- Expected Sep 15, 2020
Brave, clear-eyed, and passionate, Stakes Is High is the book we need to guide us past crisis mode and through an uncertain future.
The events of the past decade, in particular the election of Donald Trump, have forced us to reckon with who we are as a country and who we want to be. We have been invested in a set of beliefs about our American identity: our exceptionalism, the inevitable rightness of our path, and the promise that hard work and determination will carry us to freedom. But in Stakes Is High, Mychal Denzel Smith confronts the shortcomings of these stories -- and with the American Dream itself -- and calls on us to live up to the principles we profess but fail to realize.
Smith exposes the stark contradictions at the heart of American life, holding all of us, individually and as a nation, to account. We've gotten used to looking away, but the fissures and casual violence-of incarceration, poverty, misogyny, and racism-are ever-present.
But there is a future that is not as grim as our past. In this profound work, Smith helps us envision it, with care, honesty, and imagination.
Journalist Smith (Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching) addresses familiar topics through a fresh lens in these searing essays. Contending that the divisions and inequities of the Trump era are "not an aberration," Smith analyzes recent events including Colin Kaepernick's national anthem protest, Bernie Sanders's presidential campaign, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's political rise, as well as historical antecedents. He laments that his great-great-great grandfather, who was born into slavery in 1836, was prohibited by North Carolina law from learning to read and write, and therefore "left no record of his internal life." Taking up the issue of police brutality, Smith notes that when the first modern police force was founded in 19th-century London, its main functions included guarding private property and putting down labor strikes, and that policing in the American South involved forestalling slave rebellions. "White supremacist heteropatriarchal capitalism" brought America to its current state, argues Smith, who also puts the matter in more graphic terms: "Pimping (not sex work) is capitalism in its purest form." Infused with righteous indignation and astute observation, this is a must-read progressive polemic.