Adam Serwer presents "The Cruelty Is the Point," with Ibram X. Kendi

July 19, 2021, 7:00 PM

Adam Serwer joins us for the release of The Cruelty Is the Point: Essays on Trump's America, in conversation with Ibram X. Kendi. This program is in partnership with our friends at Books & Books, Harvard Bookstore, and Politics & Prose, and will take place on Zoom. Purchase tickets here:

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From an award-winning journalist at The Atlantic, these searing essays make a damning case that cruelty is not merely an unfortunate byproduct of the Trump administration but its main objective and the central theme of the American project.

"No writer better demonstrates how American dreams are so often sabotaged by American history. Adam Serwer is essential."--Ta-Nehisi Coates

"Trump summoned the most treacherous forces in American history and conducted them with the ease of a grand maestro."

Like many of us, Adam Serwer didn't know that Donald Trump would win the 2016 election. But over the four years that followed, the Atlantic staff writer became one of our most astute analysts of the Trump presidency and the volatile powers it harnessed. The shock that greeted Trump's victory, and the subsequent cruelty of his presidency, represented a failure to confront elements of the American past long thought vanquished.

In this searing collection, Serwer chronicles the Trump administration not as an aberration but as an outgrowth of the inequalities the United States was founded on. Serwer is less interested in the presidential spectacle than in the ideological and structural currents behind Trump's rise--including a media that was often blindsided by the ugly realities of what the administration represented and how it came to be.

While deeply engaged with the moment, Serwer's writing is also haunted by ghosts of an unresolved American past, a past that torments the present. In bracing new essays and previously published works, he explores white nationalism, myths about migration, the political power of police unions, and the many faces of anti-Semitism. For all the dynamics he examines, cruelty is the glue, the binding agent of a movement fueled by fear and exclusion. Serwer argues that rather than pretending these four years didn't happen or dismissing them as a brief moment of madness, we must face what made them possible. Without acknowledging and confronting these toxic legacies, the fragile dream of American multiracial democracy will remain vulnerable to another ambitious demagogue.

Adam Serwer has written for The Atlantic since 2016, focusing on contemporary politics while often viewing it through the lens of history. Serwer was a Spring Fellow at the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University as well as the Ira Lipman Fellow at the Columbia University School of Journalism. He is the recipient of the 2019 Hillman Prize for opinion journalism. He lives in San Antonio, Texas, with his family.

Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University, and the founding director of the BU Center for Antiracist Research. He is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and a CBS News racial justice contributor. Dr. Kendi is the 2020-2021 Frances B. Cashin Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. He is the host of the new action podcast, Be Antiracist. Dr. Kendi is the author of many highly acclaimed books including Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, which won the National Book Award for Nonfiction, making him the youngest ever winner of that award. He had also produced five straight #1 New York Times bestsellers, including How to Be an Antiracist, Antiracist Baby, and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, co-authored by Jason Reynolds. In 2020, Time magazine named Dr. Kendi one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Co-sponsored by Congregation Beth Elohim. Congregation Beth Elohim, fondly known as CBE, offers authentic, meaningful and outside the box Jewish experiences for those in our Brooklyn community and beyond.