I wrote this review months ago. I have re-written it several times and I’m still not completely comfortable with the results. Worrying about saying the wrong thing or that I spent too much time here talking about myself instead of the book had me reluctant to post it, but those aren’t good enough excuses to not post this review.
Unless you have been living in a bunker during our period of social distancing, this is not a title that is unfamiliar. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, recommendations for podcasts, books, and social media accounts rolled out everywhere. How to be an ally to the black community. How to listen. How to learn, re-learn or un-learn. This book topped nearly every list.
I’m a white middle-class, middle-aged woman living in the Rust Belt. While it was rarely overt, I grew up in a household with racism. I went to virtually all-white schools, had mostly white friends, and grew up in predominately white neighborhoods.
It was easy to think “I’m not a rasict. I’m a good person.” It was easy to point to countless times where I course corrected conversations, shamed joke tellers and called out relatives. I write this not to get a gold star or a pat on the back. I write this because it wasn’t enough. It just wasn’t, isn’t and I am ashamed that I didn’t realize that sooner. It was easy to think of racism as something other people engaged in, but it became harder to distance myself when George Floyd was being nonchalantly choked to death by law enforcement on national television.
Kendi’s book is the perfect next step on the journey that comes after that kind of realization. His approach is methodical like a “how to” book, but don’t expect a concrete bullet pointed list of action items. It’s the perfect primer on how policies and practices propel racism and preserve power.