In June, I reflected on some of the anti-racist responses I was seeing from people of faith in my community (Racism and Responding as People of Faith). Since then I’ve been reading, watching, and participating, in anti-racist work as I am able. This is not easy work. I am going to engage with the work imperfectly. I’m a racist. But being anti-racist means that I am working against racism, especially in my own self.
I thought I would try to list the resources I’ve been using. I didn’t “discover” anything hidden, I just never looked before… maybe you are looking around for the first time too and this post might be helpful.
I finished listening to Ibram X. Kendi’s “Stamped from the Beginning”. I noticed that in my own thinking I lean more towards assimilationist ideas than anti-racist ideas. There is surprisingly a lot that I didn’t learn from history class and so, I am repeating history and watching being repeated without even realizing what’s happening.
Third Church’s adult forum is reading Kendi’s other book “How to be Anti-Racist”. There is some overlap between the two books but not much. “How to be Anti-Racists” includes illustrations from his life and relates it to racist ideas/laws/practices throughout history. “Stamped from the Beginning” reads like a history book, a really interesting one, but “How to be Anti-Racist” is more accessible and better suited to group discussion. Although, I would love to sit down with history teachers to discuss “Stamped from the Beginning”.
I was particularly interested in chapters 14 and 15 of “How to be Anti-Racist” about Gender and Sexuality. One of the points he made was that Black Women are in a unique position to understand racism and sexism and what Kimberle Crenshaw coined as intersectionality (a term she coined to speak to the multiple social forces, social identities, and ideological instruments through which power and disadvantage are expressed and legitimized). This is a concept I would like to dig into further. In these chapters, Kendi referred to a number of Black Feminists and Womanists. He referred to: The Combahee River Collective (Barbara Smith, Demita Frazier, and Beverly Smith), Dorthy Roberts, Angela Davis, Maria Stewart (1st Feminist to give a public address), Sojourner Truth, Frances Harper, Ida B. Wells, Anna Julia Cooper, Frances Beal, Nikki Giovanni, Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, Toni Cade Bambara, Janet Mock (Transgendered Activist), Bell Hooks, Joan Morgan, and Patricia Hill Collins. I’m including this list here so I can continue to study the work of these women.
After feeling good about reading/listening to Kendi’s books, I saw this article critiquing his work. This critique made me rethink Kendi’s work and my own thought process as I continue to reach “How to be Anti-Racist”. While Kendi’s work is popular, and still worthy of reading, what I’m taking from this article is that I can’t simply check off a book list and think the work is done. There will always be others ahead of me in this work pushing me to go to the next step (for which I am grateful), and that when I find a book or a documentary or a seminar that I loved, I can’t stop there and think that the work is done. Even my best intentions often fall short of my anti-racists goals.
I’ve also binge watched Netflix, HBO, and Amazon Prime documentaries, movies, and series on the subject of racism. There are so many to choose from, below are a few of my favorites.
If you watch the series “When They See Us” about the Central Park Five (also known as the Exonerated Five) be sure to watch Opera’s interview of the cast and the men the series was based on. The series was difficult to watch, but well worth it.
My husband and I binged watched “Dear White People”. That was a little easier to watch, because it was a drama-styled series that hit on race issues. The intensity of the issues was broken up by college love stories and some situational comedy. It was probably the most comfortable thing I watched.
The Hate you Give was powerful. I heard the book was better (but haven’t read it). I read a book that this movie reminded me of called “Human(kind) by Ashlee Eiland. Both the movie and the book capture some of the life experiences of a young black girl that goes to a private school with mostly white students. Both highlight how the girl is living in two different worlds and struggles to fit into both and still be her authentic self.
I participated in as much as I could of the University of Pittsburgh’s 2020 virtual Diversity Forum (formerly the Diversity Retreat) – “Advancing Social Justice: A Call To Action – will focus on outlining the key concepts for social justice education and implementation of inclusive policies and practices”. Much of this Forum was recorded and placed on youtube. Ibram Kendi was among the speakers. This forum helped me to understand how truly intersectional issues of race, gender, and sexuality are and that any work for equality must also be intersectional. Pittsburgh University also put out: Resources at the Intersection of Religion & Racism, the History of the Black Church, and anti-Racism Work.
Pittsburgh Presbytery continues to produce episode of “Awareness and Transformation” on youtube about a variety of race related topics. They have options for long conversations and short clips, both are great options for watching and discussing with a group.
I’m trying to expand my library of feminist thought to include black feminist and womanist work too. And of course, anti-racism, intersectional and other related theology, Christian thought…. there is so much out there I never realized. I haven’t read as many as I would have liked to but here is what I’ve been collecting (in no particular order):
White Fragility by Robin Diangelo
The Cross and the Lynching Tree by Cone
Embrace by Babber
I’m still here by Austin Channing Brown
Disunity in Christ By Christina Cleveland
Smoketown by Mark Whitaker
All about love by Bell Hooks
Communion by Bell Hooks
Audre Lorde:Collections of Poems
Womanist Reader edit by Philipps
In Search of our Mother’s Gardens by Alice Walker
The Christian Imagination and the Origins of Race by Willie James Jennings
Jesus and the Disinherited by Howard Thruman
Too Heavy a Yoke: Black Women and the Burden of Strength by Chanequa Walker-Barnes
Between Sundays: Black Women and Everyday Struggles of Faith
Plenty Good Room: Women Verses male Power in the Black Church
Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk
Katie’s Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community by Katie Cannon
Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde, Cheryl Clark
Master’s Tools will never dismantle the masters house by Audre Lorde
Good White Racist
For kids: Brian the Brave, The Day you Begin, Crocodile Crossing and For Beautiful Black Boys who believe in a better world