Thanks to Liz Dexter at Adventures in Reading… for bringing this book to my attention.
My interest came from Liz’s review. I had just read Austin Channing Brown’s I’m Still Here, so I thought it would be interesting to read the same issues from a British perspective. And, I was right–it was.
In the interest of fairness, I will say that I willfully skipped two of the essays as both had the potential to give me heart attack #2. I am committed to ending racism, but not to having a second heart attack. Yes, of course, one was the Markle-praise blather essay.
If you wondered where Prince Harry learned of the supposed institutionalized racism of the UK look no further. It and other Markle-ish phrases like thrive not just survive are all in here. Yes, the book is newer than that phrase, but these authors have all told their stories before. Some are very well known speakers, influences, and crusaders for the causes of racial justice and feminism. I’m all for those causes, by the way, I just don’t want to be preached at about them by a Prince who had to have secret help to get an A-level in art at one of the most privileged schools on earth and who quit an Army desk job out of boredom and lack of education or by a failed actress whose only claim, to fame is the marrying said prince. These women, however, are the real deal. The people doing the work. I willingly listened to them. They didn’t study Diana interviews and practice shedding fake tears to deliver these lines. They lived the experiences–and not at very exclusive Beverly Hills girls school, either. #Megxitnow
The essays that caught my eye and held my attention and really made me think included one that is likely the most controversial. Remember, I did NOT say, that I agreed with all, or any, of it! It made me think,
Siana Bagura’s “Who built it and with what wood?” A Black Feminist 10-point (-ish) Programme for Transformation
If you follow the news, much of her essay will be familiar from the more intelligent discussions of the Black Lives Matter protests. Much, but by no means all of what she advocates is very good and very sensible:
- Take up space, use your voices. This is 2020-speak for GET INVOLVED.
- Language Matters (see #5)
- End White Supremacy/White Fragility (very moving to write this a day after the champions of White Supremecy breached the U.S. Capitol). I’m not clear on what “White Fragility” truly means, but I have enough of a notion of it to understand where she is going.
- [Really 4 & 7]Capitalism is killing SOME of us and the Tools of Wellbeing Shouldn’t Be A Luxury. Capitalism– I don’t buy into this argument. Capitalism works. What doesn’t work is the hodge-podge of social programs in the US and in a few other countries to help raise the poor to a decent standard of living, to receive a fair/equal education, and to obtain equal health care–especially mental health care. Those programs fail spectacularly. Health care, housing, education–those should never be “luxuries.” I do not agree that they are a “right” in that governments should provide them though. But there should be a high enough minimum wage to make them possible.
- [Really 5 & 6]Decolonize Diversity and Black History is Global This one overlaps perfectly with Austin Channing Brown’s scathing (and totally deserved) take on the ethnicity of the month type of diversity programming or programming that praises Dr. Martin Luther King, jr., to the sky but doesn’t focus on what the wrongs were he was fighting to right or mention that most are still with us. This essay also goes into the need to stop using euphemisms that hide people. “Diversity” “inclusion,” “of color” are some of the words that render especially blacks invisible. There should be no need for Black History Month because history shouldn’t be segregated in the first place.
- Let’s Abolish the Police and Address the Prison-Industrial Complex I do not agree at all with abolishing the police. I do think it is time we train them to prevent, rather than punish, when possible. The UK and the USA have some of the worst prisons in the Industrialized “first” world. Punishment does NOT work. We make it impossible for people to change and re-enter society with a chance of making that change permanent. For-Profit Prison is an obscene idea and it has been shown that inmates from For-Profit Prisons have even less chance on the outside.
- A Black Feminist Analysis is Needed in the Conversation on Climate Justice. Sure, why not.
- Freedom & Dignity for all Black people. I disagree that the phrase Black Lives Matter means only so-called “CIS” black men.
The other essays I liked touched on the African Diaspora returning to the continent, a memoir of growing up trying to fit or not fit stereotypes, an engaging memory of a girl’s empowerment by her upbringing, and the power of women who get their finances together–that last being essential to women of any race or nationality or sexual identity.