The Anti-Racist Starter Pack: Three Mini Reviews

Full disclosure: I am a white woman steeped in all sorts of privilege. I’ve said horrible shit, and I’m trying to do better and be anti-racist. I have a long road to go and am far from a source of authority. Any and all errors in this post are mine and mine alone.

Here are some fantastic Black-owned science fiction and/or bookstore owners, if you’d like to support them:

Sistah Scifi – a cauldron of all things afro-futurism

FIYAH Magazine – the Hugo winning Black Speculative Fiction magazine

Books and Crannies – a delightful Black-owned independent bookstore in Martinsville, VA

As the months slip by, it feels like the initial wave of outrage and Do Betterness has waned. While the protests in some places continue and the amount of police brutality and authoritarianism has increased, Black Lives Matter has seemed to slipped into the wayside of the discussion.

Black Lives Matter is not a trend. We are not free until all are free.

I’m not going to do a traditional review for these, mainly because I can’t do them justice. The blurbs are from Goodreads.

A Comprehensive History of The Great Migration

The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

Trigger Warning: Lynching, graphic torture

From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.

With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.

Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land.

It does get a bit repetitive at times, but it is brilliantly researched, beautifully written and does not flinch from the horrors of American history. It celebrates Black triumphs while burning a light onto injustice.

Required Reading for White Feminists

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

Today’s feminist movement has a glaring blind spot, and paradoxically, it is women. Mainstream feminists rarely talk about meeting basic needs as a feminist issue, argues Mikki Kendall, but food insecurity, access to quality education, safe neighborhoods, a living wage, and medical care are all feminist issues.

All too often, however, the focus is not on basic survival for the many, but on increasing privilege for the few.

That feminists refuse to prioritize these issues has only exacerbated the age-old problem of both internecine discord and women who rebuff at carrying the title. Moreover, prominent white feminists broadly suffer from their own myopia with regard to how things like race, class, sexual orientation, and ability intersect with gender. How can we stand in solidarity as a movement, Kendall asks, when there is the distinct likelihood that some women are oppressing others?

Think Maslow’s Theory of Self-Actualization. Feminists cannot focus on the top of Maslow’s pyramid if a majority of women are struggling to make ends meet with food, water, shelter, safety and reproductive rights.

Race Might Be a Social Construct, but it is a Construct Ingrained into the Soul of America

How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi

bram X. Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America–but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.

In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

While most of the time I was doing the buduhduhduhduh thing with my lips and forefinger because Kendi is clearly operating at a level of brilliance I can’t even imagine, this is definitely a book meant for rereading (so is Hood Feminism). Bottom line: it’s great to do the work, but that doesn’t just mean reading books and educating yourself. It means enacting change by going to the policymakers—forcing them to create antiracist policies. It means getting used to being uncomfortable. Lasting change is painful.

Anywho, sign petitions, read the books, and call out your lawmakers (and local officials and policy makers and coffee shops) when they create laws and policies that are racist, discriminatory and only continue to keep the marginalized down and maintain the wealth of those at the top. And continue to check your own privilege.


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