In the past few weeks, I have been reflecting on what I can do in my everyday life to help impact change. I needed to step away and quietly do the work of reading and thinking instead of endlessly scrolling through social media (I did plenty of that in the beginning). During this time, I paused in publishing fashion and beauty-related content to make space and take the time to reflect and listen to Black voices. I’m not an expert on race, obviously, and I don’t have the answers. I know one thing for certain though – we can all see the racial injustices happening before our eyes regardless of political affiliation. We can all show empathy and compassion and recognize that people are in pain.
Black lives matter. It feels so painfully obvious to say it and the fact that there needs to be a movement to make that abundantly clear is a reflection of the work we all need to do. Here is why it’s problematic to respond to this simple fact with all lives matter. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and many others is devastating. Everyone deserves to be treated equally and feel protected and no one should be treated differently based on the color of their skin.
As a parent of three small children, I have been learning how I can thoughtfully have age-appropriate conversations with my children about race. My priority is raising children who are loving and respectful of all people. I’m learning that racism thrives in silence. This article was incredibly helpful in understanding how silence can breed prejudice. I’ve been reading this blog, Raising Race Conscious Children, and learning how to discuss race with small children. The Conscious Kid is also a great resource for parents. When I feel hopeless and my heart feels heavy, I look at my littles, all under five-years-old, and realize I have a chance to raise kind people. I’m hopeful that the next generation will live in a different world and strongly believe that the path to that world is education. No matter how against racism and socially conscious we think we are, there is room to grow and learn. I keep coming back to this statement from Robin DiAngelo in her book, White Fragility, “we must be willing to consider that unless we have devoted intentional and ongoing study, our opinions are necessarily uninformed, even ignorant.”
I wanted to share some writing I have been using to learn about systemic racism and how I can affect change in my everyday life. I struggled with whether to share this list, mainly because I think it’s important to do the work rather than talk about how you’re going to do the work. I decided that sharing my personal reading list may help bring awareness and promote the work of great writers, activists, and academics who are leading the change. The articles below in particular have changed the way I understand racism. They have also changed the way I talk about these issues. I have often felt like conversations about race went in circles with no resolution in sight. These articles help provide background and history that can lead to a more productive and less contentious discussion.
You’ll also find both nonfiction and fiction books below. Reading books with Black protagonists is essential to better understanding current events from the perspective of Black people living their everyday lives. It’s an opportunity to enter someone’s world and see how overt discrimination unfolds with devestating consequences. After reading The Hate U Give last year, I saw police brutality from the perspective of the Black community in a way that is not covered in the media. Learning about someone else’s story with an open mind is an opportunity to have empathy for those whose lives are different than our own.
This is my personal list that I am working through but please feel free to add more recommendations in the comments. I have read and seen some of these books and movies; I consider the rest part of my 2020 reading and watching list. The more I read, the more I realize that racism is complex and pervasive. One obvious thing all of us can do in pursuit of equality is the less visible work of making changes at home and educating ourselves so we can have the knowledge that leads to productive conversations. We all need to use our voices now.
♥ Why it’s Problematic to Say All Lives Matter, by Katie O’Malley
♥ Remember, No One is Coming to Save Us, by Roxane Gay
♥ What to Do When you’re Called Racist, by Rebecca Hains
♥ How Silence Can Breed Prejudice, by Brigitte Vittrup
♥ Children are Not Colorblind, by Erin Winkler
♥ The Case for Reparations, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
♥ Why We Need to Talk About Doc McStuffins and Race, by Jennifer Harvey
Books about social justice- When possible, I purchase books from a local Philly bookshop, Harrietts Bookshop, owned by Jeannine Cook (located in Fishtown).
♥ White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo
♥ So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
♥ Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson
♥ How to Be an Anti-racist, by Ibram X. Kendi
♥ New Jim Crow – Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
Fiction books with Black protagonists
♥ Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
♥ The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
♥ The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
♥ Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
♥ Behold the Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue
♥ Go Tell it on the Mountain, by James Baldwin
♥ Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward
♥ Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi
♥ Men We Reaped, by Jesmyn Ward (memoir)
♥ Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
♥ I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
♥ Waking Up White, by Debby Irving (memoir)
♥ Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah (memoir)
♥ When They Call You a Terrorist – A Black Lives Matter Memoir, by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
♥ Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay
♥ The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
♥ The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, by Jesmyn Ward
Children’s books: There are many more wonderful books but these are the ones i’ve been reading with my kids
♥ We’re Different, We’re the Same, by Bobbi Kates
♥ Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea, by Meena Harris
♥ Sulwe, by Lupita Nyong’o
♥ Ada Twist Scientist, by Andrea Beaty
♥ Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt De La Peña
♥ The Word Collector, by Peter H. Reynolds
Films and Series
♥ When They See Us, directed by Ava DuVernay
♥ Loving, directed by Jeff Nichols
♥ Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins
♥ Dear White People, directed by Justin Simien
♥ 13th, directed by Ava DuVernay
♥ The Hate U Give, directed by George Tillman Jr
♥ Just Mercy, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton
♥ If Beale Street Could Talk, directed by Barry Jenkins
`♥ Selma, directed by Ava DuVernay
I’m currently reading Men We Reaped and look forward to reading Born a Crime next. I truly hope this is the beginning of real cultural change. As a mother, the stakes feel even higher and I’m committed to doing my part, beyond the grid.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts. What are you reading? What are you thinking? If you have other recommendations, please leave them in the comments.