- Paperback: 200 pages
- Publisher: Take Root Media; 40 edition (January 20, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 098005902X
- ISBN-13: 978-0980059021
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 33 customer reviews
Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
#295,279 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- #417 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Politics & Government > Elections & Political Process > Elections
- #1013 in Books > Biographies & Memoirs > Ethnic & National > African-American & Black
- #1614 in Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Specific Demographics > African-American Studies
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I thought this was a well-crafted memoir about a stellar and abstemious political figure who (gasp) actually wanted to do her job, i.e.- uncompromisingly serve her constituents to the best of her ability without resorting to the dirty, ineffectual, time-wasting tactics of her counterparts. Not only was this an autobiography, it was a critical exposé of the sociopolitical problems that she encountered. "Unbought and Unbossed" didn't limit itself to only issues surrounding a "Black female" in a profession dominated by White males. It demonstrably tackled deeper social, political and economical issues as well: gerrymandering; legality and morality of abortions; paying for an unnecessary war abroad without properly attending to domestic issues; sexism; equal access to education; the seniority system of Congress. Heck, Chisolm's autobio even served as a Government 101 refresher by explaining political processes and terms. By overcoming a web of racial animosities, unwarranted prejudices, and stereotypes based on her sex, Chisolm proved to be instrumental in revealing the damning flaws of American government and society. Furthermore, Chisolm revealed the popular tendency for elected leaders, Republican and Democratic alike, to fail the very people that elected them.
It is hopeful that many of the plights described in her book are not as frequent in society as they once were. I emphasize that many strides have been made in the realms of racial and sexual equality, government transparency, and education. But there's much to be done. While many think that the racially subversive ideologies of Chisolm's time are deemed antediluvian, it's simply not true. We have only to look to current events, the failings of inner-city schools, the lack of educated minorities, and an overwhelmingly increasing number of Black youth imprisoned. Socio-politically-speaking, the issue of "race" has become a desensitized issue (I'm looking at you Ann Coulter) that reeks of condescension and ignorance. Women's rights are still in the hands of men lacking alacrity to let women decide what's best for their own bodies. The issues of the impoverished and other domestic concerns have taken a backseat to global affairs while most of our Congressmen enjoy the perks of their jobs and do zilch to help the common man. Additionally, the influences of "political machines and clubs" are still running amok in the forms of patronage, coalition politics, political posturing, catering to special interest groups, and unaccountability.
Bravo for Chisolm's boldness and profundity. Race-relations, women's rights, inner-city education, war on poverty et cetera, are all uncomfortable and hot-button topics that need to be addressed head-on. I encourage all -regardless of race, creed, age, color, sex, national origin, or religion - to give this book a read and jump start meaningful dialogues. Here are some of the essential themes and quotes I picked up on in "Unbought and Unbossed" (hint: there's just too many gems):
1. Women's Rights
"It is true that women have seldom been aggressive in demanding their rights and so have cooperated in their own enslavement. This was true of the black population for many years. They submitted to oppression, and even condoned it. But women are becoming aware, as blacks did, that they can have equal treatment if they will fight for it, and they are starting to organize. To do it, they will have to dare the sanctions that society imposes on anyone who breaks with its traditions," (Chapter 15).
2. Understanding the Game of Politics
"Political organizations are formed to keep the powerful in power. Their first rule is "Don't rock the boat,"" (Chapter 4).
"...My present attitude toward politics as it is practiced in the United States: it is a beautiful fraud that has been imposed on the people for years, whose practitioners exchange gilded promises for the most valuable thing their victims own, their votes. And who benefits most? The lawyers," (Chapter 4)
"The rules of the political game are designed to make it possible for men in power to control the actions of their supporters and stay there. If they can't control someone, they are disturbed. It is a threat to their security," (Chapter 6).
"There is little place in the political scheme of things for an independent, creative personality, for a fighter. Anyone who takes that role must pay a price," (Chapter 6).
3. The Lackadaisical Attitude of Congress
"Congress seemed drugged and inert most of the time. Even when the problems it ignores build up to crises and erupt in strikes, riots and demonstrations, it is not moved. Its idea of meeting a problem is to hold hearings or, in extreme cases, to appoint a commission," (Chapter 10).
"Who is it that Congress represents? Would things be different if citizens were more highly organized and better able to articulate and emphasize their desires? This is a serious problem that has to be solved if the democratic process is going to work in a nation as large and complex as ours. As it is now, Congress is just making believe. It is going through motions to make the votes think a democratic process is going on," (Chapter 10).
4. Just What Exactly do the Negroes Want?
An audience member asked Chisolm: "What do you Negroes want now? You all aren't doing too bad. In fact, you're doing a lot better than some of the white people."
"My God, what do we want? What does any human being want? Take away an accident of pigmentation of a thin layer of our outer skin and there is no difference between me and anyone else. All we want is for that trivial difference to make no difference. What can I say to a man who asks that? All I can do is try to explain to him why he asks the question. You have looked at us for years as different from you that you may never see us really. You don't understand because you think of us as second-class humans. We have been passive and accommodating through so many years of your insults and delays that you think the way things used to be is normal. When the good-natured, spiritual-singing boys and girls rise up against the white man and demand to be treated like he is, you are bewildered. All we want is what you want, no less and no more," (Chapter 13).
4. Lessons for All
Many of Shirley's lessons can be applied to all Americans. In a pervasive culture of political gridlock, this book reads like a call to arms. Patience and trust in our elected officials has seemed to get no results for the everyday joe. "From the beginning I felt that there were only two ways to create change for black people in this country - either politically or by opened armed revolution. Malcolm defined it succinctly - the ballot or the bullet. Since I believe that human life is uniquely valuable and important, for me the choice had to be the creative use of the ballot. I still believe I was right. I hope America never succeeds in changing my mind," (end of Chapter 13).
5. Protecting the Right to be Human and to Be Heard
"In the end, anti-black, anti-female, and all forms of discrimination are equivalent to the same thing - anti-humanism," (Chapter 15).
"Until a problem reaches their doorsteps, they're not going to understand. They won't become involved in economic or political change until something brings the seriousness of the situation home to them. Until they are threatened, why should they change a system that has been fairly beneficial for a fairly large number of people? It is going to have to the have-nots - the blacks, browns, reds, yellows, and whites who do not share in the good life that most Americans lead - who somehow arouse the conscience of the nation and thus create a conscience in the Congress," (Chapter 10).
I could go on and on. She spoke truth to power and did not back down! This usually results in abject failure for the speaker, but, not with Congresswoman Chisholm. She is a role model of integrity and caring, yet, she understood the political system and was able to use it to her advantage, rather than being a hapless victim.
I highly recommend this book to all!