Beyond the Anti-Racist Reading List
If you follow along with my posts, you know that I am a big proponent of reading books by people from marginalized communities and also, just generally speaking, about people and by authors that represent or embody something other than myself. However, sometimes I have felt self-conscious that my list is not made up of books like How to Be an Antiracist, White Fragility, Me and My White Supremacy, and others of a similar ilk. I'm intentional about what I read, but what I read isn't always clearly labeled (by whom, I'm not sure) as "doing the work" ... in particular, as doing the work as a white person.
I agree that all of those books listed above (and many more) serve an incredibly important purpose. In recent years I have learned how to connect with the world by reading non-fiction, but the majority of my reading is and always has been fiction. Fiction is where I soak up culture, where I learn about other people's experiences, where I figure out how to bridge divides. Fiction is often much more real to me - not in it's facts, but in it's feelings.
Which is why I loved this article I happened upon called Don’t Just Read About Racism—Read Stories About Black People Living. Nic Stone wrote this in June of 2020. As I'm sure you'll recall, at that time we were not only in the depths of a global pandemic, but reeling from the murder of George Floyd, and the many Black Lives Matter protests across the country. Stone wonders aloud what might be different if we all grew up seeing "Black people in books just being human ... How different the world would look if we’d all grown up seeing Black people do the stuff white people did in books. Going on adventures. Saving the day. Falling in love. Solving mysteries. Dealing with a broken heart. Getting caught up in a riveting love triangle. Taking down oppressive regimes."
Obviously reading about a group of people isn't any substitute for actually living your life with those people in it. And reading in general isn't any substitute for substantive action. I'm not saying you should just join a book club and "talk about race!" We still have to vote. We still have to march. We still have to fund federal and state organizations that attempt to undo systemic racism. We still have to donate to local organizations that support minority populations. And, if you're white... we still need to just shut up and listen a lot of the time.
But I often wonder too - Would people be more understanding, more inclusive, less ethnocentric if they spent time in other people's stories? I think the answer is yes.
"Because the more we see Black people living—loving and doing and being and feeling and going on adventures and solving mysteries and being the heroes—the more we come to recognize our shared humanity."
(And as always, feel free to reach out if you need book recommendations. I always love the challenge of trying to come up with suggestions that fit the person asking!)