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Finding out more about racial justice

Posted on June 25, 2020 at 6:00 am

By Melissa Rhoades

In recent weeks, people all over the country have participated in Black Lives Matter protests to honor the life of George Floyd and work towards systemic change.

For adults wanting to know or learn more about the issue, you can find many resources in the library’s Digital Library. Our librarians have curated an OverDrive booklist with hundreds of eBooks and audiobooks, titled Let’s Talk About Race.

Parents and caregivers can also find resources to help talk with their children about social justice.

READING & VIEWING

A few of these titles are in high demand, including White Fragility, by Robin Diangelo (summary available on hoopla), and How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi. So you may have a wait to read them right now as they have multiple holds.

But there’s no wait to get started with hundreds of additional offerings available right now. Here are just a few of the titles available (at the time of this writing) on OverDrive, hoopla, and in our collection of physical materials available via curbside pickup.

Dying of Whiteness by Jonathan M. Metzl

Dying of Whiteness, by physician Jonathan M. Metzl, explores “how the politics of racial resentment is killing America’s heartland.” Metzl spent six years traveling through midwestern and southern states listening to white people’s opinions on guns, healthcare, taxes, education, and the scope of government. What he often found were underlying racial attitudes that negatively affected the health of the white people espousing them. The book explores this complex phenomenon and includes some interviews.

Dear White America: Letter to a New Minority, by Tim Wise, offers a witty and poignant read that reflects on whiteness and how it is used (often unconsciously) as a way to maintain prejudices and dismiss persistent inequities. In this letter to fellow white Americans, Wise also explores how the nation’s changing demographics and the election of the country’s first black president created a “racialized nostalgia for a mythological past.”

White Flight, by Kevin M. Kruse, looks at the lasting consequences of white people moving away from urban centers after World War II. He further uncovers how white segregationists managed to preserve a segregated world in the decades since the end of legal segregation. While focusing on the metropolitan area of Atlanta, Georgia, these historical patterns and their implications reflect what has happened across America.

Stony the Road by Henry Louis Gates Jr

Stony the Road, by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., provides a vital examination of African American history and white supremacist terrorism from the time of the Emancipation Proclamation to the Harlem Renaissance. It chronicles the horrors wrought upon African Americans by racist paramilitary groups and Jim Crow laws and also the active resistance of African American heroes who worked to create a counter-narrative and culture from “within the lion’s mouth.”

The Condemnation of Blackness, by Khalil Gibran Muhammed, researches the historic evolution of the harmful stereotype in American culture that portrays black people as inherently criminal and dangerous. While white European immigrants were also portrayed as bringing criminal elements to American shores in our history, they were (and are) not policed as heavily or as brutally as black Americans. Muhammed brilliantly exposes this dangerous double standard and explores how it has shaped public policy.

Driving While Black by Gretchen Sorin

Driving While Black, by Gretchen Sorin, takes a fascinating look at how car culture (ubiquitous in America) has a unique and poignant history for black Americans. Learn about Victor and Alma Green’s The Negro Motorist Green Book (first published in 1936), the book that compiled information about black entrepreneurs who were able to create businesses that catered to newly mobile African Americans, and the use of cars in the Civil Rights movement. Sorin also explores the tragic irony that cars can be dangerous spaces for black Americans. This book is currently being adapted into a PBS documentary by Ric Burns.

Black Klansman, by Ron Stallworth, (also available on hoopla) tells the fascinating true story of Stallworth’s experience as the first black detective on the Colorado Springs police force, and his ingenious and daring undercover operation to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1970s. Adapted by Spike Lee into the Academy-Award winning film Blackkklansman in 2018, this memoir is stranger than fiction. I admit I saw the film first, and then simply had to read this autobiography to find out which parts of the movie were Hollywood and which parts were Stallworth’s true experience.

Rest in Power, by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, offers a loving portrayal of and tribute to their son. As an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin was gunned down by a community watchman as he walked home one evening eating candy and talking on his phone. Martin’s name is still frequently invoked as a symbol of the continuing struggle against excessive violence perpetrated upon African Americans. The book has also been adapted into a streaming six-part documentary series.

You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson

You Can’t Touch My Hair and Other Things I Still Have to Explain, by comedian Phoebe Robinson, focuses on race, feminism, and pop culture in a series of irreverent, laugh-out-loud essays. Co-host of the podcast 2 Dope Queens, Robinson brings her quick wit to the page, revealing the many absurdities she must navigate daily to live as a black woman in America. These essays humorously reflect the inextricable interconnection between the political and the personal.

You’ll also find powerful nonfiction voices from black America that include the writings of W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells (hoopla), Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (hoopla options), Malcolm X (hoopla titles), and Angela Y. Davis (hoopla choices)—just to name a few.

If you prefer fiction as a way to absorb the human experience, you can choose from classic novels and stories written by authors Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, and Toni Morrison as well as contemporary fiction by authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Colson Whitehead, Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, Zadie Smith, and Danzy Senna.

Movies created by black directors include the films of Ava Duvernay (hoopla offerings), Barry Jenkins, Jordan Peele, Ryan Coogler and Spike Lee (hoopla selections). Lee’s new movie Da 5 Bloods premiered on Netflix June 12.

LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS

If you’re interested in learning more about local organizations that help advance the lives of people of color in the Inland Northwest, here are a few links to get you started:

More organizations can be found through these webpages: Washington State University’s Resources for African Americans, 4 Communication and Culture’s Resources: Spokane and Northwest, and Spokane Cares’ Cultural Diversity webpages.

Melissa Rhoades

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