Book review: Natives by Akala

As featured in Edition 37, available here.

By BRAEDIE ATKINS


Throughout Natives (2019), Akala, an activist, journalist, poet, and an award-winning rapper and author, forcefully unpicks the carefully stitched seams in the racist and classist fabric of modern-day Britain. A powerful blend of biography and socio-political study, this book unveils the myth of meritocracy, equality and justice in the UK’s education, political and criminal justice systems, as well as critiquing the legacy of a seemingly benevolent British Empire.


Not only is this book well-sourced and an accessible read, but it is written by a man who is not a disconnected academic searching for objective truths or limited by inherent racial or class bias. Akala’s lived experience as a mixed-race, working-class boy growing up in 1980s London is powerfully drawn upon in helping expose past and present racial and class inequality that is omitted from, and perpetuated by, our education system, national conversation and in government policy and legislation.


Reasons to read this book are endless. Akala confronts the falsehood that is ‘black-on-black’ violence, uncovers how the academic abilities of black children are underestimated and explains how a rose-tinted understanding of Britain’s colonial past helps justify current neo-colonial foreign policy. For many of us then, this book acts as a long-overdue history lesson, with Britain's past glorified within school textbooks under a narrative of ‘civilisation’ and ‘Empire’.


Natives makes plain the need to unlearn racist historical narratives and dismantle the structures and institutions of a country founded on class hierarchy at home and racial hierarchy abroad. Its message is urgent, a message you must urgently read.

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