I’ve been wrestling with the notion of weighing in on what I am sarcastically calling the “Covington Catholic clusterfuck,” but I really don’t have any hot take on it that isn’t actively plagiarizing other people’s intellectual labor and insights. Here’s a few links and random thoughts:
- On why that unedited video doesn’t actually exonerate these teenage racists: WokeSloth and Twitter.
- On the general foolishness of chanting “build that wall” at someone whose ancestors were here LONG before yours.*
- And here’s an extra thought (freely lifted from a friend FB page): would this whole sorry confrontation have been de-escalated earlier if there had been been more NPS Rangers on hand, rather than them being so short-staffed on account of the shut-down?
And that’s all I care to say about that tonight.
So, in lieu of socio-cultural commentary, what focus am I going to use for an MLK Day post?
Books, of course.
One of my quiet emphases in choosing books during the last few years has been to front-load more memoirs and social criticism that reflect an anti-racist perspective. I’m not foolish enough to claim that I’m “woke,” but I am willing to say that I am actively trying to wake up a little bit more every day and every week.
So I want to highlight a few of those titles that I’d most recommend to folks–especially if you are, like me, a white person looking to grow your understanding of the radicalized mechanisms of U.S. society and your empathy for those caught in the “post-racial” racist double-binds.
First, is I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown. Brown shares the challenges of being a black woman in predominantly white, liberal-minded spaces. She is also unflinching in her observations of the ways that so many of our white-led organizations that claim to value “diversity” fall short of that ideal in our actual behaviors and practices. Her chapter on white fragility and the exhausting burden that is placed on persons of color to prioritize white comfort over any actual racial justice or progress is worth the price of admission.
Continuing on that theme is Robin DiAngelo‘s White Fragility. I feel a little awkward prioritizing a white author in a space I’ve claimed is about listening more deeply to the experiences of persons of color. However, if you believe** that white allies need to be carrying some of the water around building a more racially just society, then you will likely see DiAngelo’s book as a valuable bucket-full of effort in that direction. Personally, I found the chapter entitled “White Women’s Tears” to be most powerful, because it is a warning about derailing behaviors I could so easily fall into from my life position.
The last of the three books I want to highlight right now is Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson. Similar to Brown’s book, Dyson’s memoir/sermon/epistle is provocative and personal, angry and anguished, challenging and compassionate.
Obviously, this is just a few titles in a rich field of writing and scholarship. But they’re a bit lower on the radar than some other choices (e.g., Between the World and Me, The New Jim Crow), and I thought they are worth amplifying, to whatever tiny degree I am able to amplify their names and titles.
* I know there’s been some back and forth about whether that chant was actually chanted. The Twitter play-by-play I linked above certainly bears out the fact that the Covington kids explicitly devalued a claim by one of the indigenous marchers around being here on this land before us white folks.
** As I sure do.