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Viral justice : how we grow the world we want
2022
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Library Journal Review
Benjamin (African American studies, Princeton Univ.; Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code) has spent much of her career conducting groundbreaking research about race, justice, and technology. Part memoir, this book is an emotional and thought-provoking wake-up shout to put an end to systemic discrimination and the racist rewriting of justice. The author believes that people are far more than the worst thing they've ever done; people must empathize with each other. Her stories and descriptions are mindful of George Orwell's 1984 and how, in the dystopian, 21st-century version of evolution, photos of young, Black men with a previous record have reportedly been used for target practice at a police gun practice range. VERDICT This a rich and engaging space for collective healing, integrity, and social commentary on the reasons why structural hurdles must be removed for racial justice to ever be achieved.--Alessandro Cimino
Kirkus Review
Small steps toward a just world. Benjamin, a professor of African American studies at Princeton, offers an impassioned argument for the need to foster the "deep-rooted interdependence" that characterizes strong communities and to counter the ableism, sexism, racism, and classism that lead to injustice and inequality. Besides drawing on the findings of sociologists, epidemiologists, educators, and historians, among others, Benjamin shares her own experiences as the daughter of a Black American father and Indian-born mother of Persian descent, as well as the experiences of her family and friends, to expose the effects of racism in education, health care, policing and punishment, housing, economic opportunity, political participation, and scientific research. The victimization of her mentally ill brother by a "ravenous carceral system" informs her vision of police reform that would divert funding to housing, education, and community support. Turning to education, she exposes the "myth of meritocracy"--the idea that hard work and innate talent always lead to educational and professional success. In an "apartheid-like system" of education that is organized by race and class, success unfortunately breeds entitlement and "elitist delusions of specialness" rather than an awareness that achievement depends on luck: where, to whom, and in what economic stratum you were born. Benjamin reveals racism in hospitals, doctors' offices, and the designs of research studies, where Black bodies are probed and tested but not provided adequate health care based on the outcomes of research. Impatient with the "datafication of injustice," she claims we do not need more studies or more evidence. We need only the will to look at ourselves and "to individually confront how we participate in unjust systems." Viral justice, argues the author convincingly, entails a redistribution of resources to overcome inequality and to create "communities of care" that support everyone's needs. Each of us, she writes, must "question the roles and narrative you've inherited, and scheme with others to seed a different world." A powerful, urgent plea for individual responsibility in an unjust world. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Summary

From the author of Race After Technology , an inspiring vision of how we can build a more just world--one small change at a time

"A true gift to our movements for justice."--Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow

Long before the pandemic, Ruha Benjamin was doing groundbreaking research on race, technology, and justice, focusing on big, structural changes. But the twin plagues of COVID-19 and anti-Black police violence inspired her to rethink the importance of small, individual actions. Part memoir, part manifesto, Viral Justice is a sweeping and deeply personal exploration of how we can transform society through the choices we make every day.

Vividly recounting her personal experiences and those of her family, Benjamin shows how seemingly minor decisions and habits could spread virally and have exponentially positive effects. She recounts her father's premature death, illuminating the devastating impact of the chronic stress of racism, but she also introduces us to community organizers who are fostering mutual aid and collective healing. Through her brother's experience with the criminal justice system, we see the trauma caused by policing practices and mass imprisonment, but we also witness family members finding strength as they come together to demand justice for their loved ones. And while her own challenges as a young mother reveal the vast inequities of our healthcare system, Benjamin also describes how the support of doulas and midwives can keep Black mothers and babies alive and well.

Born of a stubborn hopefulness, Viral Justice offers a passionate, inspiring, and practical vision of how small changes can add up to large ones, transforming our relationships and communities and helping us build a more just and joyful world.

Table of Contents
Author's Notep. ix
Introduction The White Housep. 1
"I want to grow up and so should you"
1Weatherp. 27
"Bodies tell stories that people will not tell"
2Huntedp. 59
"Where life is precious, life is precious"
3Liesp. 98
"What are we pretending not to know today?"
4Grindp. 141
"You are not a machine, stop grinding"
5Exposedp. 182
"Your baby is beautiful and so are you"
6Trustp. 225
"We want to be at the table, not on the table"
7La Casa Azulp. 267
"Be willing to be transformed in the service of the work"
Acknowledgmentsp. 285
Notesp. 289
Indexp. 365
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