Monday, September 17, 2012

Books as Bridges / Silent Racism

The Bangor Daily News recently posted a brief story about Maine's legacy as the "whitest state" and the experience that people of color have as "the only" in primarily white spaces.  This story - and the comments and blog posts that followed - made me think about our program last fall on kids, race and racism and the challenges of teaching anti-racism at FSP.   The cycle of inquiry, reflection, action is at the heart of FSP's educational philosophy and so important for our shared queries about what justice looks like, how we create racial amity and equity, how we honor individual differences and create strong communities, and how we challenge our own inner-voice by hearing the truths' of others in a setting that encourages divergent thinking and dissent as well as harmony and unity.

While within larger society there is a pull toward emphasizing stereotypes about racial difference or naturalizing patterns that we name "racism", there can also be a push toward asking people to assimilate to the extreme, to refuse to "see" difference as a way of maintaining dominant norms.  The sweet spot of dynamic inclusion is easy to wish for, harder to always know how to practice.

Check out the resources from our Books as Bridges event here (scroll down) and the latest work being done by Anne Sibley O'Brien and Kirsten Cappy on the I'm Your Neighbor project (many book recs available!)

"Silent Racism"  documents the ways that well intentioned white people ignore the manifestations of institutional racism or shy away from racial awareness because of worrying about saying the wrong thing.  Author Barbara Trepagnier invites us to learn how to recognize and interrupt racism in interpersonal interactions and acknowledge and work on structural changes...

Fear of a Black President, an Atlantic Magazine op-ed, analyzes President Obama's challenge of maintaining a non-white racial identity while inhabiting the role of President which has been coded "White" until now.  Again, an interesting and provocative read on how race shapes our 21st C. lives.  Also from the Atlantic, an analysis of diversity - or there lack of - in young adult books.  And yet, if nothing else, there are great chances to enrich our lives and empathy and experience through books...