Did you know that Frederick Douglass traveled to Ireland to fund raise for the abolitionist cause? And it got awkward because the people with money were the landed gentry — the Protestants, many with AngloSaxon roots — while he, as a member of an oppressed group, identified with the poor Catholics.
I learned this in a fantastic book by Irish writer Colum McCann entitled, Transatlantic.
Boston is a very racist city with a shameful past, particular around bussing. It hurts me (somewhere below the collarbones) to think about it. It’s getting worse, with hate groups on the rise, giving credence to something I heard Robin DiAngelo say in an interview* today and that is that we’ve reverted to a pre-Civil Rights state here in America.
Back in the early nineties, when I was a lot younger and also a lot stupider about matters of race, my Black boss, who was from Mississippi, said she experienced more racism in Boston than where she grew up. At the time I was inclined to think that hyperbole.
* podcast: Bossed Up, Feb 2021 episode
Thanks, Ellen and Doris for providing reference (here are my listening tips: 1) fast forward through four minutes of ads and intros at the outset and 2) if you have been thinking about anti-racism, you can maybe skip the first fifteen minutes (or listen at 1.5 speed, which is what I did)).
It’s all over LI too. And staunch Trump supporters. It’s mind boggling.
I saw it for myself one weekend I was there — the pick up trucks and flags. Creeped me out.
“What have I done/not done.” surfaces in my mind and I’m only 1/2 way through this podcast. By the way I never read White Fragility b/c I had heard it was superficial and stupid. I went straight to Ibram Kendi and it’s been a very slow slog. In fact, I put it down and to The Nickel Boys. Now to return to the pile of contemporary Black history books and books on racism.
RECENTLY I’ve made the my Old White Lady mistake of retreating into my own white-racist box.
Recently a neighbor and I started a book group. We agreed: “Let’s not exclude people of color”. Then, we discussed having been told (by our Black neighbors) that they are not here to educate our white asses. We decided, we’ll educate ourselves before we venturing out into that non-white world. Book group meeting two: Caste by Isabel Wilkerson, on our list of suggested book list, was rejected because “It is too long, too difficult. We’re here to have fun!”. Disappointed, I suggested that’s exactly why it would be good to read it together and discuss together – – – but, the consensus was emphatically “no”.
Today, over coffee with my cohort leader of the group I will ask: So, where are we with our White Retreat from that suggested book? Do we need more time to get to know each other in the group or was I way off on the wrong foot entirely? I am impatient. I am worried.
Thank you, Dee.
There’s a lot to unpack here. This was my first encounter with Robin DiAngelo. I had been turned off by the many Black commentators I read excoriating both her and her readers for elevating and paying a white woman on this topic when there are so many Black women available for hire and who’ve also written books. So I understand having avoided her. But now, having heard her, I might read White Fragility (I won’t even have to buy it because one of the boys did and we share kindle books). More, having gone to the podcast’s notes and seen how she promotes and directs buyers to Black-owned bookstores for her books and hearing that every penny post-production generated by her upcoming book is going to be donated to social justice causes, I came away with some regard for her.
Maybe read The Great Migration instead of Caste? It’s narrative nonfiction, meaning it kind of reads like a novel. She artfully weaves the stories of five people (I think it is) to tell the history of the great migration. I learned so much.
If you need contemporary literary suggestions by Black authors, I could come up with a list. A few spring to mind: American Marriage by Tayari Jones, Yonder by Jabari Asim, Sing Unburied Sing by Jesmyn Ward, The Vanishing Half by Britt Bennett. I could go on. Maybe I’ll write a post about this and break books down by style to make it easier to pick one you might enjoy. If it were me, I’d suggest that the group buy the books. It feels good to support Black writers.
And maybe this isn’t the book group you want?
sorry about typos.
Thank you!! again. This is all very helpful.
This is a *great* book list to start with – but don’t stop there if you can continue to blog more book reviews, suggestions, etc.
And, right, perhaps this is not book group to venture forth in this direction – a good thing to keep in mind. xx
Great advice .. The Great Migration is such a captivating read . Caste was a bit harder for me but I’m happy I read them both. Milwaukee is scary racist .. I started maybe 10 years ago trying to get a better understanding as to how and why. Dee you were the one that first introduced me to The Great Migration. My husband and I were driving to Montgomery to visit The Legacy Museum after hearing Bryan Stevenson on some program. Anyway I asked if you would suggest any books on tape to help pass the hours driving. I ended up also reading the book a few years. I feel that I have come a long way by reading and will continue to do so. I can’t change the big picture but I can vote and certainly not encourage racism. Maya Angelou said many things but one thing I always remember is her saying “ not in my house” I loved the sound of her voice.