I think I need to take a break from all of the anti-racism education I’ve been doing for myself over the last two months in the form of books. It’s been educational, enlightening, upsetting, infuriating, and freeing in many ways to read all of these resources and books in an effort to understand racism better and be able to respond to ignorant comments (such as… racism doesn’t exist anymore/we live in a post-racist society/racism against Whites is the biggest issue now), but it’s been emotionally exhausting to have this on my mind throughout the day, nonstop. I recognize that there can be some criticism here from Black and Brown people of color, that it’s a luxury to not have to think about this every single day on the top of their minds… but I’d turn that question back to them and say… Are they reading all these books and resources, too?
I also fear that in most cases as with most issues, the people who need to hear these responses and rebuttals will never be open to hearing them. I still have a long list of other race-related books I want to tackle, but I’ve decided that for my sanity’s sake, I will need to space them out. In the meantime, I am reading Colson Whitehead’s 2020 Pulitzer Prize winning The Nickel Boys (okay, so maybe it’s not REALLY a departure from reading about race given it’s based on the true story of the Dozier School, a reform school in Florida (read: reform school for black boys) that operated for 111 years and abused black children, but you know what? There’s no wait list for Kindle borrowing on it right now given it’s a Book of the Month through New York Public Library, so I’ll take advantage of no wait lists for an in-demand book!).
These are the books I’ve read thus far this year on race and would definitely recommend for different reasons:
- How to be an Anti-Racist – Ibram. X. Kendi: Provides a historical lens as well as personal anecdotes shared by the author/historian/educator Ibram X. Kendi. Examines how many quotes/phrases from famous anti-racist/anti-segregation advocates such as MLK have been twisted by conservatives who believe we live in a post-racist world. Seeks to provide definitions of what racist vs. not racist vs. anti-racist are, as well as many other terms and concepts that oftentimes get misused by the media and thus misunderstood by the American public. This book is pretty U.S.-centric, so be aware of that.
- White Fragility – Robin DiAngelo: Provides viewpoints from an antiracism educator over 25+ years of anti-racism classes and workshops done by a wide spectrum of age groups, corporate for- and not-for-profit organizations in an attempt to increase diversity and inclusion in schools, organizations, and corporations. Acknowledges my most often-thought of point, which is that it is nearly impossible to have a discussion about racism that will leave everyone feeling comfortable, included, or welcome, and that is exactly the point of addressing racism: to be brought to a state of discomfort to then be propelled into real action.
- Me and White Supremacy – Layla Saad: Based on a month-long Instagram challenge to examine how the concept of white supremacy has been drilled into each and every one of us since birth, and what we can personally do to dismantle it. Oftentimes, when people think about “white supremacists,” they think of David Duke, the KKK, when in reality, we actually adhere to a white supremacist society because of what we considered normal: normal is white, “other” or “abnormal” is seeing Chinese, Persian, Black, etc., people on TV, in Congress, in the White House, etc. That is just one example. This book helps people examine their own white supremacist notions and how to challenge them. A painful book, but a necessary read.
- So You Want to Talk about Race – Ijeoma Oluo: A compelling and concise read that walks through various race-related subjects, such as intersectionality, why you should not touch a Black woman’s hair, affirmative action, and the concept of the “model minority,” which many Asian Americans sadly embrace but really should be doing the opposite. The best part about this book is that Oluo acknowledges the fact that in the U.S., the unfortunate discussion about race tends to always be black and white with some brown occasionally, but the general discourse completely ignores the various groups that make up Asian Americans and Native Americans. An entire chapter is devoted to the model minority myth, which was really refreshing for me to read. It illuminates on why and how the Asian American community has been pitted against the Black American community in this country and how this was a construction basically created by those in power (read: White people).
Racism and anti-racism education does not have a beginning or and end. It should always be ongoing for each and every one of us. And for those who deny that racism still persists and is going strong in society, well…. you are the kind of people I don’t want to have any discussion with because you are just goners in my mind.