“The book that got me back into non-fiction again”, our Literary Editor, Vanessa Thomas said she read Akala’s Sunday Times bestseller, Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire like she was 15 years old again. Read on to find out why she loved this book so much.
Thought provoking and insightful are just some of the adjectives that best describe this book. Simply put, Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire is a critical analysis of the fragile world structures and foundations that Britain or more broadly the West / global North have built their riches upon…. race (racism) and class.
Entwining his own life and personal stories with facts and figures for the naysayers, Akala explores the construct of race, and what it means to be racialised (as he phrases it) as white/black in Britain.
Divided into 11 chapters, Akala exudes raw honesty as he breaks downs the moment he realised he was black (though mixed race) and his mother white, the reasons why white people (now) love Mandela, the typically English way Great Britannia views its empire as well as state education and the way it stifles black children.
In a way I’ve rarely seen articulated so well, Akala demonstrates the ways in which race and class intertwine in Britain. Through the many dog-eared pages in my copy of the book, here are some of the bars I found most interesting:
On white privilege:
“We rarely talk about the white burden, the burden of being tethered to a false identity, a parasitic self-definition that can only define itself in relation to ‘Blacks’ or others inferiority”.
In the chapter ‘Police, Peers and Teenage Years:
“Yes, you have survived, but it is bittersweet; some of the best minds of your generation have been wasted, the children that grew up with the safety blankets of money and whiteness have gotten twice as far working half as hard, they are still having the same cocaine parties that they were having twenty years ago and they still have not ever been searched by the police once, let alone had their parties raided or been choke-slammed to death”.
Author, rapper, poet and more, Akala is no rookie in this scene. He has been putting in the work for years as the co-founder of The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, a frequent panellist on BBC’s Question Time, a BAFTA and MOBO award recipient, a music collection spanning a decade +, guest lectures/ speeches at many universities and events including Oxford University. In short, Akala is one of the greatest intellects of (certainly) our generation, and his newest book demonstrates exactly why.
Buy the book, here.
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