This is a helpful book for anyone wanting to grow in their understanding of race and racism in America. In the book Dr. Tatum defines racism as a “system of advantage based on race”. She differentiates between racism and bigotry by emphasizing the systemic nature of racism. She then calls on people to be those who resist the systemic current of racism. She challenges us to be people who fight against the cultural powers that oppress people of color.
She writes out of a wealth of personal experience. As a “light-skinned black women,” she shares personally and vulnerably about what her childhood was like as she explored her own racial identity. She also shares a wealth of information from the many classes on racism she has taught at the college level. She shares about the struggles students of color and white students experience as they come face-to-face with the ugly realities of racism.
Her primary focus is on the experience of Blacks in America, but she also touches on the experience of other races in America. In one chapter she highlights some of the experiences of these different groups in America. She details unjust laws targeted at American Indians. She recounts stories of interracial marriage bans. And she talks about the immigration experience of Asian Americans. She also delves into the topic of multi-racial children and the struggles they may face as they grow up in a culture that desire to racially categorize everyone.
I enjoyed this book, and it helped me think about race in new ways. It served as a helpful reminder of the position of privilege white people experience in America. It also stimulated my thinking on how a Christian community is called to fight against the powers and principalities of this world, of which racism is certainly one. It also challenged me to talk more openly with my kids about race–both because it’s a primary way to de-tabooize it, and because as children of a mixed race marriage, I want to help them develop a healthy self-image in categories of race.
I encourage anyone wanting to think more deeply about their own race or the reality of systemic racism to read this book. It’s a thoughtful book that has the potential to generate a lot of good conversation.