What to Read this Week —#BlackLivesMatter
Photograph by Alex Wong / Getty
Every week, another week goes by, but this week, marked by peaceful protests against unabated and unabashed police murder of black lives, was a particularly tough one because it punctuated the many deep flaws and chasms in our American system. From systemic racism to police brutality, violations of first amendment freedoms and an oval office floating ignorantly above it all, offering no leadership, no empathy, no compassion, no humanity, but instead clearing away peaceful protestors for a photo op. It was a week for the history books and one I hope is the beginning of an unravelling and a fresh take at rebuilding our society in a more equitable and just manner.
I read a number of moving and meaningful pieces about being black in America this week and wanted to share. If they speak to you, please share in your network. As white allies we have to learn and listen, and these stories are a good start.
Bryan Stephenson on the George Floyd Protests in The New Yorker
This interview in The New Yorker with Bryan Stephenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of the book Just Mercy, is one of the most exceptional reflections on the week we have had and on the larger issue of racism and being living while black in America. He writes:
"We need to reckon with our history of racial injustice. I think everything we are seeing is a symptom of a larger disease. We have never honestly addressed all the damage that was done during the two and a half centuries that we enslaved black people. The great evil of American slavery wasn’t the involuntary servitude; it was the fiction that black people aren’t as good as white people, and aren’t the equals of white people, and are less evolved, less human, less capable, less worthy, less deserving than white people."
The Unbearable Grief of Black Mothers, byA. Rochaun Meadows-Fernandez, in Vox
As a white mother who does not have to sit down and have conversations with her children about how to interact with the police, I found this piece so important to understanding the depths of my privilege. In the story, Ms. Meadows-Fernandez writes:
"What I did learn from my mother about grief was to cloak it in irritation. I can disassociate so skillfully that the untrained eye has no idea that my stoic expressions and firm tone stand in for the overwhelming fears I have. I fear the day my 4-year-old son will stop being “so cute” and become “so scary.” I’m terrified that my daughter or I will be the next Black woman or girl killed in what should be the safety of our home. And so I pretend that everything is fine and deal with my stressed-induced muscle spasms silently. Kelly Glass, a mother of two Black boys, was initially relieved to have her sons home during the pandemic. It meant she didn’t have to worry about them being criminalized at school or some other public place. “I almost resented the way that white parents spoke of self-isolation with such grief,” she said, referring to the stay-at-home orders. “It reminded me that as a Black mother, I’ve always been acutely aware of the dangers in this world that are out there for my children just for existing.”
As a Black high school teacher — and a mother of sons — this is my urgent message, by Nikia D. Garland in Chalkbeat.
Equally powerful and necessary is this story by Nikkia Garland about being a black woman, mother and educator and the importance of bringing robust discussion of the history of black oppression in this country into the classroom. She writes:
There has never been a time in my life that I have not been aware of the color of my skin. During my freshman year at Broad Ripple High School, I was waiting outside — ironically, under the flag — for my stepfather to pick me up after ballet rehearsal. A car sped down the avenue, and a man screamed, “Go home, n—!” I graduated high school exactly 24 years ago, and I still recall that incident vividly. My daily response to this violence is to tie social justice into every facet of my high school English curriculum. My students have read about the murder of Emmett Till, responding in disbelief when I displayed the photograph of his grotesque corpse for a stream-of-consciousness writing session. We have read the story of Amadou Diallo, watched William Bonilla perform his poem “41 Shots,”and listened to the Springsteen song“American Skin.”We have read articles and watched “Fruitvale Station”to process the life and untimely demise of Oscar Grant. We used the New York Times’1619 Project as a prelude to reading “Kindred.” We have also combed through Brent Staples’ profound personal essay, “Just Walk On By,” which outlines his brushes with racism and how he has chosen to cope.
To My White Friends, How to be An Ally, by Nikkya Hargrove in Scary Mommy
My friend Nikkya wrote this story about what black mothers need from white mothers during this time. She writes:
We all struggle as moms. We talk about these struggles in moms groups, on social media and with our mom friends. We unite over the fact that we love our kids and want the best for them. Let’s come together for this too — to show up for black moms, learn about our struggles, fears, and hopes for our kids. Show up to rallies, events, and sign up for workshops to confront your own biases and learn more about the history of racism in the United States. And bring your kids with you.
Black Parents Explain How to Deal with the Police, The Cut
Our teachers at PS 261 shared this video with us to help white children (and white parents) understand the conversations that black parents must have with their children about interacting with the police. It is painful but necessary. Please watch and share.
Support Black-Owned Restaurants
If you live in New York City, a google doc is being circulated listing black-owned restaurants. Check it out, add to it, and show your support.
Diverse Books for Children
My friend Jennifer Fox, a children's book author and literacy, library and diverse books activist, has compiled a list of resources of books that reflect black stories. You can follow her on Instagram or check out her blog.
BLACK STORIES MATTER COLLECTION (FREE books available on EPIC):
TALKING TO KIDS ABOUT RACISM & JUSTICE (OAKLAND PUBLIC LIBRARY)
Liam Rosenior, a footballer, wrote this BRILLIANT Letter to Donald Trump in the Guardian
I wanted to end with this one, shared by my friend Dawn Casale. It's brilliant and says it all.
I realise this is an extremely busy time for you between games of golf and tweeting but I hope you may be boosted by a rare and welcome thank you letter from a black man at such an inconvenient moment in the history of the United States of America. While all of those “animals” are rioting and looting in the streets over something as petty and unimportant as justice and equal human rights for black people and who, for some ridiculous reason, seem to be upset at police “doing their jobs” by applying a little too much physical pressure in apprehending yet another black citizen who subsequently died in their custody – I realised no one has thanked you for the wonderful work you are doing. Keep it up!
What have you read that has changed your perspective or informed your world this week? Please share!