Do the Work and Read the Work
This post is for my fellow white people. Earlier this week I finished a great book. I slapped it shut and hugged it to my chest, so thrilled to have something to recommend to all of you here at The Cool Table that I was genuinely proud to have read, something I couldn’t wait to share with you and have you chat with me about.
I was going to write that book review today. I had it all set. But between the day I finished it and today, too much has happened. Maybe one day I’ll get to that review, but as I looked at my to-read shelf (let’s be honest, it’s several shelves at this point), I realized that I could pick up another escapist novel that entertains me, makes me think and makes me cry, OR I could put my comfort aside for a season and do the anti-racism work that I so like to retweet about.
Yeah, that’s not a comfortable thing to write. But this week (and the whole of American history) has been more than just slightly uncomfortable for the black Americans who share our space. With the death of George Floyd and the harassment of Christian Cooper and the gunning down of Ahmaud Arbery and the disproportionate rate of black deaths from COVID-19, the past few weeks have been exorbitantly tragic for the black community.
And we need to recognize it. And we need to sit with it. And we need to educate ourselves.
If that means setting aside some of our comfort to say so, if it means setting aside some of our time to listen, if it means setting aside some of our pleasure to learn, then that’s no price at all to pay.
White people, we need to be having tough conversations with one another. We need to be dismantling the systems that lead to this persistent and pernicious injustice. We need to recognize we have far more in common with Amy Cooper than we care to admit.
And within that effort, it’s time to read the works of anti-racism.
So instead of another book review (by yet another white woman, I have to admit), here are some of the books I’ve read that created a space for empathy for me and that have helped me do the work of anti-racism in my personal life. There are far too few of them. And I’ll do better.
If you haven’t read Isabel Wilkerson’s masterwork of history and narrative about the Great American Migration of the mid-20th century, there is an entire era of black history that you probably don’t know about or at the very least, don’t appreciate.
You can read Jason Reynolds’ award-winning book in verse in a few hours, but it will stick with you forever. The book takes place in the time it takes to head down a few flights on an elevator, and leaves you wondering how the story for 15-year-old Will truly ends.
I sincerely hope you don’t need me to tell you to read one of the greatest American novels of all time. Maybe Zora Neale Hurston’s beautiful heroine has been on your list, but you’ve not gotten around to it. Maybe you need a re-read. Regardless, move this to the top of your list.
If you find yourself in the evangelical world like I do, this is a must-read for anti-racist efforts. I recommended it as one of my favorites from 2019, and I re-read it recently just as a reminder of the legacy I’ve inherited and have to work against every day.
What I’m Reading Next
I’d love to read these with you. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter if you are picking these up, and we can chat about them together. We can have those conversations.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
For more anti-racism resources, see this Google doc.
What are you reading next?
Beth is the proud sponsor of two little women and a huge fan of fandom. She took 3 years of Latin in high school and now speaks fluent pretension, which fully explains her current preference for gay wizard regency novels. She will roll over for a giant book with a map in the front. She takes comic book recommendations every day but Wednesday and TV recommendations never (she knows what's good).