1619, a year to go down in infamy like 1492. 400 years ago this month, a ship reached a coastal port in the British colony of Virginia, carrying more than twenty enslaved Africans. Stolen from their homes, these men and women were sold to the colonists in what would become known as the United States. The Atlantic Slave trade would feed this vicious cycle of reducing Africans to commodities through the brutal bondage of forced labor and sexual coercion, the repercussions of which we live with centuries later. How do we as a country reckon with and heal from this history? We asked some of our authors to reflect on this and share their remarks below.
By Lori L. Tharps | I’m coming at you live and in-person from the sunny south of Spain. It is absolutely gorgeous her—clear blue skies, radiant sun, palm trees, flowers flaunting every color from the deepest purple to the sharpest pinks. We’re currently staying with el esposo’s family and they live in a beautiful home that is within walking distance of the beach, plus they have a swimming pool in the backyard. So, yes, I’m living in paradise. But everything that glitters is not quite gold.
By Deborah L. Plummer | The recent vote of the House to condemn Trump’s tweets underscores the deep political and racial divide that exist in the United States. Many Americans find it appalling that there is even confusion and believe his tweets to be blatantly racist. Yet Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell stated that the President’s remarks were not racist, and most Republicans saw nothing wrong with his remarks. New polling even suggests that Republicans actually like Trump more, following these tweets.
It’s time to bring out the cake and blow out the candle! Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility has spent one full year on the New York Times Best Seller List! This has been an incredible year for DiAngelo, her book, and Beacon. White Fragility is only a year old and has been a bestseller since it went on sale!
A Q&A with Alexandra Minna Stern | I wrote Proud Boys and the White Ethnostate to bear historical witness to disturbing and reactionary political and cultural changes that were afoot in the United States in the mid-2010s. Specifically, I became interested in how and why eugenic ideas from the early 1900s, including race suicide—repackaged today as white genocide—were making a comeback and being disseminated by what came to be called the alt-right. Once I started writing the book, I became more and more interested in understanding the transnational dimensions of the rise of populist nationalism, and how this connects to the resurgence of white nationalism in the United States.
By Christian Coleman | Do you want to play a game? No, not the one in the Saw movie franchise. Let’s play the word association game. Come now. It’ll be fun! Peanut : Butter. Instagram : Celebrity. Identity politics : Divisive. Wait. Let’s back up. Divisive? That word has been coming up lately when presidential candidates make identity politics a talking point in public discourse. At an LGBT gala in Las Vegas, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay candidate, said identity politics have created a “crisis of belonging,” leading us to get “divided and carved up.” Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has criticized identity politics for focusing only on the endgame of diversity—another word with contentious associations and dubious meanings depending on who’s defining it—and neglecting the needs of working people.
A Q&A with Angela Saini | For me, this is a book that has been bubbling since I was a child. I became a journalist in the first place because I became involved in antiracism movements at university while studying Engineering. But the time for this book was now, with the rise of the far-right and ethnic nationalism around the world. I wanted to put the rise of intellectual racism in historical and scientific context.
I have come today to issue both a caution and a call. And it is that you must graduate today, but get up, get together and get involved tomorrow.There are some that want to promote the lie that all is OK. But as Chancellor Jonathan Bennett, or Chance the Rapper, says, “Sometimes the truth don’t rhyme. Sometimes the lies get millions of views.”And, in this moment, you have to question the Trumpalistic slogans we hear about bull markets and booming economies. Yes, that’s the message from the White House and from Wall Street. We do live in a time when some people who put their names in gold plating on new buildings like to talk big talk. They collude with lies and obstruct the truth and say everything is fine when it is not.
With the diploma in hand and the graduation cap thrown jubilantly into the air, the question remains: What’s the next step? Graduation heralds new beginnings and transition. But where and how to start? How should we prepare for the future when the world around us changes on a compulsory basis? In his book Don’t Knock the Hustle, S. Craig Watkins asks the same question and says we should plan to be future-ready. “What should schools be doing? Instead of preparing students to be college-ready or career-ready, schools must start producing students who are what I call ‘future-ready.’ The skills associated with future readiness are geared toward the long-term and oriented toward navigating a world marked by diversity, uncertainty, and complexity . . . a future-ready approach prepares students for the world we will build tomorrow.”
By Crystal M. Fleming | I’m going to let you in on a dirty secret. Back when news first broke of Prince Harry dating biracial actress Meghan Markle, I became quietly obsessed. I knew it made no sense whatsoever to get excited about a woman of African descent marrying into the decrepit, elitist, white supremacist British royal family. I mean, Harry was the same guy who once got caught wearing a Nazi costume at a Halloween party, for God’s sake. I knew all of these things. And yet, every headline about Meghan Markle made me beam with racially problematic happiness.
By Dina Gilio-Whitaker | For many years now I have been studying, writing, and thinking about what environmental justice means for Indigenous peoples. In my most recent book, As Long as Grass Grows: The Indigenous Fight for Environmental Justice From Colonization to Standing Rock, I take on the topic in very broad but specific ways. I see United States settler colonialism as a history of environmental injustice; in other words, colonization and environmental injustice go hand in hand for Native people.
By Shani Robinson and Anna Simonton | The concerted efforts by Atlanta’s political and business leaders to diminish the stability of black neighborhoods for their own gain undoubtedly had a lasting impact on the schools. Both the children who were uprooted and those who remained were increasingly deprived of the things a healthy community offers—accessible goods and services, economic opportunities, vibrant public spaces, and a supportive social fabric. Teachers and school employees were left to fill in the void, which would only expand in the years following urban renewal.
A Q&A with Sasha Pimentel | I learned early on that a poet doesn’t start a poem, nor a book, with an idea. Following ideas stunts a poet from following associations in repeating sounds (rhyme, anaphora, assonance, etc.), or repeating imagery, which is how language startles us into the territory of the unexpected. Which is often where a poem will most dare, or risk.
A Q&A with Dominique Christina | When I got into poetry, I was just trying to expel my own ghosts. No lofty notions about saving the world or addressing the ills therein. I just didn’t want to get off the planet with all of those skeletons hanging on my neck. I realized pretty quickly, though, that my personal traumas reflected my/our historical traumas, and in that regard, whatever medicine I am offering to myself, I am also hoping to speak into the dis-ease in such a way that there is balm enough for all of us.
By Jeanne Theoharis | At the urging of both E. D. Nixon and Virginia Durr, in the summer of 1955, Parks decided to attend a two-week workshop at the Highlander Folk School entitled “Racial Desegregation: Implementing the Supreme Court Decision.” The Durrs had worked with Nixon on various civil rights cases, and on Nixon’s recommendation, Parks had started sewing for the Durr family, one of Montgomery’s most liberal white families
Imani Perry is having a moment in the limelight, and we hope she’s relishing every minute of it. When she first came to our offices to talk about her biography on Lorraine Hansberry, Looking for Lorraine, we knew it was going to be special. Fast forward to this year’s PEN/America Awards, and we delighted in seeing just how special her book is. She won the PEN America/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for biography!
By Imani Perry | Lorraine was frustrated by some critical evaluations of the play, even as she understood them. She was particularly frustrated that Walter Lee’s “ends” were read without complication. They were deliberate and clearly shaped by Irish playwright Sean O’Casey, the WPA Negro in Illinois project’s publication Black Metropolis, and Thorstein Veblen’s Theory of the Leisure Class, which she considered an essential companion to the writings of Karl Marx. Walter Lee’s yearnings were a manifestation of Veblen’s theory of desire in a capitalist society, one that cut across class and caste. Her mastery of full characters, her sensitivity to speech and personality so that the characters never read as types, made the politics invisible to so many. But Lorraine intended to correct that.
There’s nothing like cooking a good meal to bring people together. What better way than with the recipes in the late Ntozake Shange’s If I Can Cook/You Know God Can? Shange’s eclectic tribute to Black cuisine and culture is one of the first two books in our new Celebrating Black Women Writers series. This season, we launched this series to reissue and repackage timeless titles “to share essential voices with a new generation of readers in a celebration of Blackness, Black womanhood, Black women, and all the contributions they bring to the page,” as our editorial assistant Maya Fernandez said. Several of us got together to prepare some of the meals for a potluck lunch at the office. And reader, let me tell you: It was delicious! Here are comments from some of our staff about their experiences with Shange’s recipes.
By Deborah L. Plummer | The critically acclaimed film and Best Picture Academy Award winner, Green Book, tells the story of a real-life tour of the Deep South in the 1960s by Jamaican-American classical pianist Don Shirley and New York bouncer Tony Lip, who served as Shirley's driver and security. Set in 1962, they use The Negro Motorist Green Book to guide them to establishments safe for Blacks as they travel through the Deep South. It is a feel-good movie that touts the power of friendship in closing the racial divide and leaves its viewers with the assumptions that these challenges do not persist today for establishing cross-racial friendships.
We’ve reached another milestone with Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, celebrating thirty-three weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List! It’s climbed as high as number two in the listing. And now, we’re excited to announce that we’re signing a second book with DiAngelo that will build on the conversation that started with White Fragility. The follow-up book will explore the need for white people to break with white solidarity in order to better support efforts toward racial equality. It is tentatively scheduled for release in late fall 2020 or spring 2021.