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August 8, 2020

Library notes: Taking a healthy look at racism during the pandemic

By Stephanie Reister
Rowan Public Library

I am watching what is going on during the pandemic. Numbers rising-falling-rising, staying home, businesses closing, jobs evaporating, social distancing, and mask wearing. In all of this came the unjustified killing of George Floyd and the chilling video evidence that ignited greater support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The community can count on Rowan Public Library as an institution that serves all members of the public. RPL offers materials that cover a broad range of topics in fiction and non-fiction, including those discussing racism.

People talk about not letting history repeat atrocities and malice. What about the systemic racism that should be history, but appallingly is still embedded in society today? Some may think it’s an artificial concept. It’s not, so time to do some reading.

Books on my list that are very popular right now include, “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, along with “How to be Antiracist” and “Stamped from the Beginning,” both by Ibram X. Kendi. “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo is now being offered in eAudiobook format with unlimited access. You can access eBooks through the NC Digital Library via its website or the Libby app. Use your library card number and four-digit PIN to check out.

These books directly challenge the “I’m not a racist” declaration. The authors state that white people need to be antiracist by speaking up against racism. They also explain that white people need to own up to the ways in which they have been inherently racist and benefited from white privilege.

In many of the news interviews with black men and women, a word keeps coming up that has made me stop and see, really see, their point of view. The word is “exhausted.” I understood what that word meant, but until recently I only had a partial definition. Black Americans carry from many generations the exhaustion of living with and speaking out about racism.

To gain more on this perspective, I’m reading the following books: In “Backlash,” George Yancy, philosophy professor at Emory University, addresses the flood of vile responses to, and expands on his New York Times op-ed from 2015 “Dear White America.” Yancy meant the article to be a gift and asked white Americans to look at the ways they benefit from racism.

Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University and ordained minister, wrote “Tears We Cannot Stop” in the structure of a religious service. Dyson explains to move forward “we must return to the moral and spiritual foundations of our country and grapple with the consequences of our original sin.”

I am still watching what is going on in our country and I am choosing to expand my knowledge about the Black experience. This is the time to read, research, watch, listen, believe and talk about racism. RPL has the resources to help find more understanding.

Stephanie Reister is children’s librarian at the Rowan County Public Library South branch.

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