By JAKE SEXTON
While this is a monthly column about books, we’ve got to start out by acknowledging that life is difficult for many of us right now. We face the social and economic impacts of a global pandemic, and people of all identities are also taking action against racial injustice on a scale not seen in decades.
As the community is challenged to reunite and rebuild, protests calling for justice for Black people continue worldwide, with special focus on the relationship between police and the Black community. So here are some books about racism, and struggles that America has long been facing, and seeking to overcome. I sincerely hope that everyone reading this is healthy and safe.
Ijeoma Iluo’s “So You Want to Talk About Race” is a powerhouse of a book. It very clearly explains the United States as a racialized society, in which a person’s past experiences are heavily influenced by interracial dynamics, and those experiences then shape their present and future interactions, successes and failures. For people who have not dealt much with racism in their lives, it is eye opening. For people who have, it might show them the ways in which many of racism’s injustices are baked into a lot of our policies, institutions and culture.
Alex S. Vitale’s “The End of Policing” has been mentioned frequently in the past several weeks. Vitale focuses on a shift in the nature of American police in the past 40 years. Not only are police officers asked to handle a wide variety of social ills that never used to be their duty, but that the culture of policing is tainted with racist assumptions and a warrior mentality that can make things worse rather than better. This book makes a compelling argument that not only do core aspects of the police need to change, but that many other American institutions and priorities have to change as well, if we want a more just and safe society.
The Black Lives Matter movement began in 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted after shooting and killing Trayvon Martin. One of the movement’s founders, Patrisse Khan-Cullors tells her story of her experience in this movement, as well as other struggles she has faced in her book “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir.” While the other books listed are more about society at large, this is the story of one person: her childhood days watching family face discrimination and police brutality to her early days as a political organizer, to her current work as a professor and prison reform advocate.
Ibram X. Kendi’s “How to Be An Antiracist” tries to move the reader from understanding racial injustice to doing something about it. While many Americans will proudly proclaim that they aren’t racist, we all do live in a society with many racist beliefs, practices and systems. To make for a more just world, Kendi argues, we must be anti-racist. The book combines an intellectual look about the meanings and history of racism, and Kendi’s personal story of seeking to overcome his own internalized racism. It’s a compelling work about having to change ourselves to change our world.
Have you been missing the library? We’ve been missing you too! And now, you can start making some safe steps to use the La Mesa Library once again using door-side pickup. Visit sdcl.org/covid19-services.html for more details.
— Jake Sexton is a librarian at the La Mesa branch of the San Diego County Library.