Now, I am the kind of reader that starts books and doesn’t always finish them and the kind of reader that really struggles with nonfiction and informational texts, especially if it includes historical data or recounts of historical events, or really anything without a lot of narrative and adventurous storytelling (I mean, let’s be real - I was a literature major and became an English Literature teacher!). With these kinds of nonfiction books, I tend to buy, listen, skim, refer to and consider as a resource. Starting and stopping has always been kinda my thing.
So dedicating each month to completing a new book is a HUGE and scary commitment for me. And I always do well with a little pressure and accountability. That is why I announced it on all my socials and committed to sharing a book review each month full of my biggest a-has and takeaways that I think you might also be interested in hearing as well. This book review will show up in several forms - starting with a live in our private FB group The UpLeveled Educator (come hang out with us!!), a blog on the VIBE Movement site the week after the show, and highlights on social.
**Phew - I’m scared and sweating just writing this all out! Nothing like a little accountability to make shit happen!
AND...I am proud to say that I completed my first challenge and finished, from cover to cover, January’s book White Fragility: Why It Is So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo.
I decided to read this book because:
I have been a White-bodied teacher working in majority “minority” (hate using that word btw) schools all of my professional life
I take my personal growth and commitment to transformation seriously
I have two kids who are mixed race (even though they are both white passing)
I am passionate about living out the vision of MLK’s I Have Dream speech where kids of all colors get to be together, be loved, be treated with respect and dignity because of who they are, not because of the color of their skin.
I read this book because I am dedicated to life-long learning. I am an educator and a passionate liver of life and I dream of making the biggest impact possible. If that passion drives me, then my responsibility is to unpack all the socialization and stories that I bought into, inherited and, unfortunately at this stage in my life, have passed on. That means I am committed to being uncomfortable, called out, held accountable and educated. I have more resources around me than I can even get to within my lifetime so there is no excuse that I cannot raise my awareness, my wokeness, and my level of education on the matter of race and racism and my role in upholding it as a middle-class, White-bodied woman living in the US.
Yes it is uncomfortable. Really really uncomfortable.
When I was younger and first starting out in this work of unpacking racism and facilitating dialogue with youth, I wanted to be the White outlier. I wanted to be different. I wanted to be a contributor to change - that was the saviorist and individualist in me, wanting to be different and unique. But I am not. And this book reminded me of that.
So what am I going to do about it? Pretend I know everything already, pretend racism is a thing of the past, pretend it’s not my problem, pretend that I can’t handle reading a book called White Fragility because it might show me something I don’t want to see? Or worse, pretend that BIPOC people are making all this racism shit up?
At this point, I know too much to do any of that. I took the red pill a long time ago. And there’s no turning back.
I also know that the learning will never stop. Because racism is highly adaptive and continues to evolve and prevail and reclaim its stronghold within the bedrock of our institutions and structures. And I have been socialized to unconsciously uphold those systems. Therefore, it is my responsibility to learn and study how that happened, to know the stories and understand the experiences of others, to uncover my own biases and prejudices, to reflect on my inappropriateness and seek forgiveness when needed, and play a part in the healing of the whole - the whole of me, the whole of my family, my community, my country.
I will do whatever it takes. And I commit to that for life.
These are my biggest take-aways from reading White Fragility - more than anything else the takeaway was about a life-time commitment to growth and expansion and continuing to strengthen the meat of my discomfort muscles. I learned a lot and at times, I wanted to stop. At times, I found myself saying
“But I am not like that!”
But the truth is, I am - at least pieces of me are.
And as much as I cannot help the body I was born into, I CAN help myself to a proper education and unlearn our collective miseducation as White people living in a nation whose land was stolen through genocide and annexed from Mexico, and whose economy built with the strength of people who were abducted, enslaved and brutalized. Again, this is messy, nuanced, and uncomfortable work that requires a willingness to stick with it because it is messy, nuanced and uncomfortable. And in that dedication to unlearning and relearning, I can grow my levels of awareness, sensitivity, empathy, activism, advocacy and co-conspiratorship. And in that growth, maybe - just maybe - I can make an impact, from the inside out.
Originally, I was thinking this would be a book review with an intention to highlight the big ideas. You know, like I taught my middle schoolers to do. But that is not what this is becoming. This is becoming an encouragement for all my white-bodied friends to stop telling yourself that you can’t do it because it’s too hard to look at this stuff, or that you’ve already taken a class on diversity and inclusion so you all good, or that you aren’t racist and you’re not fragile so what is the point?
The point is, that even for me, as an active facilitator of race-related conversations who has been “doing this work for 20 years”, my mind was blown by the data, the stories, the history, the perspectives, the research, and the powerful commitment from the author herself to own her own shortcomings, remain open to feedback (and continue to request it), and dedicate her life to the messy process of aligning her values with her actions.
So if you - my White-bodied friends - haven’t read it, read it. Period. And if you need encouragement, want to talk through it, share your reflections with someone, or just straight up want the accountability, I’m your girl. Let's talk.