Let’s talk about racism: Three must-reads to educate yourself

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Candice Mayfield
CONTRIBUTOR

With racism still existing in 2020, more resources have to the surface to educate and promote change in social injustices. Graphic courtesy of Candice Mayfield.

Racism is being addressed across the country in many different ways. Educating yourself and others is a key part of addressing and understanding systemic racism. An easy way to begin is to pick up a copy of one of our recommendations. Read it, reflect on it, act on it and repeat.

The Hate U Give

‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas tells the narrative of Starr Carter, a young Black woman who is finding her place in between two worlds: The wealthy white suburb where she attends prep school and her mostly-Black neighborhood riddled with poverty. When Starr’s childhood best friend, Khalil, is shot and killed by a white police officer, she becomes a voice for justice in her community.

The book is the final product of the short story she began to write during her time at Belhaven University. The inspiration for the book stems from the 2009 police shooting of Oscar Grant. Thomas stepped away from the short story for a couple of years but returned after the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

The presence of systemic racism and police brutality still exists today. The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray capture the impactful novel’s message.

Kat Lopez, a senior at UNO, recommends this book to those who wish to educate themselves on the topic. “The complexity of the novel pushes readers to feel the main character’s raw emotions as she faces the loss of a friend because of systematic racism and police brutality in the United States,” she said.

Sundown Towns

Sundown Towns by James W. Loewen exposes America’s history through the presence of sundown towns. These cities are all-white municipalities that practice racism in the forms of legal segregation, intimidation and fear.

The book is an informative read about the impact of redlining and the result of segregated communities across the country. Some local sundown towns include Omaha, Ralston, Bennington, Fremont and Lincoln.

“Sundown Towns really is phenomenal because it shows why the country is segregated. Normally when we think about segregation, we think about neighborhoods, communities, cities, and communities, but it’s the country that’s truly segregated,” says Dr. Cynthia Robinson. Robinson is the professor of the UNO course Race, Ethnicity and Identity, where the book is required for students.

She highly recommends the book and says, “Sundown Towns really helps by laying it all out for readers.”

White Fragility

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo explains to readers why it is so hard for white people to talk about racism. Diangelo takes a new approach to understanding racism by suggesting we don’t look at racism as intentional or done by ‘bad’ people. Instead, she says that the problem is systemic racism.

Diangelo provided diversity training to businesses for 20 years, which led her to write the book. Her experiences in sessions showed white employees getting hostile when dealing with the topic of race, and she concluded that the hostility was a result of their white fragility. White fragility is the range of defensive reactions or responses from white people when dealing with race.

This book is used in diversity training across the country. It has increased in demand following the death of George Floyd. Millard Public Schools required principals in the school district to read the book and to reflect on their actions, both intentional and unintentional.

Mars Nevada, UNO Student, recommends the best-seller and says, “White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo is really key. The greatest obstacle to advancing equity reform in institutions and society is often the fragility of white people and their inability to come to terms with their participation in white supremacy.”

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