Wednesday, May 27, 2020

You Can't Be Neutral

Yesterday, I couldn't get anything accomplished. I spent the day horrified and angry by the events of the day.

Just weeks after two men were arrested for killing Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd was killed by police officers in Minneapolis.

And then Amy Cooper.  I watched the video of Amy Cooper calling 9-1-1 and then read Ibram X. Kendi's words on Twitter.

And, I have been thinking about the words and Ibram X. Kendi's response to Amy Cooper's apology.

And then I read this important piece by Ibram X. Kendi's in The Atlantic, 

"You can either be racist or you can be antiracist. 
You can't be neutral."

As a white woman, I have learned that much of being anti-racist has to start with a commitment to do a lot of internal work. I am grateful for the many people writing and sharing and having honest conversations with me,  so that I can begin the internal work needed to be anti-racist.

For me, reading and reflecting has been important for starting this internal work.  A few years ago I started a Padlet where I collected articles and posts that were important--that helped me reflect and begin to unlearn.

But it's the books, the deep dives into the issues of race, white fragility and racism that have been most powerful for me. This is a lifelong journey and these books have helped me begin. I've shared these books over and over and over in workshops and professional meetings.

These books are not easy reads. They are books that pushed me to reflect and realize and unlearn. These are the books that have been important to me so far and I highly recommend each one.  And I highly recommend following each of these authors on social media and then following people whose work they cite and share. And when you finish with these. find more to read and study and unlearn all of the racist ideas you may have.

Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell

My first step in this anti-racist work is to do my own internal work and these books have been helpful so far.  I've read them and I've also bought them for people I know. But this is only the first step.
As I mentioned early, this is a lifelong journey. So much catching up to do in this work. So I have a summer stack started.  I have found that audiobooks are a great way to experience some of these books. I have also found that I can't read these books cover to cover--I need time as I read to process, reflect and reread.  These are not quick reads.  I have found that every book and author I find leads me to another. So, on my stack this summer I have:

(finish) How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (I've started the on audio but need to spend more time with it each day so that I can finish it.)

An Indigenous People's History of the United States for Young People by Jean Mendoza, Debbie Reese and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (I've started this one but need to finish and reread more deeply.)

Me and White Supremecy by Layla F. Saad

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

Lifting as We Climb by Evette Dionne

Dark Sky Rising by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

I can't think about yesterday's news without connecting these two events and without doing something. I know reading is not enough but it has been an important step for me and one I hope more people take.


  1. Thank you for pushing all of us because you inspire us.

  2. Thank you for the book list. I'll read some, too! Kendi's idea of anti-racism makes so much sense. You are so right, Franki; it's a lifelong journey for me, too. It started with reading Anne Moody's memoir "Coming of Age in Mississippi" as a teenager, much of which takes place in my hometown. I kept asking my mom, is this horrible event true? Is that horrible event true? And the answer was always yes. Until then, I'd been wearing blinders and didn't even know my own city.

  3. Thank you for your courage in doing the work and for sharing this great resource list.

  4. Mary Lee, thank you for the amazing book list. While I have spent my entire career working with diverse learners, I still feel I have much to learn. The term white fragility is new to me so I would like more insight on this.

  5. Mary Lee, I appreciate this post so much. I'm working on my inner racism as well. I was raised in Mississippi; however, my parents were anti-racist in many ways. I don't think I'm there yet, but I am encouraged by the reactions to such racist acts. I read Stamped, and it really made me rethink many things. If we work together to keep the conversation open and ongoing, we can make a difference.

  6. Such an important post. Thanks.

  7. Carol and Margaret, this post was written by Franki. I stand with her in all she writes here and walk with her on this journey.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your journey and this list of resources.

  9. This is Franki's post!


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