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From the Publisher
A searing modern polemic from musician and political commentator, Akala
From the first time he was stopped and searched as a child, to the day he realised his mum was white, to his first encounters with racist teachers - race and class have shaped Akala's life and outlook. In this unique book he takes his own experiences and widens them out to look at the social, historical and political factors that have left us where we are today.
Covering everything from the police, education and identity to politics, objectification and the far right, Natives will speak directly to British denial and squeamishness when it comes to confronting issues of race and class that are at the heart of the legacy of Britain's racialised empire.
Akala is a hip-hop artist, writer and social entrepreneur, as well as the co-founder of The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company.
With an extensive global touring history, Akala has appeared at numerous festivals both in the UK and internationally, and has led innovative projects in the arts, education and music across South East Asia, Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand.
Akala has also appeared on Channel 4, ITV, MTV, Sky Arts and the BBC promoting his music and poetry, and speaking on wide-ranging subjects from music, race, youth engagement, British/African-Caribbean culture and the arts, with numerous online lectures and performances that have millions of views on YouTube.
More recently known for his compelling lectures and journalism - he has written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and the Independent, and spoken for the Oxford Union and TEDx - Akala has gained a reputation as one of the most dynamic and articulate talents in the UK.
I was not born with an opinion of the world but it clearly seemed that the world had an opinion of people like me.
I did not know what race and class supposedly were but the world taught me very quickly.
I did not particularly want to spend a portion of a * studying these issues, it was not among my ambitions as a child, but I was compelled upon this path very early.
I knew that my experiences were significant but I was not yet sure how to tease meaning from them.
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Natives succeeds at showing up the hypocrisy of Britain in relation to its ideals and its actual treatment of colonial subjects. I would heartily recommend this book to any one interested in race relations in the colonial and modern era.
Top international reviews
I would definitely recommend this book to purple struggling with race and identity issues. However I would equally recommend this book to wider Britain who are uncomfortable discussing race issues, to contribute towards a deeper understanding of race dynamics.
The book demonstrates that the author has a solid understanding of the subject matter, and also leaves room for opening up difficult, but necessary discussions, in the name of the title of the book.
History is written by the victor, but this account really shines a light on the brutal reality of empire and how it has shaped society as a whole.
"Power concedes nothing without demand or motive"
Overall what an excellent read. Like his lectures, a refreshing style of communicating and a natural 'teacher'. He's spot on about the flaws in the British education system - the omissions of non-White contributions to the ww2 etc.
He is able to critically analyse and make sound arguments, which are hard to refute. It is a hard read - to not admit that as a white person would be dishonest. I am right leaning politically, and it did challenge me in many ways. And educate me. I suspect many people who like Akala come already from a left Liberal angle. I didn't and don't, so perhaps the challenge was greater for me.
But that also gives me a different perspective to many a white liberal who can easily proclaim guilt (or pseudo guilt) for the sins of whiteness. I hope Akala has time to read his reviews - he seems like a guy who would consider the public's opinions.
I did want to end with something not critical - although no book is perfect - but close to my heart. Id hpped Akala would not apply the same error of ignoring social-cultural-environment factors to white people as a whole, that he so dislikes when appied to the black community. In other words, white westerners have been huge victims too of capitalism and economic propsertity. Perhaps not financial victims, but as 'Guinea pigs' of modern capitalism, white western countries have seen our cultures, extended familes, communitues and traditional religions decimated. Unlike anywhere else in the world. Oh and Akala, like the young black boy who doesn't simply 'choose' to pick up that knife, us white westerners don't just 'choose' to not have kids anymore. Please apply the same environmental analysis to us too. My partner and I work in social care, dont earn much, and want to have kids we feel we can bring into this world, if we decide to. We spend our working life looking after kids society and their familys have neglected and abused. It takes a village to bring up a child as you know. So perhaps a little bit more thought at the end of the book - where emotions came to the fore more - that white westerners choosing not to have kids may actually be brave and arguably healthier than cultures where babies are had so easily, or because God willed it. (I come From a large religious family myself).
Ultimately I don't begrudge Akala, and black British people resentment. How could I? Akala in this book was overall restrained. If i were black (i can't know though), the Haiti question alone would be hard to swallow, let alone many other atrocities historically, without even mentioning the TA slave trade.
We may have more money as white westerners, and more privelege Akala, but perhaps id swap that for soul, community, cultire, 'love' . Not just my words, many brilliant writers, have written about this.
Keep it up akala - you are a role model to all communities.
A very interesting book, giving a perspective on a life experience far different from my own yet, astonishingly, within the very same country and not even far apart geographically - which obviously highlights our diversity. Akala's mention of moments of hurt as a very young child simply because of his colour was gut wrenching to read, having two still young grandchildren myself. That he was, by other experiences, able to rise above them gives me hope. I am white but the challenges are there.
Some very good information offered on Cuba and how it's general Healthcare apparently outstrips many other countries, even of the Western World; this not just in Cuba itself but in the way that country has in effect exported its care for the health of its people beyond its own borders.
Much to read here, to learn from, to glean facts and historical information presented in a very readable way. We have to learn that there is in fact (!) no uninterpreted fact, and also that the ones chosen to present often determine the interpretation. One object lesson from this book is to read as widely as you can. And to think.
Living at this time is just a little bit mind spinning.
While the first couple chapters were interesting, his choice to belittle anyone who doesn't believe in a British brand of polite denial concerning racism, was unnecessary. Any argument against, he describes as self-induced stupidity (the balls on this one). Never-mind if you own experience has been one of tolerance, he would have you believe his and the experience of his peers, is the definitive experience for black or mixed race youths in Britain - its not.
As he runs out of things to say from an intellectual standpoint, and seemingly after forgetting the purpose of the book, he switches over to telling anecdotes and recounting his experiences, seemingly with perfect clarity as a child but with ever increasing ambiguity as he ages. Personally, it reads as though early experiences taught him to see the world through only the prism of race, and any and all interactions since have been measured against the same stick - talk about an eggshell skull!
The rest of the book is just him stoking his own ego, because self-adulation is the most endearing of qualities. He repeats ad nauseam, how he got more or less straight A's at GCSE level, despite teachers supposedly mistreating him and singling him out, perhaps it it was his lack of humility ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ He tells you that he was good at football and that he was a bit of a hard man - the sheer braggadocio within this book will 'literally' leave you with a migraine.
He also used the word 'literally', literally too much.
Of course, slavery is the beginning of the problems. And of course we all reject slavery (and have celebrated the end of apartheid in South Africa). But do we know, and do we celebrate the many episodes of resistance against slavery? Do we know, that one out of ten ships full of human beings, was sabotaged by the victims who preferred death to slavery? One out of ten. Big commercial risk for the investors. That is, by the way, the beginning of the insurance industry, something we benefit today. So deep are the ramifications of racism, that we (white readers) are hardly aware and for this reason this book is a healthy reading.
The liberal reader which is me cringes when confronted with structural racism in the judicial system (how many black judges there are in the UK? and how many black prisoners?). Akala constructs his book in form of autobiography, and opens each chapter with formational moments of his own education. At primary school he realises that black students are assumed to be lazy. And then he gives a chilling account of when and how the stereotype of black laziness was invented (yes, that is related to slavery). Thirteen years old, he is searched by the police for the first time. And then you read about the judicial system.
Obviously, the structure of the book forces white reader, and white parents, to confront Akala's story with our own and to think with regret ands frustration of how many talents we are wasting because our racism does not allow minds and energies to contribute to our society.
There are questionable parts in this book, and in the author's pan African ideology. I do not share his admiration for Fidel Castro. I do no salute with enthusiasm the triumph of Chinese capitalism over Europe. It is infuriating to be confronted with Akala's furore against Obama, or more generally those liberals who believe in the possibility of a non racist liberal democracy. But you do not have to agree with everything. Being exposed is what we need.
And there is in evert single page an admirable honesty, e.g. in the account of the complex relations between Afro American and Afro British communities, which makes this book a necessary, if difficult, reading.
The content is legitimised by the authors citations and references. The narratives and facts presented in this book are common to many people of colour in the UK and Europe but are still not believed by many non-Whites. This books answers many questions about race, poverty, crime, media narrative and much more.
If you read this book you will get a fantastic understanding of the struggle that non-white people in a predominantly white society face.
In my opinion this book will enlighten many people and the facts presented should be addressed on a national and international level.
In summary; everyone should read this book. It is for everyone, it is educational, it is factual and it answers many questions regarding class, poverty and race.
The author pulls no punches in pointing out the inherent hypocrisies of successive UK governments in its policies towards native populations from the early days of the East India Company through to support for the apartheid regime of South Africa and the bigotry of local people who do not seem to want to share space with those of a different skin colour and culture.
We are cogently reminded that the discrimination was not restricted to the British Isles but extended to other areas of the globe which have been invaded or taken over ostensibly to bring civilisation to their wretched masses crying out for intervention from more advanced nations.
It will not be an easy read if the reader has already made up his or her mind on the subject of colonialism or racism but if an open mind can be kept as each chapter is tackled a lot can be learnt from someone who clearly feels aggrieved at what suffering was endured by largely innocent parties picked upon solely due to the pigmentation of their skin.
A necessary publication which as many of us as possible should read