After the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore and before last week’s shooting of nine congregants in a Charleston, South Carolina church, a CBS News/New York Times poll reported that 61 percent of Americans characterize race relations in the US as bad, the highest percentage since 1992 when America saw Los Angeles erupt after officers were acquitted in the beating of Rodney King. It’s also the first time in 18 years that the majorities of both groups expressed the same level of pessimism regarding race relations in this country.
I consider myself primarily an educator — both in the traditional sense as a former university professor and in my current position as publisher and columnist with the VOICE. Fearless newspaper publisher and civil rights activist Ida B. Wells once said of our profession, “The people must know before they can act, and there is no educator to compare with the press.”
Earlier this week, in my weekly Rants & Raves column, I discussed the need for America to invest in a solid education on race relations. This summer I have decided to reflect on the problem of race and race relations in the US through the lens of several classic and contemporary texts. In the coming weeks I will share my thoughts on these readings with you. I invite you to join me in this journey and if you’re the adventurous type and read any of the books on my list, please share your thoughts with me as well. I look forward to hearing from you.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Presents a compelling argument that today’s mass incarceration of people of color, especially Black men, is a contemporary version of racial control.
The Fire Next Time
Considered one of the most influential books about race in America written by one of our most astute critics.
The Souls of Black Folk
Eloquently addresses the concept of “double-consciousness” – the two-ness of the African-American identity – “an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body…”
The History of White People
Nell Irvin Painter
Explores the history of Whiteness and examines race as a social concept. (Thank you to RCC Chancellor Michael Burke for this suggestion.)
Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People
Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald
Researchers explain why ingrained habits dictate how we perceive and react to everything around us, including race.