“The evil that is in the world almost always comes from ignorance,
and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence
if they lack understanding.”
― Albert Camus, from The Plague
In order to liberate oneself from the propaganda that dominates American consciousness, it is essential to educate oneself on the real and true history and current context of the circumstances in which we live.
For the past few years, I have been attempting to educate myself on anti-black racism in the United States, because I am trying to answer the question: “How did things get this way?”
What do I mean by, “this way?” I mean Michael Brown lying dead in the street for hours. I mean Eric Garner killed on film by an officer using an illegal chokehold and no charges pressed against the officer that killed him or the officers aiding and abetting that murder. I mean Tamir Rice, 12 years old, playing with a toy gun in an open carry state, shot within a few seconds of the cops showing up. I mean Sandra Bland dead in police custody under unknown circumstances because she had the temerity to exercise her first amendment rights to tell an officer of the law that what he was doing to harass and harm her was illegal. I mean the United States Congress grinding to a halt because the President of the United States happened to be black. I mean Donald Trump running for president using a campaign style that was pulled out of Adolf Hitler’s playbook.
It takes a profound amount of denial to consider these (and the myriads of other similar examples) as isolated incidences. I am a person who grew up in the age of “colorblindness,” where I was led to believe that I lived in a post-racial meritocracy. I have found it jarring, shocking, and horrifying to discover the extent of racism that is operating throughout all levels of United States society, institutions, and culture. Racism is not over; it just went underground, masquerading as concern about crime and public safety. Colorblindness is a way of pretending that racism does not exist and of gaslighting the people who are pointing out the obvious truth of racism and its horrific consequences.
While it has been exquisitely painful to expose myself to the history and current reality of racism and its ghastly manifestations, it has also been extremely empowering. It has been profoundly relieving to me to engage with the truth of the way things are and have been and to let go of the fantasies about race that I have been raised to believe. The truth simply aligns with the evidence of my senses, whereas the propaganda I have been taught (that slavery happened a long time ago, that things have been getting better since then, that the Civil Rights movement fixed everything, that slavery is no longer happening, that racism is no longer a significant feature of life in the United States, that we are living in a post-racial landscape, that anything is possible for anyone, that people who do not succeed in the current racial utopia are lazy or morally bankrupt, that people who are incarcerated and whose labor is being extracted from them at 17 cents per hour deserve what they get, that a black president is evidence of the end of racism, and on and on and on and on) does not align with the evidence of my senses. I have been impacted by race and racism every single day of my life and I am a person who has had profound privileges that other black people have not been privy to. It has been so much worse for most black people living in this country today than it has been for me.
As they say, the truth will set you free. I am devouring information about what really happened and how things really are, because it frees my soul from the lies that have imprisoned it.
The following is a list of books and articles I have found especially valuable in my project to educate myself on anti-black racism in the United States. This is by no means a comprehensive list. I will add to it as I continue to educate myself on this topic.
The first three works were so particularly enlightening that I sincerely wish that every person living in the United States would read them.
The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson
The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander
“The Case for Reparations,” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Article, Full Text)
“The Typical White Family Is 20 Times Wealthier Than the Typical Black Family,” by Dave Gilson (Article, Infographic)
The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
Between The World And Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
White Fragility, by Robin DiAngelo (Article, Full Text)
Feel free to make recommendations of other books on this topic that have been valuable in helping you understand the situation of anti-black racism (and racial history) in the United States.