A note: I wrote this blog post after our book club met on Tuesday night, but I feel I would be remiss if I did not mention the blatant white supremacy on display by both the insurrectionists at the capitol on Wednesday and in the government’s response to their violence. It is both heartbreaking and not at all surprising. I’m still processing it all, but this month’s book club felt heart wrenchingly timely (though it is always timely) and I hope you will consider picking up this book.
Several months ago I started a book club with some of my friends in the hopes of supporting each other through our antiracist education and centering BIPOC voices in our reading. It has been a really positive way for me to work through antiracist resources and discuss them with people who are at varying stages of unlearning. I am so fortunate to have friends who work in education, childcare, and in libraries, and I learn a lot from them and often find new articles, podcasts, blogs, etc. to follow through them.
This month, we read Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad. This book is helpfully crafted as a 28-day course where each day focuses on a different aspect of my interaction with white supremacy. At the end of each day, there are reflective journaling questions that pushed me to consider and take ownership of my participation in white supremacy. It is challenging, emotional work and I feel like I will need to reread the book and revisit my journaling many times in order to get the most benefit from this book.
I am not going to discuss my entire experience with this book today, but I am going to share which day made me feel the most uncomfortable and why. I was surprised when I read Day 15, “You and White Apathy.” When I originally began this chapter, I felt that it would likely not apply to me. After all, I am not apathetic, I am passionate about equality. But, in reading more, I learned that I truly am apathetic. Saad writes, “white apathy is like a warm blanket that says, ‘this is too hard. Let’s go back to sleep.’” That sentence really hit home for me.
So many times this year, and for most of my life, I have avoided engaging in critical conversations about race and racism because it felt too overwhelming or I was worried that I would say the wrong thing. I’ve chosen to stay comfortable in my white privilege because it was easier. Likewise, Saad says that white apathy shows up when you use your mental health issues to opt out of doing the work, ignoring the fact that there are BIPOC with mental health issues who cannot opt out of being on the receiving end of racism. I struggle with severe depression and have used that as an excuse to disengage from the news and avoid conflict and hard conversations. Again, this is a privilege that I am choosing over doing the important work of dismantling white supremacy. That said knowing your own limits and ensuring your safety with mental health is important! I cannot say that enough. But I can accept now that I have used my mental health issues as an excuse too often.
These are really uncomfortable truths. Even as I write this blog, I wonder if I will actually post it for fear of making a mistake or looking bad. I know that there is so much work to be done, but digging deep with this book and acknowledging how I am participating in white supremacy has provided a strong foundation for my future work. I hope everyone will consider picking up this book and really sitting in the discomfort and doing the work. And do note that if you want to use the book in a group setting, Saad specifically asks that you use The Circle Way to structure your group.
If you are curious, our previous reads have been:
December: Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
October/November: How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
September: The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale (Written by a white man, but we were looking for a history of policing and information about what defunding the police would look like. If you know a great resource for this by a BIPOC author, I’d love to pick it up.)
Next month we’re reading An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. Pick it up and read along with us!
On a final note, I wonder if anyone has suggestions for buying Kindle books from independent booksellers? I really try not to buy from Amazon, but sometimes I need to download a Kindle book quickly. I’d so appreciate any stores you can refer me to!