Learning and Unlearning about Race

“This is not a black person issue; this is a humanity issue.”  I wish I knew who to attribute this quote to but did not catch the name on the news conference. I have a lot of learning and unlearning to do about race, racism, and systemic racism. Here are five books that have challenged and shaped my views over the last few years. Read these books. Have the tough conversations. Use your influence in your circles to active change. And as a person of faith I will add, pray. God have mercy on us.

Counting Descent Smith

Counting Descent has been a staple in my classroom for the last four years, and I can’t imagine removing it from my curriculum. This collection of poems includes themes of racism, police brutality,  growing up black, and family. These poems will challenge you, move you, and force you to question. Smith uses his poetry as protest, and it’s a hauntingly beautiful collection. If you’re a teacher, here is a unit plan for Counting Descent that is ready to go. Please make a copy and tweak as needed. Counting Descent Unit Plan

Skyping with Clint Smith is always a highlight in class.

Between the World and Me Coates

Between the World and Me was the first book I read in an attempt to learn more about systemic racism which put me on a journey of soul searching. This book offers far more questions than answers, and even though this initially irritated me, I now appreciate this because there are no easy answers. If you’d like to get a taste of this book, read this: The New York Times article.

White Fragility – DiAngelo

This book is widely respected and breakdowns stereotypes of racism and racist people. I learned from this book that racism is more about a system and less about one person’s specific attitude. Systemic racism perpetuates beliefs and attitudes. This book also helped me see how well-intentioned comments and actions can do more harm than good in moving the race conversation forward. One piece of advice for white people reading this book: check your ego at the opening page and be open to doing the hard work of self-examination. 

How to be an Anti-Racist – Kendi

I am currently halfway through this book but already recognize the importance it will have in my life and thinking. Part memoir and part text book, this text helps reframe thoughts of racism from not just recognizing and acknowledging it but how to restructure systems and ideas in an anti-racist way. This book will educate your mind and move your soul.

The Bible – 

The Bible has shaped my view more than any other work and so it influences my thoughts on race. Man is made in the image of God; there is no distinction between races here. All are made in the image of God. Furthermore, the Bible warns against showing favoritism arguing we are all one in Christ. Finally, a close look at the Gospels and the teachings of Jesus basically turn racists systems and ideology upside down (among many other systems and ideas). It’s time for our world to be turned upside down.

Don’t have time to commit to a book? This short video communicates so much.

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