On Racism, White Supremacy & the Racial Divide

Crystal Marie FlemingI mentioned this in the first post on children’s books for Black History Month, but when we think about BHM, I feel like the first thing that comes to mind is probably either 1) slavery, or 2) civil rights. And for Black history in North America, those are definitely things we cannot afford to forget or pretend that it no longer affects Black people, but you know what else? I’m also willing to bet that when the majority of us think about slavery, it’s slavery in the U.S. that comes to mind. But in case we missed this in our history classes, or forgot about it since we learned about it maybe in elementary school: Black people were enslaved in Canada too, for around 200 years. So to start off this week’s post, check out this episode of The Secret Life of Canada podcast to learn more: The Secret Life of Birchtown – listen to it, look through the articles and videos it links to, and then think deeply about whether, or how, this changes your perception of Black history in Canada.

If you’ve been living under the impression that we live in a postracial society, this post & the recommended reads might make you uncomfortable (as I assume is made evident by the title), but I think it’s worth the discomfort, so I hope you stick with it. At the very least, I hope that it starts a conversation or more sustained thoughts on the topic of race and the ways in which we are all affected by racism.

Before I start going into a couple of recently published books about racism, sexism, and the intersection between, I’d just like to do a shout-out to a post Lonnie wrote last year about W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk. The following recommendations would be a great follow-up to Souls, to see how racism in America (because these are written primarily about the U.S.) has – or hasn’t – changed over the 100+ years since Du Bois wrote Souls in 1903.

So let’s talk about racism. I’m going to paraphrase some of the things that Crystal Fleming talks about in her introduction to How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide, though she does such an amazing job of discussing issues of race that I urge you to read her in her own words. This is an incomplete list, but I think it’ll get us started – racism is (among other things):

  1. Still an issue. Yes, this is 2019. Yes, it’d be lovely if it being 2019 meant that we were all living in a postracial society. Sorry to break it to you, those of you who are under the belief that we do, but this is not the case. (Not sorry.) And although Fleming is speaking about the U.S., most everything she says, except perhaps some of the stats she quotes (for obvious reasons), still applies.
  2. Not just a matter of individuals’ racist beliefs and actions. There is racism on the individual level and racism on the systemic level. When we talk about white supremacists and the actions of racist individuals, that is on the individual level. But systemic racism doesn’t require that all white people are racist individuals.
    • Systemic racism is not just negative stereotypes or prejudices: “Though everyone internalizes stereotypes about social groups, we do not all occupy the same position in the racial order. When members of a so-called “racial” group are able to impose their prejudices in ways that reliably benefit them and disadvantage others, they have managed to successfully institutionalize their racist beliefs and protect their racial privileges” (p.13). This is also why “reverse racism” is not a thing.
  3. Not a lone operator. Racism can and does work with sexism and other modes of oppression, and discussions about these intersections between them are referred to as intersectionality.

One of the things I love about How to Be Less Stupid About Race is – actually scratch that: among many of the things that I love about this volume are that 1) Fleming defines her terms (e.g. race, systemic racism, antiracists, white supremacy, etc.), 2) addresses common fallacies, including “the KKK Fallacy, the Gaslighting Fallacy, the Class Fallacy, the Whites-Only White Supremacy Fallacy, the Political Fallacy, and, my personal favorite, the Black Supremacy Unicorn Fallacy” (pp. 15-16), and 3) is incredibly thorough and articulate! I knew about most of the fallacies, if not by those names, but I still found it very helpful that Fleming debunks each of these myths in pithy & easy to understand sections.

Fleming describes this book as a course, and I am inclined to agree, because though this is far from the easy to digest Racism in America 101 that I was expecting to receive (given the title), How to Be Less Stupid About Race is a wide-ranging, in-depth primer that prepares you for doing future research of your own – and Fleming does a great job making you want to do your own digging to learn more! She prepares you for the job by giving you enough information to go on and names to look up, referencing other books & articles complete with endnotes so you can find them easily, and I think she makes a very convincing argument in each of her chapters. Throughout this volume, Fleming takes the reader through:

  • Critical Race Theory
  • The intersection between being Black and being a woman and the importance of listening to Black women
  • The Obama era
  • How a nation that voted for Obama – twice! – could go on to then vote for Trump; does it follow? Spoiler alert: yes.
  • The dissemination of fake racial news & media that perpetuates negative stereotypes about Black people (and other POC) while simultaneously spreading positive stereotypes about white people, and how this works to uphold the status quo that is systemic racism
  • Interracial love and how it’s not a cure-all for racism. Fleming points out something that’s almost hilarious in how self-evident it should be & also hard to refute that, well, inter-sexual love has failed all these generations to destroy sexism, so why should anyone expect interracial love to be the panacea? Which… true.
  • What to do now with all this information?? It’s overwhelming, and there’s no easy answer or quick fix, but Fleming gives you some steps that follow that can help guide you through what to do with all this information.

I have a lot of bookmarked passages throughout the pages – so many that I ran out of bookdarts to keep track of every one – and I’m sure you would love to read 10,000 words on what I thought about certain paragraphs and what it reminded me of and what I’d like to know more about given the information in that chapter, but something tells me this is where I should stop.

In short, this volume took me on a rollercoaster of emotions from outrage to disappointment (in humanity) to disgust (at humanity) to seeing me laughing out loud at some of the things Fleming writes – and I think I came out of the journey better informed about racism in America. So I’ll conclude with this message: READ IT. Put yourself on hold for How to Be Less Stupid About Race! We have 2 copies, one of which is available right now, so it shouldn’t take long to get to you!

I’ve got some more recommendations below the cut, starting with Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shelley.

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Stride Toward Freedom

“The act of walking for many had become of symbolic importance. Once, a pool driver stopped beside an elderly woman who was trudging along with obvious difficulty. “Jump in grandmother,” he said, “you don’t need to walk.” She waved him off, “I’m not walking for myself,” she explained, “I’m walking for my children and my grandchildren.” And she continued toward home on foot.”

Image result for montgomery bus boycottI want to draw attention to a true gem in our collection; the e-audiobook of Martin Luther King Jr.’s incredible book, Stride Toward Freedom: a first-person (and sometimes tremendously personal) narrative of the Montgomery Story from King’s perspective. From December the 5th, 1955 (following the arrest of Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a city bus when ordered to) until December 20, 1956, the Black community in Montgomery, Alabama boycotted the city buses. At the time, the history of mistreatment on those buses was so rampant that there was scarcely anybody who had not either witnessed, heard of, or themselves experienced some incident of indignity or injustice. In one extreme case, a man was shot and killed because he refused to exit the bus unless his ten-cent fare was returned to him. The driver had ordered him to exit the front doors and reenter through the back doors. The bus was so jammed that he would not have been able to do so, but he agreed to leave the bus entirely so long as his fare was returned. Many times, bus drivers would give this order—to reenter the bus from the back doors—only to drive off before the person could reach those doors. In another case, a man’s leg was shut in the door as his wife attempted to assist him off of the bus and he was dragged some way along before the driver finally stopped. A fifteen-year-old girl, Claudette Colvin, was arrested on charges of assault and battery, disorderly conduct and violation of a city ordinance for refusing to give up her seat and move to the assigned section.  The rampant nature of stories such as these is the reason why Martin Luther King Jr. writes in Stride Toward Freedom that while Mrs. Parks’ arrest may have precipitated the protest, it was not the cause. Those roots ran far deeper. My interest in King and the Montgomery Story has been budding and building over the past two years. In part, it is because I have bumped into King and this story in various places; in Simon Sinek’s works, in Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit and on one of my excursions to the American Library Association’s website where I came across a quote from Stride Toward Freedom that supplied me (in true ALA fashion) with a citation directing me to the correct source: “True peace is not merely the absence of tension, but the presence of justice Continue reading

It’s time to REROLL

The original Katamary Damacy first released on the PS2 back in 2004, and it quickly became a cult classic with a bunch of sequels. It was bright, fun, and absolutely bananas with a killer soundtrack.

I am therefore pleased to report that the 2018 remastered edition, Katamari Damacy Reroll, for both the Switch and Steam is much of the same. It’s a game that I grabbed on launch to check out, and I have zero regrets on that front. It’s a simple game with a simple premise, but an absolutely bonkers storyline, and hilarious dialogue.

For a bit of backstory, you play as the Prince (the charming green fellow in the image above) who is the son of the King of All Cosmos. You are tiny, while your Father is large, and he will never let you forget it.

The game begins when your Father, the King of all Cosmos, goes on an intergalactic bender… and accidentally destroys the moon, and all of the stars in the sky. As such, people are a bit upset about this turn of events, and this then in turn somehow becomes your problem. Your Father, who continues to be stellar at decision-making, then tasks you with repairing the night sky through the creation of new stars in order to get these people off his back. In order to make these stars you will need to roll a magical sticky ball around various landscapes, and accumulate miscellaneous objects into it’s ever growing mass. This ball is your katamari. To progress through the game you will roll your katamari while the game’s excellent soundtrack blares in the background (I personally recommend pumping the volume),  and you will continue with this task until your katamari is deemed big enough (or you run out of time and disappoint your Dad) to be launched into the sky for the purpose of replacing one of these missing astral bodies.

As the levels progress you will get to control an increasingly large katamari with which you will then be able to engulf people, buildings, and entire cities. As your domination of this earthly realm progresses, so to does the general storyline for the game – which is just as charmingly psychotic as everything else that is happening on screen. My only gripe with this game would be that the controls don’t seem to have received the same update that the graphics have. It can be easy for your katamari to get stuck behind objects, and the inevitable struggle to freedom will commonly destroy parts of your murder ball in the process. The controls in general can be a bit of an adjustment to get used to so paying attention to the tutorial and practicing these skills can be a necessity. All in all, Katamari Damacy Reroll is definitely a game I would recommend checking out – it’s cheerful, charming and ludicrous. A+ would roll again.