It is utterly baffling to me that in the year 2016, people still have to defend why Black Lives Matter is an incredibly urgent, important, and necessary movement. Then I remember that I operate in the world as a white person and have the privilege to feel just confused; black folks experience enough racism and/or microagressions on a daily basis and hear this movement devalued so regularly that it’s infuriating.
It is necessary that you and everyone you know attempt to understand the BLM movement and at the very least, support its intentions, because at the end of the day, it’s a very basic exercise in empathy. I have never been a black person and will never know what that’s like, but I can listen to black people when they talk, and I can read their stories. It’s no surprise that scientists have proven and discussed a lot lately about how people who read literary fiction are more empathetic people. This is not surprising–people who read beyond popular fiction (that is disproportionately about white people’s problems) will figuratively experience the lives of people different from them. It is white folks’ imperative responsibility to read harder, go beyond what’s comfortable, and figure out why their “oversensitive hippie liberal friends” post incessantly or bring up conversations frequently about the horrors and violence experienced by people of color on a daily basis.
Most people I know are liberal. A lot of them are white. Many of them also don’t read a lot of literary fiction – they read articles online and listen to the news, and this is sufficient for them to support BLM. But I would argue it’s important for them to work hard to find and read more stories from and about black folks too. Publishing is racist. Literary awards like the Pulitzer are disproportionately awarded to people who are white and male. And top 10 best-sellers very rarely include people of color. This means one must pay attention to read stories that are about something different from their own lived experience.
People at Book Riot talk about how their reading choices are their acts of social justice. By willingly choosing to read stories from people who are marginalized, oppressed, scorned, and discriminated against, one is choosing to take one small step closer to understanding that struggle. There is no shortage of lists to help you out. I’ve made intentional goals myself to make sure I am more inclusive with my choices. Start small if you feel overwhelmed–maybe you read 2-3 books by someone who is not white by the end of 2016. Reading more diversely is something everyone can do, especially when thinking about how urgent movements like BLM are. So go do it.
- A Black Lives Matter Reading List from Book Riot
- Black Lives Matter Syllabus
- Librarian Creates #BlackLivesMatter Booklist for Teens