This book has much to recommend it. With (very short) chapters entitled "No, But Where are You FROM?"; "If You Would Just Stop Talking About Race, Rac...moreThis book has much to recommend it. With (very short) chapters entitled "No, But Where are You FROM?"; "If You Would Just Stop Talking About Race, Racism Would Go Away"; "I Don't Mean to Be Racist, BUT"; "He's a Different Kind of Black"; "It's Not Easy Being White"; and "If They Can Say It, Why Can't I?" among others, Reyes-Chow addresses common misconceptions with straightforward honesty but also gentle compassion. This would be a great book to spark discussions among friends; the author is influenced by his Christian background and work and is looking for healing and reconciliation around the issue of racism. The book is really a practical guide to communicating about racism with those who are without malice but misinformed.
But...a caveat. In a section called "Intent; Language," Reyes-Chow states,
"In very general terms, I see racism as that which justifies and reinforces the use of prejudice or privilege in order to maintain power, influence, or control over another group or individuals. And no, I do not believe racist behavior is confined to any one particular group."
There's the rub. Because the author is grounding his discussion of racism in the present day and specifically in the United States, it appears he isn't considering how racism came to be in the first place, especially when defining his use of the words "race" and "racism." He's defining race and racism in terms of prejudice based in ethnicity and culture as well as skin color, but that definition muddies the waters by conflating the issue in a way that makes further understanding more difficult instead of less.
Racism has always been about a hierarchical structure that favors light skin over dark skin. Black skin was seen as a marker, by those with light colored skin, of a less evolved, less civilized, less HUMAN being. Racism is grounded in skin color, not in ethnicity and culture. Often those things go hand-in-hand, but not always. Reyes-Chow describes his own cognitive dissonance when confronted with a young man whose phenotype was clearly Korean but who identified as a white Southerner. In racism, phenotype trumps all. Racism is about devaluing dark skin. Albert Einstein understood this concept when he said, "Racism is a disease of white people."
There is a chapter in Reyes-Chow's book called, "Minorities Can't Be Racist," and in it, like in every chapter, the author sets out to debunk what he sees as a misconception. For evidence, he states:
"As an Asian-American, I know that White folks do not hold the corner on racism toward African Americans. A family member once told me, when we were discussing interracial dating, that there was a Chinese saying, 'The closer to gold, the closer to heaven,' which means that the lighter the skin, the better. I don't know if that's a real Chinese saying, but it can be a real part of Chinese culture in the United States and reflect real views toward dark-skinned people..."
So close! He almost sees that it's about skin color, but then,
"As more and more races interact with greater frequency, deeply held negative beliefs about others based on race [culture and ethnicity] will undoubtedly begin to emerge in new ways in systems and institutions. We must examine the racism that manifests itself in instances of society-wide discrimination as well as the racism that may play into our day-to-day interactions. We must be open to the idea that, now, racism is not solely White people's problem." [insert mine]
The definition of racism hasn't changed, despite the author's claim that "things are very different than they were even a generation ago, both in how people have experienced racism as well as how folks talk about it." Racism is about judging skin color and finding darker skin to be lacking, relative to lighter skin. Always has been. Wars between ethnic groups are not racism, they're tribal conflicts. Racism is a white construct to serve the economic and social purposes of white people. People of color are perhaps influenced by racism, and may buy into the idea that "white is right." But being influenced by racism is not the same as being racist. Racism is seeing white as the best, and seeing anything darker as lesser. It's undoubtedly a disease of white people. (less)
This is a godawfully depressing book. < That was about the first half. The second half made the first half look tame by comparison. But I liked it;...moreThis is a godawfully depressing book. < That was about the first half. The second half made the first half look tame by comparison. But I liked it; it was very clever. I especially liked the description of the unraveling of a relationship as described in the first half; it seemed very insightful and true. The second half was a little less introspective and a lot more twisted. All in all, I enjoyed the story and felt the ending did what it had to do.(less)
As is typical when I take personality tests, from Myer's-Briggs, to Keirsey Types, to the Color Code, taking this test showed me that I don't fit very...moreAs is typical when I take personality tests, from Myer's-Briggs, to Keirsey Types, to the Color Code, taking this test showed me that I don't fit very well into any category. I end up knowing exactly what I'm not (Builder) but I scored equally in the other three categories. And in reading the book, I see how that's true. I think my primary type is Negotiator, but with a lot of Explorer and a lot of Director. And there are definitely parts of each of those three that I'm most clearly not.
The book was interesting and got more interesting as I read through. My frustration at the beginning dissipated quite a bit by the end.(less)