Category Archives: Becoming Anti-Racist

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Reni Eddo-Lodge

Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge, is an important book to read. It came out a few years ago, but is perhaps even more relevant today. I decided to reread it as part of my anti-racist education. I’m glad I did because I got even more out of it the second time. Reni is very articulate and her ideas powerful. There is also a podcast called “About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge”  which is available on Emma Watson’s, Our Shared Podcast, on Spotify. I highly recommend you read the book and then listen to the podcast. Both aare filled with important ideas.

from the publisher:

Award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge was frustrated with the way that discussions of race and racism are so often led by those blind to it, by those willfully ignorant of its legacy. Her response, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, has transformed the conversation both in Britain and around the world. Examining everything from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, from whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge, and counter racism. Including a new afterword by the author, this is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of color in Britain today, and an essential handbook for anyone looking to understand how structural racism works.

Some of my favorite quotes from the book:

*We tell ourselves that good people can’t be racist. We seem to think that true racism only exists in the hearts of evil people. We tell ourselves that racism is about moral values, when instead it is about the survival strategy of systemic power.

*We don’t live in a meritocracy, and to pretend that simple hard work will elevate all to success is an exercise in wilful ignorance.

*Structural racism is never a case of innocent and pure, persecuted people of colour versus white people intent on evil and malice. Rather, it is about how Britain’s relationship with race infects and distorts equal opportunity.

*Not seeing race does little to deconstruct racist structures or materially improve the conditions which people of colour are subject to daily. In order to dismantle unjust, racist structures, we must see race. We must see who benefits from their race, who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes about their race, and to who power and privilege is bestowed upon – earned or not – because of their race, their class, and their gender. Seeing race is essential to changing the system.

Reading this book and listening to the podcast are part of my ongoing personal project: My Anti-Racist Education.

Across That Bridge

“Darkness cannot overcome darkness, only light can do that. Violence can never overcome violence, only peace can do that. Hate can never overcome hate, only love can do that.”

The life of Representative John Lewis was inspirational. The more I learn about this great American leader, the more I admire him. I just finished reading his 2017 book called  Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America, in which he told his own story of his path that lead him to the bridge in Alabama that day, his commitment to the ideals of his country and to the concept of non-violent protest for change, and his deep love of humanity. But as the title suggests, it is more than his story. His vision for change and the future of our country is a gift and a legacy for all of us! This book should be required reading for all of us. Do we still have “civics” classes in high school? It would definitely be on that reading list. And it should be on every book list for understanding the Black experience and for “becoming anti-racist.”

“But we must accept one central truth and responsibility as participants in a democracy: Freedom is not a state; it is an act. It is not some enchanted garden perched high on a distant plateau where we can finally sit down and rest. Freedom is the continuous action we all must take, and each generation must do its part to create an even more fair, more just society.”

There are eight chapters in this book, and Congressman Lewis called them his “lessons.” Each one is full of wisdom, insight, and compassion.

CHAPTER 1: Faith
CHAPTER 2: Patience
CHAPTER 3: Study
CHAPTER 4: Truth
CHAPTER 5: Act
CHAPTER 6: Peace
CHAPTER 7: Love
CHAPTER 8: Reconciliation

I have written these lessons on freedom and meditations on change for the generations who will take us into the future, for the dreamers young and ever young who should never get lost in a sea of despair, but are faithfully readying themselves for the next push for change. It is for the parents who want to inspire their sons and daughters to build a more just society. And, it’s for the sons and daughters who hear the call of a new age. This book is for the people.

It is for the grassroots leaders who will emerge not for the sake of fame or fortune, but with a burning desire to do good. It is for all those willing to join in the human spirit’s age-old struggle to break free from the bondage of concepts and structures that have lost their use. It is for the masses of people who with each new day have the chance to peel the scales from their eyes and remember it is they alone who are the most powerful agents of change. It is for anyone who wants to reform his or her existence or to fashion a better life for the children. It’s for those who want to improve their community or make their mark in history. This book is a collection of a few of the truths that I have learned as one who dreamed, worked, and struggled in America’s last revolution.

I know that there are quite a few books coming out now on the life of this great man, but this would be my recommended starting place to learn more about him and his important contributions to our nation.

Kindred

I actually read Kindred, by Octavia Butler, last year, but did not review it when I finished it because there was so much from the story to process and absorb. What I’ve discovered in the months that have passed since I finished it, is that it was a powerfully haunting experience to read it. I’ve thought a lot about it and don’t know when a book has stuck with me, haunted me, quite like this one. It was a powerful reading experience because Octavia Butler, being such a gifted writer/storyteller, makes you feel as if you are right there with her main character, Dana, throughout all her experiences, in the past and in the present. Those experiences were profoundly life-changing. Experiencing firsthand the life of her enslaved ancestors, being catapulted back and forth to the time of her ancestors and then back to her life in present times brought an incredible depth to Dana’s understanding of her own life experience. And it had a powerful impact on those of us who traveled with her. It is definitely a book I would highly recommend, although it is not an easy story. And for anyone wanting to gain more understanding of the black experience in this country, this is a creative and fascinating book to read.

from the publisher:

Butler’s most celebrated, critically acclaimed work tells the story of Dana, a young black woman who is suddenly and inexplicably transported from her home in 1970s California to the pre–Civil War South. As she time-travels between worlds, one in which she is a free woman and one where she is part of her own complicated familial history on a southern plantation, she becomes frighteningly entangled in the lives of Rufus, a conflicted white slaveholder and one of Dana’s own ancestors, and the many people who are enslaved by him.

During numerous such time-defying episodes with the same young man, she realizes the challenge she’s been given: to protect this young slaveholder until he can father her own great-grandmother.

Author Octavia E. Butler skillfully juxtaposes the serious issues of slavery, human rights, and racial prejudice with an exciting science-fiction, romance, and historical adventure.

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

 

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in Maryland.

Books to Start Important Conversations With Children

I have always loved reading children’s books, and so I am now exploring the wealth of books on  diversity that are available to teach the Black and Brown experience to children. These books were checked out of my library’s e-book collection, and I’m very happy to say that they are being read by a lot of people right now! That fills me with hope! I enjoyed reading them and will post a mini-review of each one. They are all really good, and some are real treasures, like Nikki Giovanni’s poems.

I Am Loved, by Nikki Giovanni.

A beautiful little book of poems. The illustrations and the poems were beautiful and moving.

from the publisher:

There is nothing more important to a child than to feel loved, and this gorgeous gathering of poems written by Nikki Giovanni celebrates exactly that. Hand-selected by Newbery honoree Ashley Bryan, he has, with his masterful flourish of color, shape, and movement, added a visual layering that drums the most impartant message of all to young, old, parent, child, grandparent, and friend alike: You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. As a bonus, one page is mirrored, so children reading the book can see exactly who is loved—themselves!

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, by Duncan Tonatiuh

This was an historical happening that I had never heard about, but it is an important story to read with children when talking about segregation.

from the publisher:

Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Mendez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.

A Kids Book About Racism, by Jelani Memory

This little picture book, written by a Portland, Oregon, author, is a great way to start conversations with children about racism. It is powerful in it’s simple, straightforward language and information.

from the publisher:

Yes, this really is a kids book about racism. Inside, you’ll find a clear description of what racism is, how it makes people feel when they experience it, and how to spot it when it happens.

This is one conversation that’s never too early to start, and this book was written to be an introduction for kids on the topic.

Ruth and the Green Book, by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Gwen Strauss

This is a powerful book about the difficulty of traveling for families of color back in the 1950s. A good way to start the conversation about Jim Crow laws and how things have, or have not, changed since that time.

from the publisher:

Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family’s new car! In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, so this would be an adventure. But she soon found out that black travelers weren’t treated very well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refused service to black people. Daddy was upset about something called Jim Crow laws . . .

Finally, a friendly attendant at a gas station showed Ruth’s family The Green Book. It listed all of the places that would welcome black travelers. With this guidebook―and the kindness of strangers―Ruth could finally make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma’s house in Alabama.

Almost to Freedom, by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and Colin Bootman

This was a very moving story about the Underground Railroad.

from the publisher:

Lindy and her doll Sally are best friends – wherever Lindy goes, Sally stays right by her side. They eat together, sleep together, and even pick cotton together. So, on the night Lindy and her mama run away in search of freedom, Sally goes too. This young girl’s rag doll vividly narrates her enslaved family’s courageous escape through the Underground Railroad. At once heart-wrenching and uplifting, this story about friendship and the strength of the human spirit will touch the lives of all readers long after the journey has ended.

If you haven’t read any of these little books, I highly recommend them for parents and grandparents to read with their loved ones, and for teachers to start important discussions with their students (of all ages). The conversations they inspire would be heartfelt.

My Anti-Racist Education

I am a Learner. That’s why I became a teacher (and also because I loved spending my days in the hopeful and inspiring world of young people). So in trying to deal with the horrific events of the last few weeks, I realized that I have so much to learn. So I am beginning an important undertaking:  I am now focusing on educating myself on how to become Anti-Racist.

“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.”
Angela Y. Davis

“The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’ What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an anti-racist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.”
Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist

And one of the most hopeful things I’ve discovered in making this commitment to become anti-racist is that so many other people are doing the same thing! I took the photo above just this morning when I got on the library website to look for some e-books to add to my growing list of books to read on this subject. Every. single. book. has a waiting list of weeks and weeks! My heart soared with HOPE to see that there are so many other Learners out there!

On this page, I will keep a list with links to my reviews of books and other resources that I’ve found and appreciated, so please come back here occasionally to see this self-education journey.

BOOKS READ AND REVIEWED:

  1. Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
  2. Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historical Presidency, by Pete Souza
  3. They Call Us Enemy, by George Takei
  4. Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  5. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  6. Dear Ijeawele: or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  7. Becoming, by Michelle Obama
  8. Across That Bridge: A Vision for Change and the Future of America, by John Lewis
  9. Kindred, by Octavia Butler

READ BUT NOT REVIEWED (yet):

  • Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah
  • The Color Purple, by Alice Walker
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
  • Barracoon, by Zora Neale Hurston
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison

CHILDREN’S BOOKS ABOUT THE BLACK EXPERIENCE AND DIVERSITY:

PODCASTS:

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They Called Us Enemy

 

They Called Us Enemy, by George Takei, is a beautifully written and illustrated autobiography of his childhood years when he and his family were relocated to the American concentration camps during World War II.  This is a book that I think should be a must read for everyone. It is so alarmingly relevant today, and I mean this very day, with Iranians now being detained at our borders and children that continue to be separated from their families and incarcerated at our southern border!

from the publisher:

In a stunning graphic memoir, Takei revisits his haunting childhood in American concentration camps, as one of over 100,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon—and America itself—in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love.

I was very moved by this book and learned a lot that I didn’t know about that shameful period of time in our nation’s history. It was both moving and uplifting. An excellent book, in my opinion, and one of the most important books I’ve read in a long time!

Dreams From my Father

My book blogging friend, Andi, at Estella’s Revenge, recently listened to the audiobook of Dreams From my Father, by Barack Obama (narrated by the author). She rated it 5 stars on Goodreads, and talked about how much she enjoyed listening to it. She inspired me to follow suit, so I downloaded the audiobook from Audible and am just starting it. My mother (age 98) is also going to listen to it so that we can share our thoughts about it on the phone in our daily conversations. We both miss the Obamas greatly and thought that listening to Barack Obama tell stories about his life and family would be very enjoyable. Thanks, Andi, for the idea! This little shared project is going to brighten our days!

Mom and I have been sharing books and reading experiences for a lot of years!

 

Bookends

 

My first read of 2017 was Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s, We Should All Be Feminists, so it was very fitting to read another short work by her, Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions,  to end my reading year. Wonderful bookends for 2017!

Click here to reread my review of We Should All Be Feminists. I feel even more strongly than I did one year ago, that this short book is essential reading for all! The word “feminist” is such a scary word to so many people, but this book gives you important understandings of why we need to set aside fear and open our hearts to the ideas of feminism which empower and enrich the lives of both men and women.

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions was a letter written in response to a request from Adichie’s friend about how to raise her newborn daughter. Simply put, I wish this book had existed when my daughter was born 39 years ago. I did have some strong female role models that inspired and guided my parenting of both my son and my daughter, but this little book, so succinctly and eloquently written, would have been my hand guide. I decided that I will give a copy of it , along with the knitted blanket and baby sweater gifts I make for the new arrivals of family and friends. It would be a gift of love and caring for both the new family and for the future of our planet!

These two books were excellent bookends for a year full of conflicts, contradictions, and challenges to our national norms and priorities when it comes to families and the future. There is HOPE in these two books, and ideas that can make us better people making better choices.

A photo from 39 years ago! I am, more than ever, in awe of my strong, resilient, beautiful daughter!

Son and Grandson

A photo from 6 years ago. I am also in awe of the gentle and nurturing way my son parents his own son!

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