Confronting Racism Part II: Listening


“In light of recent events, a lot of people are now feeling a very visceral
response in how they show up in this world, and how they see it from our lens,” says
Ramunda Lark Young, co-founder of Washington-based MahoganyBooks, an independent bookstore specializing in books written for, by or about people from the African diaspora.

Have you had a visceral response as you watch the recent events she refers to? If you are one of those to whom she refers, this post is directed to you. I’m glad you are here.

We began this series last week with a look at ourselves, where our beliefs and values about skin color began, when we began to identify as a person with a particular color skin, if we ever did. I hope I gave you a chance to chew a bit on a topic you may not have given much thought to.

This week we turn to learning; it’s time to listen. And there is a wealth of opportunity available to us.

How do you usually educate yourself around a topic of interest? Where do you begin? For me this often involves taking workshops, going to classes, having conversations – i.e., listening, as Michelle Obama suggested in her quote from last week.

It starts with self-examination and listening to those whose lives are different from our own. It ends with justice, compassion,
and empathy that manifests in our lives and on our streets.
I pray we all have the strength for that journey

Listening comes in many forms. Today I’m going to suggest a number of sources for you. Where will you begin? And, if you have sources that have been of particular help to you, I hope you’ll add them in the comments below.

Do you like to read?

Many sources began with this list of 61 books on “anti-racism” from Ibram Kendi. You can access it here.

Elle magazine offer another “anti-racist” reading list, this one with

Here are 40 books on race and racism from the faculty of Rutgers-Newark.

Blair Carpenter listed 35 Must Read Books about Racism, May 22, 2020 on her website.

And finally, here are 13 Books on Anti-Racism from Suyin Haynes at

If you don’t want titles, here’s a list of authors to pay attention to:

James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Albert Murray, Frederick Douglass, Michelle Alexander, Zora Neale Hurston, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Mark Twain, Jean Toomer, Alice Walker, Claudia Rankine, Ralph Ellison, Tiphanie Yanique, August Wilson, Jesmyn Ward, Angela Flournoy, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Colson Whitehead, Morgan Parker

I’m finding it hard to read these days; there is much preying on my mind. So, the TV screen is my go-to for information. Here are some great places to begin.

If your TV screen is what calls you

Parade’s Brea Baker offers a worthwhile list of TV shows, films, documentaries, and TEDx talks focused on anti-racism: The Anti-Racism Starter Pack. Now, how’s that for a title?

Of the fifteen links included in her list, I’m finding Ava DuVernay’s documentary of institutional racism, particularly the criminal justice system, 13th, compelling. Offered on Netflix, It’s been called the documentary version of Michelle Alexander’s  The New Jim Crow. 

And not included in Baker’s list is a TEDx talk: Brene Brown talking with Ibram Kendi on “How to Be an Antiracist.”

Next week I’ll be back with Part III in our Confronting Racism series. I hope you’ll join me.


Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world.
All things break. And all things can be mended.
Not with time, as they say, but with intention.
So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally.
The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.
L.R. Knost

What’s your intention these days? To whom are you listening? Who is teaching you? 

17 Responses

  1. Allene Hogan
    | Reply

    Thank you. Wanted to read some and didn’t know where to start.

  2. Ally Bean
    | Reply

    Great resources. I like to read novels written by people who’ve lived lives far different than mine, so your list of authors is a good starting spot for me. Also I didn’t know about the TEDx talk starter pack. There’s always a way to learn if you are of a mind to do so.
    Ally Bean recently posted…A Funny Bumper Sticker That Lends Itself To Discussion, Research, And A Poll QuestionMy Profile

  3. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — Thank you for the wealth of resources in this post.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      One can get easily overwhelmed by all the resources out there. But good to see the ones that show up on all the lists. That’s telling. Thanks for stopping by, Laurie.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Confronting Racism Part II: ListeningMy Profile

  4. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Good stuff, Janet, as usual. Like you, I’ve really struggled to quiet my mind enough lately to get through the several books open on my nightstand. I do love documentaries, though, so I appreciate the recommendations on that front. ‘Will check out!

  5. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    Sigh, there is so much I could say—I grew up between Cocoa Beach, Merritt Island and Cocoa, Florida—born 1951–the stories I could tell. Thanks for putting the info out on all the different books.

  6. susan scott
    | Reply

    Thanks for your research here Janet. Some wonderful pointers. I’ll definitely follow up on some of them. I was unaware until fairly recently of what the Jim Crow regulations were and ‘redlining’ …
    susan scott recently posted…Solstice, synchronicity, stars, sunrise, sevenMy Profile

  7. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Thanks , Janet, for your extensive research and many valuable resources to help us make sense of all the chaos swirling around us these days. It can become so overwhelming that I’ve resorted to rationing my TV news time.
    Kathleen Pooler recently posted…Honoring My Father’s Memory: A Memoir MomentMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      It can be hard, Kathy, and I commend you for limiting your TV news; I too did that some years ago. I find print media is less apt to run with a story before it’s fully vetted. And I get more background with news magazines, the “long stories.” We are deluged these days with written material other than newspapers: books, magazine articles, blog posts seem to multiply overnight. Where to start. I’ve actually found that hearing what others have found useful (when they share to Facebook, for example) to be helpful. Most of the lists I shared here were found that way, I just checked them out. Information is there; we can learn to look at this from a different POV. A challenging gift at times, heh?

      I appreciate you stopping by.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Confronting Racism Part II: ListeningMy Profile

  8. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    I do not think it will ever change in my lifetime. Unfortunately the genie has been let out of the bottle and all those with hate kept covered up in their heart have now released it and while it may pull back some with a few decent Presidents there are to many parents passing hate to their children.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Certainly those with hate feel freer to express themselves; perhaps that’ll just burn out. Hard to tell. I am really embracing this opportunity to talk about this particular elephant in the living room that most folks have been dancing around for so long. And, being the lemonade lover I am, I’m thinking an upside of CoViD is that it’s given people more opportunity watch those videos and more time to think about what they mean, what’s been going on for so very long. I don’t really know; only that I’m glad racism is no longer a taboo topic, or one considered only applying to lynch mobs and overt bigots. Thanks for adding your voice here. I hope you’ll check out THIS WEEK’s post (Part III). The link got screwed up again in the mailchimp notification.
      Janet Givens recently posted…Confronting Racism Part III: Don’t Spread ItMy Profile

      • Susan Jackson
        | Reply

        Have you always lived in the North? I lived on the upper peninsula of Michigan for a few years but other than that I have lived in the south and overseas. It was very different in the south than the north—maybe it is the heat or the KKK down here. My husband lived in Europe for many years and he has seen a change over there from acceptance to open racism the last few years.

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