Every February, I read a book about the black experience in America, because I learned little about it in school.

The Age of Reconstruction and Jim Crow were closed to a history lesson. Growing up in the 1970s and celebrating newly elected Shirley Chisolm and Andrew Young, it was embarrassing to learn that there were black congressmen from the southern states back in the 1870s.

From the books I learned a lot about other cultures. However, it is difficult to admit that I had to turn to books to understand my American compatriots and their parallel lives as if they were foreigners. They speak the same language as me, some attended the same public school, but their experience is drastically different and for one reason only: the color of their skin.

I read the autobiography of Frederick Douglas, and his fierce intellect shocked me when I imagined such a man in slavery. Richard Wright presented the idea of ​​a cycle of racism in The Native Son.

I read the famous works of black writers: “Purple” by Alice Walker, “I know why the bird sings in a cage” and “Song of Solomon” by Tony Morrison. These are stories of abuse, but also of hope and feminism.

In March 2020, after the assassination of George Floyd, I realized I needed to read more than one book a year to better understand racism and how we can support freedom and justice for black citizens. And I needed to hear from 21st century Americans.

But first I had to read “Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin. It was on my wish list to read, and Floyd’s death brought it to the forefront.

It sounded like it was written in the summer of 2020, although it came out in 1963. The book opens with a letter to his nephew James, and Baldwin speaks openly about the racism the boy will face, telling him that his grandfather (Baldwin’s father) “was defeated long before his death because … he really believed that about it was said by whites. ” He tells his nephew that he needs neither to be like white people nor to be accepted by them, but that he “should accept (white people) and accept them with love” because they are, in fact, still trapped a story they don’t understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be freed from it. ”

To get to a passionate America, we need to listen and learn.

A good start in understanding racial injustice is Brian Stevenson’s “Just Mercy”. As a young lawyer, Stevenson has launched an equal justice initiative to protect those who have been wrongly convicted and those who have fallen into the trap of our criminal justice system. Jeffrey Tubin quotes Stevenson in an article from August 15, 2016: “Lynching was racial terrorism,” he said. “Sometimes colored old people come up to me and say,‘ Sir. Stevenson, I am so angry when I hear someone on TV talking about how they deal with domestic terrorism for the first time in the history of our country after 9/11. You have to make them stop saying that, because it’s not true. ” ”

In Kise Laymon’s “Difficult: American Memoirs,” he and his friends talk about the “black wealth” that they believe will save them in this white world. But according to Laymon’s experience, the white world does not recognize their perfection. For example, if he answers correctly, a high school teacher strokes his head. The teacher does not pat the white students on the head. Later, in college, he was accused of plagiarism for using a big word!

Isabel Wilkerson in “Caste: The Origins of Our Dissatisfaction” tells the story of a girl born in 1971, whom her father named Miss, her legal name so that white people would be forced to treat her with respect. . He hated the way young white neighbors addressed his esteemed mother and grandmother by name, never calling them Mrs. or Miss. When his daughter, Miss, was in high school in Texas in the 1980s, the principal asked her name, I didn’t believe it, but said it reluctantly. He told her he knew she wasn’t from Texas because she looked him in the eye when he spoke. “Colored people from here know better than they do.”

A collection of reflections on race edited by Jasmine Ward “Fire this time” includes an essay “Black and Blue” by Jamaican writer Garnet Kadagan. Kadagan has always traveled throughout Jamaica – a dangerous place to navigate – so when he moved to New Orleans in 1996 and was warned not to walk in dangerous areas, he did not understand how dangerous America could be for him. “No one told me I was a threat,” Kadagan said.

As a white American, I can walk, talk, shop and ride without harassment. I never had to hear “The Talk” from my parents because I didn’t have to worry about a lack of respect that would lead me to jail. My white skin gives me a pass.

I will allow Baldwin to say one last word: “What white people do not know about Negroes accurately and relentlessly reveals what they do not know about themselves.”

Diana Abreu is a page designer at LNP | LancasterOnline. “Without a Script” is a weekly entertainment column prepared by a group of writers.

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