A Practical Guide to Racism, a Review (with a quote and some choice 1- and 2-star reviews)

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Summary: It's a joke book, about racism. Are you laughing yet? Hah. HAH. Good times.

BLOT: (16 Sep 2013 - 11:09:00 PM)

A Practical Guide to Racism, a Review (with a quote and some choice 1- and 2-star reviews)

Back around 2008 (I guess, from the date of publication), I slipped "C. H. Dalton's" A Practical Guide to Racism on my Amazon wishlist to see if I could get my mother-in-law to buy it for me for Christmas. For reasons. Then, failing that dastardly deed's success, I bought it with Christmas money I received. For reasons. It sat on my bookshelf, mostly ignored. I think I forgot about it, but noticed it yesterday and picked it up and read through it today.

For those needing a gist, think of one of those armchair anthropologist "guidebooks" to the various peoples of the world, with names like Peoples of Africa, meant to educate and, in less civilized times, denigrate those weird and mildly cannibalistic Cthulhu worshipers from over there. Practical Guide to Racism is joyous in its denigration, though certain post-modern irony-draped literary types might say it is ultimately denigrating the act of denigrating, or maybe, like Shallow Hal, it's a movie about fat jokes with a moral about why you should only make fat jokes to make fun of making fat jokes. Life is confusing.

That above paragraph is sort of a sample of the type of humor that Practical uses, that constant tapping of mild humor against the shores of consciousness, which I sometimes call The Daily Show style of humor (since so many people involved in that show [including this one, via the pseudonym of Dalton] write in that style), a style whose aim is largely to beat your senses down with a mixture of repetition, erudition, insight, low-brow chortles, and offense. A pregnant laugh or two does escape, surely, but at what cost? I don't know.

I found it funny. Out of my 0-8 scale, I'd give it a 6, even, with the caveat that I tend to delight in the absurdity of stereotypes because I know, deep down, we're all just cosmic chaff decaying one breath at a time, and that some chapters feel like the kind of racist stereotypes the author really dwells on while others were brought up via a quick Google at a bar, but there you go. You could think of it as a reductio ad absurdum for racism, especially "easy" epithets and "obvious" stereotypes. The latter are given as though nearly 100% factual, to expected result, while the former are dissected in an appendix which tries to assign meaning to both real slurs and made-up ones, exposing the general farcical nature of the beast. It plays with a doe-eyed historical naivety, as though an earnest shut-in decided to pick up the facts about other races [and genders/orientations] by talking solely to old aunts and uncles, and then took everything they said to heart, even when it made no sense and contradicted itself, and it's both cute and enlightening as it does so. Its chief flaw, outside of finding a few triggers to piss everyone off and its tendency to put in throw-away asides are fairly hit or miss [see: an entire chapter on Merpeople], is likely its repetition. Since we are dealing with racists, who will continue to say the same dumb things over and over again, as though they are casting verbal votes about whether or not Mexicans really are stealing good American jobs, it is understandable. Just, you know, not exactly the surest path to true humor. It's like, "orange you glad I didn't say banana!?," for adults.

My favorite quote from the whole book, from the "Timeline of Black History" (page 79) is this:

1441-1865: Nothing of any significance happens to black people.
1865: Affirmative Action created.

Most of the other jokes are odder, cruder, or less pithy than this, but if that made you laugh, then maybe you should at least borrow the book from someone [like me!] and read a page or two to see how it suits you.

Perhaps the best bit about this book are some of the negative reviews I spotted online. In no particular order, here are some favorites from Amazon.com:

Did I mention that it's only $10.44 on the Kindle? CHEAP!

On the Words of Others


Written by Doug Bolden

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