Recent Books+ I’ve Clutched In My Hands With Joy: August 2020
The only thing I’m listing this month is podcasts. I haven’t been able to bring myself to get invested in new characters and worlds in the world of books, not when reality has been so hard to breathe in, but I’ve spent a lot of time listening quietly instead. Binge re-reading one author who writes fun, unchallenging fantasies, and listening. Quietly.
When you know nothing, everything is a revelation. And it turns out that I know absolutely nothing about Native American history, contemporary structure and cultures, let alone the concept of blood quantum—or even where different nations live now (and I say this as an American history major: yikes). All My Relations is run by Matika Wilbur, an artist, and Dr. Adrienne Keene, an academic who focuses on Indigenous identity and representation. The episode topics range from health to cultural appropriation to language to fashion to feminism, and all of the shows bring incredible heart and compassion to what are often truly difficult and complex conversations. I went into listening thinking I’d get a peek into cultures not visible to me--which is true--but I also realized that learning Native American history and current reality is absolutely key to understanding the movements and cataclysms coming to a violent head in our country right now.
Kimberlé Crenshaw is the co-founder and Executive Director of The African American Policy Forum, among other incredible accomplishments. This podcast delves into many of the topics she’s been a key force in bringing to the forefront of the American consciousness, looking deeply in particular into the intersectionality of race, gender, sexuality and much more. Specifically, the recent episodes have been shining a light on the intersection of the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racism in particular; the episode on what this upcoming election means for the future of the U.S. has stayed deep under my skin. I’ve also appreciated learning much more about the #sayhername movement, as well as the concept of himpathy (yes!). Also, if you’re tired of listening to white guys talk at you about Sen. Kamala Harris and what she is or is not, listen to Crenshaw’s recent round table with Black women political leaders talking about Sen. Kamala Harris’ historic vice presidential nomination, and how it should be discussed.
Ok, so schools. Now, if you listened to Brooklyn Deep’s School Colors podcast about the history of school segregation and integration efforts in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, some of the Nice White Parents podcast will seem (sadly) familiar. Both podcasts are excellent, but I think the reason why the Nice White Parents show has become a buzz phrase around the white parenting internet, though, is that Chana Joffe-Walt doesn’t hesitate to firmly and undeniably lay the blame for the systematic defunding and devaluing of global majority schools at the feet of us nice white parents. And of course, the backing of the New York Times definitely helps. Joffe-Walt isn’t mean about it, lest some of you are concerned—and let’s be honest, that’s a key value of nice white mom culture ;)—but she does point out many of the tips and tricks we use to make “workarounds” to the “broken” system. The reason why we say we value “diversity,” but are remarkably silent about equity. It’s not uplifting, but it is revealing.
At the end of the series, Joffe-Walt doesn’t offer any pat recommendations for how to end the reign of terror of nice white parents, but does hint at what Integrated Schools podcast preaches: that the first step toward undoing the mess we created is to enroll our white kids in global majority schools ... and then sit down. Support the agenda of the BIPOC families at the school, without taking up space, and definitely not by colonizing the school, and otherwise ... just sit the f down. (I’m paraphrasing.)
So, am I doing what these podcasts prescribe? Honestly, no—schooling one of my kids has been complicated and intense, throwing all best laid plans into hell—though without these podcasts, I don’t think I’d feel such a strong compulsion to be able to say otherwise from the bottom of my heart. And that's something.