Saturday is reading, running, resting, and playing with Amy day. Digital sabbath.
I was tired from the week and slept for ten hours. I also took a 90-minute nap in the afternoon. I had a good, albeit short (4 loops) run in the morning. I ran ten loops this morning, so getting back in the groove after a week of not feeling great.
My book was John Lewis’ Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change. Amy suggested that I read Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, which is in our infinite pile of books (and near the top). Instead, I decided I wanted to read this one first because several other people had suggested it to me after John Lewis died.
It was powerful. While there are elements of memoir in it, Lewis paints a clear vision of the future based on his lifetime of work on civil rights. He regularly tied his vision back to his childhood, his early work alongside Dr. King, and his leadership of organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
While I knew of the principles of nonviolence in the Civil Rights movement, I didn’t understand them. I knew the history of the Freedom Riders. Still, I didn’t understand the magnitude of the physical abuse and violence they encountered while operating with the principles of nonviolent protest.
When I read and reflect on this history, I’m embarrassed, horrified, and furious with elements of White America.
Reading the book by John Lewis inspired me on multiple levels. I know that, in addition to reading Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, I’m going to add some Gandhi to my reading list. If anyone has a suggestion for a great Gandhi book, toss it in the comments.
John Lewis was an American hero. And, his posthumous OpEd in the NY Times, Together, You Can Redeem the Soul of Our Nation, which starts:
Though I am gone, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe.
ends with something I wish everyone in the United States would read, ponder, and take action on.
Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.
When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war. So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.
I’m continuing my weekend reading goal of a book on racial equity. Last week was Kingonomics: Twelve Innovative Currencies for Transforming Your Business and Life Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Rodney Sampson who I’m partnering with on the #RacialEquityEcosystemPledge.
Yesterday I read Ijeoma Oluo’s So you want to talk about race. It was excellent.
My goal with reading these books is to bring a beginners mind to racial equity, allow myself to feel uncomfortable while reading, and let the impact of what I read over the summer accumulate, with a hope that I can personally eliminate many of my unconscious biases, unhelpful behavior, while unlearning (or challenging my own) perspectives that I’ve built up over my 54 years as a White person in America.
Several of my Black friends recommended Ijeoma’s book as one that I should read early on. As book #3 on my weekend reading, I’m glad I put this at the front of the list. It has 17 chapters – each which answers a very specific question about race. Following is the list.
- Is it really about race?
- What is racism?
- What if I talk about race wrong?
- Why am I always being told to “check my privilege?”
- What is intersectionality and why do I need it?
- Is police brutality really about race?
- How can I talk about affirmative action?
- What is the school-to-prison pipeline?
- What can’t I say the “N” word?
- What is cultural appropriation?
- Why can’t I touch your hair?
- What are microaggressions?
- Why are our students so angry?
- What is the model minority myth?
- But what if I hate Al Sharpton?
- I just got called racist, what do I do now?
- Talking is great, but what else can I do?
A day after George Floyd was murdered, I called a Black friend and asked, “what are two things you are involved in that I can immediately support with time and money.”
He had a response that I then heard echoed in slightly different ways in several conversations. The composite is below:
Thank you so much for approaching things this way. I’m so tired of explaining to White people what I’m going through, what I go through every day, and why so many things in America are horrible when you aren’t White. It’s not my responsibility to do that anymore, and I’m glad you are trying to get involved, rather than ask me to explain what’s going on.
Ijeoma’s book was extremely clear and enlightening on all of these questions. Near the end, there was a paragraph in the chapter “Talking is great, but what else can I do?” that really hit home.
“Talk. Please talk and talk and talk some more. But also act. Act now, because people are dying now in this unjust system. How many lives have been ground by racial prejudice and hate? How many opportunities have we already lost? Act and talk and learn and fuck up and learn some more and act again and do better. We have to do this all at once. We have to learn and fight at the same time. Because people have been waiting far too long for their chance to live as equals in this society.“
I strongly recommend Ijeoma Oluo’s So you want to talk about race.