Do the Work; Watch the Work

It’s been the week of anti-racism book lists. Every bookstagrammer you follow gave you a list of books to read if you want to do the work of anti-racism. White Fragility is the #1 best seller on Amazon. Everybody and their white women followers recommended it. Guilty

I’ve been reading and learning a lot thanks to those lists. But I learned something else this week after I posted Do the Work and Read the Work. Some of y’all just ain’t. You have no interest AT ALL in reading an instagram caption all the way through, much less a tome on the level of Isabel Wilkerson. 

And I don’t like it. Because I like books. I like readers. I like curious people who want to improve themselves. I like honest folk who know that they don’t know everything. I like people who take recommendations from people unlike themselves in an effort to better. What I don’t like? Ignorance. 

I don’t like it, but I get it. Some of you just aren’t going to make the effort to read your way out of your ignorance. And make no mistake; if you haven’t read a significant portion of the works of anti-racism (and you are white) you are ignorant about race relations and racism and the Black experience in America.

Sit with that for a minute. White folks, there are things you don’t know. There are facts and realities and stories and systems and art and histories and historical figures of which and of whom you have never heard. That, very simply, is ignorance.

If you’ve found yourself making lowest common denominator complaints about the protests this week but were silent about the ones to reopen after COVID, you’re ignorant (and hypocritical). It is unfair, unwise and unconscionable to be white in America and do nothing, read nothing, learn nothing about the Black experience because you think you know enough. We white folks cannot know the lived experience of Black people no matter how many Black friends you have at work or Black kids you’ve taught in class or Black teens you’ve fed at your table. You are still ignorant. 

Don’t get your back up. Just sit there. You’re ignorant. 

Now do something with it. Get mad at me if you want. I know I’m right. I know I’m right because I know I am ignorant. I’ve read some books. I’ve read some articles. I follow Black activists. I give to causes. And I know for sure that I don’t know enough to fully dismantle the racism I inherited and participate in. I’ve read a dozen books over the last couple of years on this, and I am an infant in understanding. If you’ve read nothing, you’re a fetus. 

We must keep learning. It isn’t over after one conversation, two books or three new-to-you historical names. I didn’t know until two weeks ago that it was correct to capitalize Black people. I’m not sure I ever paid attention to it, and I know I’ve seen it lowercase. I know now because I made the choice years ago to listen to Black people and follow on social media people who had something to say about race relations in America. 

So you don’t like to read. I hate that, but you can still learn. This anti-racism resource document that I linked to last week (compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker, Alyssa Klein) has some podcasts you can listen to and a great list of TV, films and documentaries you can watch. First on that list should be 13th, I Am Not Your Negro, and King in the Wilderness

PBS is releasing an entire slate of educational material for all ages. Bookmark it. 


Here’s some more:

America to Me on STARZ is a 10-episode documentary about race in the American high school system. Read Julie’s post from yesterday then watch. 


Slavery by Another Name on PBS is a short documentary on how the prison system was used to perpetuate slavery after the 13th Amendment was passed. If you ever wanted Ava DuVernay’s 13th to expound on the origins of incarceration, this is the documentary for you. 


Charm City on Amazon Prime Video takes a deep dive look at the hope and despair in Baltimore, where racial disparity still reigns supreme. 


Mr Civil Rights: Thurgood Marshall and the NAACP on Amazon Prime Video is a slow, old-school style documentary and a must-watch for anyone who lives, like I do, in the south, with the legacy of hostility to school integration. 


LA 92 on Netflix and by National Geographic will take you right back to the Rodney King trial and give you all the footage your parents didn’t let you watch back then. I thought I knew what happened. I didn’t. 


So slough off some of that ignorance like you do your feet for flip flop season. It won’t even hurt as bad. 

Featured Image: Jada Buford, America to Me, courtesy of Starz

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