Black lives matter

Race theory reading lists and a few poems

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I wanted to add to the conversation, so here are ten reading recommendations that specifically helped me research the history of colonialism and race theory while I was at Uni. I hope it’s useful- I’ve held back on including fiction (although please message me if you would like a few recommendations there too!)

To clarify, although hopefully this goes without saying, this is not a vague and generalised reading list of ‘world literature’ writers. These are just a few voices who take race, migration and post-colonialism as their subject. Race and otherness is not the only thing a BAME/ethnic minority writer should have to write about in order to be successful, although unfortunately this definitely still isn’t recognised within Western literary spheres (apparently it’s not condemning enough that foreign writers usually have to write in English in order to be internationally recognised, they also usually have to write about their oppression too). That all said, reading these voices helped educate me on the scale of what we’re up against, and we have to start somewhere. (‘Dialogue Books’ are also a great example of an independent publishers who have no political agenda besides giving a voice to emerging BAME voices, whatever the subject matter, and I really recommend checking them out!)

There have been petitions to put ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race’ and ‘The Good Immigrant’ on the UK GCSE syllabus, and I’ve included a link below. These are straight-talking and honest accounts of racism in the UK that I wish had been around when I was a teenager- I remember trying to read ‘Heart of Darkness’ for my EPQ in year 12 with absolutely no idea of the historical context behind imperialism, or how to even begin approaching that section of history. Secondary school syllabus’ are a great start to eliminating the systemic silences, absences and evasions within how history is taught in the UK. It needs to be common knowledge that a renowned figure like Charles Darwin, alongside developing the theory of evolution that no one could dispute today, was also writing crap like ‘at some future period, not very distant as measured in centuries, the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races’ (The Descent of Man). We also need to know that the European slave trade forcibly moved fifteen million black men, women and children between continents and killed perhaps as many, while the same guy who was writing ‘The Jungle Book’ was also bringing us ‘The White Man’s Burden’. And right now we need to know that the UK Windrush Scandal of 2012-2017 affected an estimated 50,000 UK residents with 850 people mistakenly detained. The list goes on and on.

Seeing conversation beginning to open up is such a fantastic thing, and I live in hope that we can begin to dispel the culture of not asking questions for fear of saying something that might be racist or wrong. We will make mistakes, but that is always better than silence and the inevitable misunderstanding and ignorance that comes with it. It’s important to remember that we are all prejudiced, because that’s how the human brain works- we make judgements based on our own unique individual experience. It’s how we question that prejudice, viewing it precisely as that product of our limited experience, that we effect a change in attitude.

Black lives matter, I understand that I will never understand, however, I stand.

I urge each one of us to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices

― Audre Lorde

Every empire tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate .

― Edward Said

When we speak of confronting Empire, we need to identify what Empire means. Does it mean the US government (and its European satellites), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and multinational corporations? Or is it something more than that?

― Arundhati Roy

We know the force of gravity, but not its origins; and to explain why we become attached to our birthplaces we pretend that we are trees and speak of roots. Look under your feet. You will not find gnarled growths sprouting through the soles. Roots, I sometimes think, are a conservative myth, designed to keep us in our places.

― Salman Rushdie

The signs of hate surface by evoking a sense of threat and risk, but one that cannot be simply located or found. It is the failure of hate to be located in a given object or figure, which allows it to generate the effects that it does.

The figure of the alien reminds us that what ‘is beyond the limit’ is subject to representation: indeed, what is beyond representation is also, at the same time, over-represented […] to what extent does the familiarity of the alien form involve the designation of ‘the beyond’ as that which is already contained within?

― Sara Ahmed

https://www.change.org/p/department-of-education-battle-racism-by-updating-reading-lists-at-gcse?recruiter=29165284&recruited_by_id=a7adc560-e47e-012f-12b4-4040496dcccb

Breathe

I'd like to get to a place where the decibels aren't mattering,

And all the day time chattering his how are yous splinter till

We can all breathe. 

Time and Space

Not focusing on yesterdays,

Not focusing on tomorrows,

I learnt that time is borrowed.

But space is for keeping,

For hoarding and for stealing, 

Then time steps in again,

And there's supposed to be healing. 

Questions

You can't say that. 

Why can't I say that? 

The conversation closed and silence fell,

A pearl trapped in a dumdumshell. 

Welcome

I'd love to know why I'm not welcome here.

You take me in little doses at the corner of your eye,

You send me away.

But I feel your fear,

When you tell me I'm not welcome here.

I will hold on fast to innocence.

When it tells me to burn borders that were

Built to stratify us,

Call me naive if you like.

But I only feel your fear,

When you tell me I'm not welcome here.


 

Equals

I'm not equal to you.

I'm not the same as you.

I don't mean you're better. 

 

I think you're more peculiar 

Than I am, of course I do. 

You're not me. 

 

I don't want to be equal to you,

Aren't we so much more particular

Than that? 

 

I don't really know where power came into it,

Except that it did. 

And now asking you how you're different fills me with dread. 

 

The conversation won't end. 

I'll still try to understand you.

You can try to understand me. 

 

But in amongst all this history,

It won't be easy.