Necessary Conversations on Institutional Racism

In an October 4, 2013 “Scientific American” article by Julianne Chiaet, she writes that “reading literary fiction improves empathy.” It is evident, now more than ever, that we need empathy. As we grapple with racial inequities and racial conflict in our community and our country, we need to have difficult discussions with elected officials, with community members, with our neighbors, with our friends, and with our families. However, many of us do not know how to begin these conversations. We do not know or understand what institutional racism is; and we do not know the historical context of the protests that are happening in our communities today. So often it is easier for many of us not to discuss race and the history of Black Americans, but this silence impedes healing and progress.

On the one hundredth anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, James Baldwin in “Letter to My Nephew” from 1962 wrote “You know and I know, that the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon.” Sadly, Baldwin’s words continue to be true today. This blog is not about politics. It is about humanity and starting necessary dialogs. It is about disseminating information, which is what libraries do. Most importantly, it is about educating readers on what others are feeling and beginning the conversations to heal and right wrongs.

As our country grieves yet another senseless fatal arrest of a Black American, George Floyd, I offer this list of fiction and nonfiction books that can provide insights into Black history, institutional racism, systemic racial inequality, and how we might talk to each other.

List created by laurendouglass






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