As a W. Kamau Bell fangirl, I couldn’t wait to pre-order my copy of the new workbook he’s written with Kate Schatz, Do the Work!: An Antiracist Activity Book. A few days later, I heard Heather McGhee interviewed about her new podcast, The Sum of Us. I found both to be useful, as well as inspiring, enlightening, and entertaining, for anyone interested in anti-racist work and wanted to share them with you.
Do the Work!: An Antiracist Activity Book
It’s hard, doing the work.
And the new book, Do the Work!, by W. Kamau Bell and Kate Schatz is full of hard stuff. It’s aimed at white people who want to be anti-racist.
But it’s also fun! It’s actually a workbook, so grab a pencil!
Bell is known as a stand-up comedian and host of CNN’s United Shades of America in an episode in which he, a Black man, went to Kentucky to meet with the KKK. Schatz, a former teacher, is best known for the feminist books she writes for young people. She is also the co-founder of Solidarity Sundays, a political activist, and a public speaker. And she’s pretty funny, too.
Being anti-racist can be exhausting and, as Bell puts it, it’s almost as exhausting as “actually living with racism.”
The good news is that learning to be anti-racist can also be entertaining. Schatz and Bell approach the subject with a lot of levity and wit. I laughed throughout the exercise that asks us to look at our white privilege – an emotional couple of pages that make you realize that it’s okay to admit that you benefit from a variety of privileges, including many that aren’t race-based.
But it’s the race-based ones we’re taking action on with this book. Whether you’re new to the movement or a seasoned veteran of many decades, this book allows you to learn and practice anti-racism at your own pace. There are games, quizzes, educational vignettes, and even paper dolls to help you have fun. There’s also a page that features the anti-harassment work of our friends at Hollaback!, which has recently changed its name to Right to Be.
I highly recommend this book for anyone doing the work or one who aspires to do the work but doesn’t know how to start. Do the Work! is worth your time. Support a local Black-owned bookshop by buying Do the Work! in-person or online at Marcus Books or The Collective Oakland.
Check out the SURJ Instagram event with the authors on Tuesday, August 23rd at 1pm Pacific @showingupforracialjustice.
The Sum of Us podcast
Doing the work for many years in a very public way is Heather McGhee, whose new podcast, The Sum of Us, is a companion piece to her book of the same name that examines what racism costs everyone.
An expert on the American economy and how it often fails the American people, McGhee is also a social policy advocate who has drafted legislation, testified before Congress, and contributed regularly to news shows, including NBC’s Meet the Press. She now chairs the board of Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization.
This uplifting podcast manifests as a series of stories in communities across the nation, highlighting cross-cultural efforts to right wrongs in the spirit of hope and solidarity. In town after town, McGhee finds white people joining the anti-racist movement because they’ve acknowledged injustices founded on racism that negatively affect everyone. In Memphis, white folks joined a Black-led movement to protect drinking water from a pipeline that threatened to poison residents. In Missouri, a Black man and a white woman forge a friendship and a labor movement when they realize that racism is their common enemy in the fight for a living wage. And in Florida, a chance encounter between a white conservative and a Black veteran, both carrying felony convictions, led to a joint effort to overturn Jim Crow era voting bans.
These are hard subjects, but McGhee shows us again and again that hope and solidarity are alive all across America. As she mentioned in a recent interview with SURJ’s Erin Heaney, racism is used in class warfare in the form of the “zero-sum” theory — the idea that there is a limited amount of freedom to go around, so if BIPOC folks claim their rights it’s at the expense of white folks. The zero-sum story in conservative circles is loud, she says, but the civil rights work we’re all doing is in search of a better world for everyone. The Sum of Us provides us several illustrations of exactly how that can happen. This podcast left me feeling uplifted and optimistic with the strength to keep fighting the good fight.
The Sum of Us is currently streaming on Spotify and is coming to iTunes shortly.
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