The events of the past few weeks have made it clear that there is so much work left to be done by white people to fight racism and their implicit role in it. We must do better as humans, as friends and as parents to recognize our inherent positions of privilege and stop these injustices from recurring again and again. Uncomfortable conversations must be had, learned from and remembered.
Here are multiple resources and voices I've found insightful during my own personal education. A lot of my learning about black history has been as an adult, and should have started much earlier. There is so much that is left out in school that it's up to each of us to fill in the gaps. Hopefully with the current push for anti-racist reading lists the scope will broaden and more of this will be taught in school from a young age and make a dent in fighting systemic racism.
Between the World and Me by Ta-nehisi Coates
(Taken from a blog post I originally wrote in August 2016, which seems like it could have been written this week)
Unfortunately this summer seems like it's been a hot bed of turmoil regarding race relations in the US. Anyone who thinks that we live in a post racial society, definitely needs to read this book and reconsider. Written as a series of letters to his teenage son, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores what it's like to be a black man in America. Widely acclaimed, Between the World and Me is a National Book Award winner, NAACP Image Award Winner and Pulitzer Prize finalist.
At times, heartbreakingly poignant and other times angry and insightful, this book is not an easy read but an important one. It truly helps to bridge the gap in understanding what its like to step outside your own personal upbringing and to experience what it's like to be a black man and to be a parent of a black man in America. It really drove home for me the fear that both people of color and parents of people of color live with on a daily basis when interacting with law enforcement. My heart broke when he described overhearing his son crying alone in his room after the acquittal in the Trayvon Martin case. I do wish Coates had offered more suggestions on how to change these dire circumstances, but this book is an effective start in furthering the conversation.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Books are my preferred method of learning, sitting and taking time with them to really digest their contents in quiet reflection. I just purchased and received this book and am excited to dig in. A great resource for how to start the conversation of race when you're not sure where to start or how to go about it.
As a parent it's important to make sure to discuss these topics as a family and help provide background through books for my son. This book covers "what racism is, how it makes people feel when they experience it, and how to spot it when it happens." We're waiting for this one to come out in print in July, but if you can't wait it's available on kindle in the meantime. It's part of a larger series A Kids Book About... that have really great difficult to broach topics like anxiety, depression, divorce, cancer etc and are written by authors of diverse backgrounds.
A great resource for anti racist children's books is diversity and inclusion expert instagram account @hereweread I found the A Kids Book About... series through her page. Highly recommend!
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
I read this book when it came out in 2017 and it quickly became one of my favorite books of the last 5 years. Forget the fact that it is technically YA, it is so well written that any adult would find it a compelling and resonating story. First time novelist Angie Thomas does such a brilliant job of character development that you feel you know these characters in real life. The story centers on sixteen year old Starr who witnesses the death of her childhood best friend at the hands of the police. She struggles to straddle the world between the poor black neighborhood that she lives in and the elite suburban prep school she attends. The death of her friend becomes a national headline and starts off protests leaving Starr in the middle of it as she's the surviving witness of the murder. Starr's survivor's guilt and how she navigates the pressure of wanting to remain silent and not having her prep school peers find out that she was the surviving witness and being judged by them for her participation and that of being a role model for the protesters demanding justice and answers for her friend Khalil is unforgettable. I've thought about this book long after I read it and cannot recommend it more highly. It should be required reading in schools. If you are not the reading type, it was also made into a movie starring Amandla Stenberg.
All books are available at one of the nation's oldest black owned independent bookstores located right here in Los Angeles! Eso Won Books has hosted two presidents Clinton and Obama (twice).
TV SHOWS TO WATCH
Blackish created by Kenya Bariss
I grew up with the Cosby show and so for me Blackish is the modern day equivalent. A deeply loving family unit with successful career minded parents, hilarious writing and historical content. Blackish, while a mainstream tv show on ABC for years (now on Hulu) doesn't shy away from tackling important issues in black history and American history as a whole like, Colin Kaepernick and the NFL, and police brutality. It taught me black history I hadn't learned in school like Juneteenth and the brown paper bag test. To see the Juneteenth episode click here.
Michelle Obama calls it her favorite show, Trump calls it racist. I watch it to laugh, feel hopeful (a family that argues but loves each other and always finds resolution in their problems) to see the familiar (it's set in LA), and to learn. The creator Kenya Bariss has a new semi-autobiographical show called #blackAF on Netflix that just came out in April that I am looking forward to watching as well!
It took me a little while to get around to watching the Watchmen, thinking that it was a super hero show with actors running around in capes (not really my thing). I kept hearing great reviews of it so decided to check it out and am so glad that I did. It's so much more than that and quickly became one of my favorite shows of last year. It has strange supernatural sci-fi elements but underneath all of that is the story of vigilante justice in Tulsa, Oklahoma fighting the police department and its infiltration by white supremacists. It introduced me to the Black Wall Street Massacre, one of the major plot lines of the show, which is now something that has been talked a lot about recently for it's 99 yr anniversary just last week. The Watchmen recently won a Peabody for offering "a frank and provocative reflection on contemporary racialized violence, on the role of police, and on the consequences of a large-scale disaster on the way Americans understand their place in the world." Regina King is incredible in it and I really hope it returns for a second season. A must see!
Have you read any of these books or seen any of these shows? Tell me in the comments below!