1. Racism—”The Colossal Unseen”
To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen.
So wrote Peggy McIntosh as she described the process of coming to see her ” unearned advantage and conferred dominance”. She said: “In my class and place, I did not see myself as a racist because I was taught to recognize racism only in individual acts of meanness…. never in invisible systems conferring unsought racial dominance on my group from birth.”
- McIntosh’s Unpacking the Invisible Backpack begins with a list of 50 daily aspects of white privilege. Written in 1988, this list should be required reading. Don’t think you are privileged? READ THIS. (You can hear McIntosh explain why it’s especially important for teachers to understand all of this by listening to the podcast “Whiteness Visible”.)
- Lori Lakin Hutcherson, GoodBlacksNews Editor-in-Chief, was asked on Facebook about the existence of white privilege. Her response, What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege, is a direct, heartfelt and clear outlining of her experience.
- Dr Robin DeAngelo’s 20-min video Deconstructing White Privilege examines what it means to be white in a society that proclaims race meaningless. This is a short intro to systemic racism and unconscious bias, not individual mean acts (by someone else). DeAngelo says each of us needs to focus our energy on HOW we’ve been shaped by the system, not if. ”There were things said better, clearer and more concisely than I’ve ever heard before. IMHO, every white person should see it!” said one viewer.
Another DeAngelo talk, Why “I’m not racist” is only half the story, packs a lot into six minutes. Seriously. We’ve got to cop to our natural defensiveness, drop the guilt and take responsibility. Watch here:
- This short video by act.tv, Systemic Racism Explained is fast-talking. But if you only have 4 minutes and 20 seconds (really?!), watch here:
- For a concise summary of institutional racism and brutality, hear it loud and clear from late-night talk show host and comedian John Oliver. Heads-up, it’s not actually funny. (30 min. runtime, F-bomb alert)
Basics to Watch ?
Many movies expose the face of racism. I’ll mention just a few here; others can be found in the Resource Pages section.
- **13th:** This powerful Netflix documentary by Ava DuVernay looks at the criminalization of African Americans, the so-called war on drugs, and the US prison boom. MUST-SEE, especially if you’re still saying “all lives matter” as if we all face the same difficulties. UPDATE: Netflix has made this film accessible for free on YouTube here. If you are wondering how 13th got its name, here’s a history lesson, as written by Henry Louis Gates Jr in The Root: His eye-opening piece is called Slavery, By the Numbers. See #27.
- Just Mercy, starring Jamie Foxx and Michael B. Jordan is the film adaptation of a memoir by civil rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson. This movie dramatizes a real-life injustice, “keeps its emotions on a low simmer, its absorbing, tautly designed drama finally coming to a climax that is satisfying on one level, and absolutely shattering on another” (Washington Post). Warner Bros. has made the movie available to watch for free for the entire month of June on all digital rental platforms.
- I am Not Your Negro: This highly acclaimed film connects the Civil Rights movement to #BlackLivesMatter. Samuel L. Jackson reads writing by James Baldwin about race in America. Available on Amazon for 99 cents (or free with Amazon Prime). Here’s the two-minute trailer on YouTube, with Spanish subtitles. The book was never finished but “the film is alive and kicking ass” (RollingStone). Google “I Am Not Your Negro free screening” to search for local free access, and see more about the eloquent James Baldwin under Read / Reflect.
Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced. –James Baldwin
2. Historical Context — Origins of Unconscious Bias
- Listen to NPR’s Codeswitch: Race & Identity Remix. The first episode, Can we Talk about Whiteness?, tackles how “really hard (it is) to grapple with whiteness, both due to the slipperiness of the concept itself, and also thanks to the almost visceral discomfort people have with talking about white identity.”
- A People’s History of the United States is a book by historian and political scientist Howard Zinn that presents US history from Columbus onward from the people’s POV: the persecuted, the powerless, the marginalized. First released in 1980, and most recently reprinted in 2015, the book outlines the “exploitation and manipulation of the majority by rigged systems that hugely favor a small aggregate of elite rulers from across the orthodox political parties.” (Wikipedia). Described as “compelling” and “life-changing” A People’s History provides a fundamental education. Here’s a good summary. Here’s the free audio version, (8+ hours, read by Matt Damon.) If you prefer, here’s a shorter audio summary (20 min) covering the intro and then focusing on race relations in the 60’s, up through the Civil Rights Act. (And yes, there are some reviewers who called Zinn’s book a “commie-pinko, bleeding heart liberal, un-American piece of garbage.” You decide.) Short version below:
- Heather Cox Richardson is now my go-to for American history. Her knowledge is comprehensive and the way she makes connections between our founders’ notions and our country’s subsequent actions (including the present) is nuanced, detailed, and enlightening. June 2020, she began a new channel on You Tube (these presentations answers viewers’ questions); you can also sign up to be part of her new discussion community here. If you are on Facebook, listen to her on here on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She’s amazing.
- I urge you to watch Kimberly Jones passionately explain the economic roots of… well, everything – especially protests, rioting, looting, and what it means when a social contract is broken. ? Watch: How Can We Win?
3. Action — Be the Change
- The 21-day racial equity habit building challenge by Dr. Eddie Moore Jr; Director of The Privilege Institute, offers a self-guided program to further your understanding of power, privilege, supremacy, oppression, and equity. This is a rich selection of readings, podcasts, videos, and ways to form and deepen community connections.
- This particular evolving open-source guide is “designed to help you become a more thoughtful and effective ally.” It’s straightforward, honest, and practical – no BS. Author’s note: “ I want you to understand that you’re in collaboration with people whose very lives can change overnight because of systemic oppression. You can’t take being an ally lightly.”
- Check out this extensive list called 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice, by Corinne Shutack. It’s full of ideas and action items. If you prefer these same links pre-organized for you as a month-long action plan then look here at ‘Justice in June’.
- For Our White Friends Desiring to be Allies is an important piece from SOJOURNERS. The author notes he is writing to lighten the load of marginalized folks, saying “my prayer is that when someone asks you the question, “How can I be a stronger ally?” you might choose to save your breath/energy and send this in its place.”
- I was going to call this whole third section “on being a good ally”. But then I read Catherine Pugh’s powerful essay called “There is no such thing as a white ally” that zoomed in on something that has been bothering me: Is it really right to call whites “allies” in a situation (400 years in the making!) where we made the mess in the first place? Are we “helpers” here? Really? What about “How to be a decent person once you realize the mess we’re in and you want things to be better for everyone.”
Listen & Learn
Consider these additional podcasts.
- This one episode of Sex, Death and Money called “What do you need to say right now?” might be a good place to begin.
- Talking about Whiteness is an On Being conversation between Krista Tippett and writer educator Eula Bliss (the link brings you to the audio broadcast and a full transcript if you prefer to read). Their chat speaks directly to the discomfort of speaking about race and white privilege. Bliss names the unexamined quality of whiteness as primary ground of its privilege: an ability to move through life “without thinking about what your race means to other people, and what your existence in a community means to the people around you.” You can’t fully think about anything, she points out, if you can’t speak about it.
- In dramatic and eloquent fashion the The 1619 Project by the New York Times examines the legacy of slavery in the United States.
Read & Reflect
- My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menake examines white body supremacy in America from the perspective of trauma and body-centered psychology. Robin DeAngelo notes: Menakem masterfully lays out the missing piece in the puzzle of why, despite so many good intentions, we have not achieved racial justice. …. White supremacy is internalized deep into our bodies. We must go to the depth of where it is stored, within our collective bones and muscles. To this end, My Grandmother’s Hands is an intimate guidebook toward racial healing…. deeply intellectually stimulating while also providing practical ways to engage in the process of repair…
- See this Facebook post (in its entirety below) by Christian Fabien. It poignantly addresses how much work we have ahead of us to once again build up trust with those who have suffered so long.
- ? Text of post is HERE; you gotta hit the toggle button!
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, is available as a free audiobook on YouTube. Baldwin was a brilliant author, playwright, poet, and social critic. He spent much of his life in France, where he moved to escape the racism and homophobia of the United States. This 1963 bestseller gave voice to the emerging civil rights movement. It consists of two letters, written on the hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, that exhort all Americans to attack the terrible legacy of racism. (Here’s the teachers’ guide that goes along with the book)
Baldwin is an exquisite writer, but if you are short on time try to listen. There **are so many YouTube clips (indeed, we are poorer because Baldwin is not must-see in all high schools) here are two: An interview with Dick Cavett showing how little has changed, and this clip, from a 1960 Canadian interview where Baldwin talks about the black experience in the US. He says: I realized when I was very young that whatever he (the white man) was looking at, wasn’t me. It was something he was afraid of, but it wasn’t me. Baldwin touches on so many topics, noting both blacks and whites need to redefine their identities.
- From the NYTimes: Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Anti-Racist (2019) on books to help America transcend its racist heritage. He says Think of (this reading list) as a stepladder to antiracism, each step addressing a different stage of the journey toward destroying racism’s insidious hold on all of us.
Inspired by Kendi, Andew Ibrahim, a surgeon, diagramed his own journey toward becoming anti-racist.
Take a look. You can download it here.
For Families & Kids
- Raising Antiracist Kids: Empowering the Next Generation of Changemakers is an hour-long video conversation with Ibram Kendi and Derecka Purnell based on Kendi’s new board book called ‘Antiracist Baby”. It’s an easy listen with lots of real-world recommendations.
- Visit the Black Lives Matter Instructional Library. Many stories here are read aloud. Wonderful!
- How to Teach White Kids About Race (2018, The Atlantic)
- Please see this 6-week Social Justice Summer Curriculum originally created for children of color ages 4 to 10 by the Chicana M(other)work Collective. They list supplies needed, readily available resources (videos, coloring pages, flashcard ideas, etc) and discussion topics. Smart!
- An Anti-Racist Graphic Novel Reading List from Publishers Weekly might be just the thing for the kids (and the adults)in your home. And there’s a Black Lives Matter Comics Reading List which includes Kids’ comics, graphic novels and picture books.
- Check out this podcast about how to talk to your kids about white supremacy.
In this segment, Dr Jennifer Harvey discusses her book “Raising White Kids: Bringing up Children in a Racially Unjust America”, as well as her personal journey towards anti-racist organizing, educating and childrearing. And here’s a 40-min video of a multigenerational, multiracial conversation she led in Des Moines in 2018.
Other Valuable Anti-Racism Resource Pages, w/details
- This page “is intended to serve as a resource to white people and parents to deepen our anti-racism work”. Books, podcasts, films, articles and more. Some overlap, many gems.
- More books, articles, videos, and podcasts from Kat at Changeability Solutions. Some repeat, but a wonderful variety.
- This working document for scaffolding anti-racism resources is beautifully organized as a curriculum. The goal is to facilitate growth for white folks to become allies, and eventually accomplices for anti-racist work. This page also includes social media contacts, and suggested resources for Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist practitioners.
- Dan Zane’s “12 tips for white dudes, by a white dude” covers many resources, including news sites, films and books.
Resources for Photographers, Protestors and Beyond. IMPORTANT
This page is chock full of good info about documenting racist behavior, understanding protest photography and surveillance, how to stay safe while attending a protest, and soooo much more, including more excellent links on anti-racism overall. This treasure trove is brought to us by the Authority Collective.
It’s vital to know your rights while protesting! ACLU experts outline key points on this page about how to keep yourself and your devices safe. Great info here, covering details on videotaping, why to avoid using face or fingerprint recognition to unlock your phone, why to use airplane mode when not actively communicating, and why NOT to accept water, soda or cigarettes from police (answer: DNA sampling).
Many Christian groups share best practices for social justice organizing. For example, Faith for Justice and the Deaconess Foundation offered training with on-point tips for protesting and how to keep yourself healthy and safe. Even if you only read the text on this page … it’s REALLY good and well worth reviewing before you head out to make your voice heard.
Resources for Teachers
- Check out this podcast called “Teaching While White”
- There is no apolitical classroom in these times! Created by the National Council for Teachers of English Standing Committee Against Racism and Bias in the Teaching of English, this is a page full of excellent resources for students of all ages and their teachers.
- JSTOR is a digital library for scholars, researchers, and students. They have compiled a syllabus to help contextualize, teach, and understand the history of institutionalized racism. Find it here.
- Lots of social social justice and climate crisis teaching activities can be found here organized by period, theme and resource type.
- Find anti-racist lesson plans here for preK through middle school along with wonderful reading resources
It’s one thing to say “How awful!” to the wrongdoings of the past and present, but another thing entirely to understand where that awful bias came from and how it has been systematically taught, strengthened, and perpetuated, nationally and individually.
As Racial Equity Tools reminds us in their Race, Power and Policy workbook:
Racism ****is dynamic and ever-changing. Systemic racism exists because our social and economic structures produce and reproduce race-based inequalities. Focusing on individual instances of racism can divert our attention from the structural changes needed to achieve racial justice. (paraphrased here; see link above for detailed text)
No question, we need to pay attention to individual biases and actions at the same time as we keep our eye on structural change. We need to speak out against all instances of racism, at every level.
For each white person there will be a different “aha!” moment, a different path to understanding. I hope the selections here will help towards that end. How we hold ourselves accountable to a new awareness is our day-to-day work. Let’s grapple with discomfort… just as I struggle to get over the fear of saying something wrong right here.
This living document, begun in 2017, is updated frequently. To suggest a resource that should be added or to make a correction, please get in touch.
To those friends who have provided ongoing feedback and inspiration, especially Tracey Ann Essoglou and Amy Geller, I say thank you!
— S F
No one becomes “not racist,” despite a tendency by Americans to identify themselves that way. We can only strive to be “antiracist” on a daily basis, to continually rededicate ourselves to the lifelong task of overcoming our country’s racist heritage. – Ibram Kendi