. First he debunks the popular postmodern myth that Enlightenment thinking was basically racist. Then he describes how a complex interplay of Romantic thought, pre-Darwinian notions and other influences created the overtly racist science of eugenics. Today, the postcolonial movement proposes "respect" for other cultures. Malik shows how this entails taking up some of the same arguments that were used to buttress older conservative and fascist ideas of race. It is a development that is as ironic as it is tragic. Those supportive of the aspirations of Enlightenment universalism must confront this double-pronged attack.