This is a book review. Because I care about race, and am fortunate to have a very diverse community around me, these issues touch me directly
Dear Reader: I moved away from Medium.com a while back, but not before investing a fair bit of time reading certain Black writers, mostly women, whose ideas I felt were important and relevant to us all. I've often highlighted, promoted and introduced those writers to others. Now that I am focusing more on other lanes, I don't wish to step aside from writing about diversity and race issues which touch all of us all of the time, whether we know it or not. One of those Medium friends, Sharon Hurley Hall, wrote a book which I took my time reading, and wanted to share with you.
There are books on anti-racism you and I need to read for very different reasons. I want to highlight one, first because I have enormous respect for the author and second, because there are a few points I want to tease out after reading it. There will be more. Plenty of folks have weighed in on I'm Tired of Racism for good reason, but I wanted to wait.
Sharon Hurley Hall (she/her)'s book is a great many things. For this White woman, who was fortunate enough to have a different kind of upbringing (not relevant here) in order to have a very different kind of porousness around issues of race, there were several key issues which stood out.
The entire book is an important read. Please know that I am simply touching on those points which are deeply personal to me.
1. Nothing surprised me and it all felt horribly familiar. Several reasons for that. If you've been reading anti-racist writers, and you should be, and if you have genuinely befriended Black folks, what Hall chronicles isn't new, and isn't surprising. She does a superb job of gathering those lived experiences into this book. Those unfamiliar with what it's like to be Black and female in a hateful world - working, living, existing, raising kids, all of it, can gain understanding. It's horrific in its truth. What's worse is that it's horrific in its banal, everyday commonality. THAT is what makes it so awful. That these experiences are so common is the crime, for it is costing society trillions in lost talent. Contributions, all kinds.
2. One line leapt out at me, page 94 in my Kindle: "Who do you think you are?" That response, when Hall required that she be paid appropriately for her level of skill and experience, honestly says it all for me. The question is so loaded that you and I could unpack it for weeks and still not be done.
3. Another key line that slapped me across the face, page 97 on my Kindle (please remember Bo Derek in Ten) "....what was considered cute on a white woman was considered unprofessional on a Black one. This is so fundamental to nearly all "the rules according to White America" that to my mind, it deserves highlighting. All my close Black friends speak to this and it's infuriating to them AND to me. It should be infuriating to ALL OF US.
4. Hall recalls losing a friendship because that girlfriend's BF solicited Hall for sex. When Hall told the friend, the friend disbelieved her and didn't dump the guy. Tip of the iceberg. For those of us who care, the disappearance of tens of thousands of Black women and girls and the complete lack of interest in finding them speaks to our oversexualization of the female Black body, including children. That is a massive issue from schools to, well, it's too big to touch on here. I travel, and I have good Black friends who travel. They have and spend money abroad and they are weary of being propositioned. That is a fraction of a fraction of the issue. These are our friends. OUR friends. We need to stand up for them, and as Hall says, believe them. If you know damned well that your Black friend has integrity, believe her. Otherwise, frankly, you and I don't deserve their friendship.
4. Since Hall's book came out there have been cries of "HORRORS" over Black Ariel, Black Tinkerbell, and it will continue. By the same token, representation has spread (it's profitable, right?) but here's what I do like. On my LinkedIn feed I see all kinds of Black women who are putting Black dolls on the market so that their little girls- and those of other mothers like them- will be able to hand their kids beautiful girl dolls who look like them. Products like this are coming, and will continue to come. The more media, movies, music normalize Black excellence, the less resistance, but progress is appallingly slow. The more you and I are willing to read books like Hall's the better we understand the daily lived experiences of talented Black folks. Their contributions to society are crimped, curbed and outright prevented in order to uplift mediocre White folks out of a perceived belief of superiority.
Every February, my LinkedIn feed features the long, long lists of those inventions created by Black folks. You and I, family members and many others have benefited from a lot more than peanut butter. The sad part is that lists like that show up largely in places where most of us already are aware, are supportive and don't need convincing. I grew up with this PSA, "a (Black) mind is a terrible thing to waste."
We've wasted untold millions of good minds. Good friends.
Because of our continued racism, our hatred and fears, we have cost society millions of inventions which would have made the world a better place. Medical progress which might have saved your husband or your daughter, had that Black child been allowed to go to school. Friends who could have enriched our lives beyond measure. What we have already lost is criminal.
To allow it continue is, well. I don't have words.
"Who do you think you are" is far better directed at those of us in White society, who are willing to perpetuate the false idea that, as Hall writes, (and I paraphrase here) who misunderstand that equity means that they have to give something up.
Black folks have long understood, as do all people of color, that the answer is to make the pie bigger, not believe that the pie is too small. We as a society have been preventing brilliant people from finding ways to make the pie bigger and more equitable for all. That threatens the narrative.
When we elevate normalize and invest in Black excellence, EVERYONE WINS.
Some of them might save your life someday. Don't believe me?
Here's a short list. Millions of us have lived because of what Black inventors created. As a hemophiliac I am on that list of those who are alive because of a Black inventor. You'd better believe I'm grateful, too:
Pacemakers, blood transfusions, neurosurgery on conjoined twins, open heart surgery.
Oh what we might have had, had we invested in Black folks. Brown folks. All of us.
Finally, I love this from Halls' book:
"My sense of self doesn't depend on the white gaze."
Nor should it have to. She- and all her sisters, all of us, BIPOC, LGBTQ++ ALL of us belong here. We all have contributions to make.
Including the deep, rich and lasting friendships I have enjoyed for decades with people who don't look like me. I wouldn't be half the person I am today without those friendships.
Racism touches and hurts all of us. I hope you choose to read some of these writers. And I hope that you will also speak out, uplift, support, buy from and otherwise engage in normalizing people of all races, colors, genders, religions, creeds. We only harm ourselves when we don't.
With heartfelt thanks to all those wonderful Black writers whose work continues to challenge, educate, inform, guide and contribute to us all.
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