More readers are reading about race, especially children

By John W. Coleman

More and more people—especially White people—are reading about race and racism. Some popular books—like Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist—are sold out and being back-ordered. More books on the topic are being published and purchased, along with more television programs, newscasts, podcasts and social media offerings.

Is it part of a movement, a zeitgeist, a new awakening or a racial enlightenment era that might lead to a revolution in how White, Black and other peoples of color regard and treat one another?

While the future of this nascent movement remains to be seen, much of it will rely on what impressionable children of all races are taught—and in turn, teach us—about race, prejudice, and racial justice. Thankfully, a growing number of authors and influencers are providing books and other resources that can help train children and youth “in the way that they should go” so that hopefully, “they will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

“Bringing children into calm, educated discussions can help a younger generation confront the reality of racism and be part of the solution in ending racial injustice,” writes Crystal Caviness, of UM Communications, in a recent article, “Books about racism for kids.” She shares resources recommended by the denomination’s General Commission on Race and Religion.

The May 25 killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, Minn., and the protests it ignited nationally and worldwide have awakened many people’s desire to end racism. That increased interest catapulted Dr. Jennifer Harvey’s debut paperback book Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America to No. 9 on the New York Times bestseller list. Harvey’s book was published by Abingdon Press of the United Methodist Publishing House.

The much-interviewed writer, speaker and professor at Drake University focuses on racial justice and white anti-racism in her work. Read press release.

“The murder of George Floyd is a vivid example of entrenched white privilege and anti-black bias in the United States,” said the Rev. Brian Milford, UM Publishing House president and publisher. “All Christians are called to resist evil and injustice. Reshaping views on race requires holy boldness. Raising all kids to embrace love with justice demands that we raise white kids differently. Jennifer Harvey shows us how.”

“I’m an African-American pastor serving a predominately white church,” said the Rev. Justin Coleman, pastor of  University UMC in Chapel Hill, N.C. “When congregants at my church ask for a resource to help with conversations around race with their children, Jennifer Harvey’s Raising White Kids is #1 on my list.”  (She) helps adults to name difficult realities around race in a way that is gritty, age-appropriate, and restorative. I wish every white parent or guardian could have this book in their hands.”

The Rev. Dai Morgan, Coordinator of UM Advocacy in Pennsylvania, told us about Tura Foster Gillespie, a soon-to-be Deacon in the Northern Illinois Annual Conference, who collects and shares information about “children’s books that feature main characters who are brown, black and non-mainstream.”  On her website, http://TeachingCulturalCompassion.org, one can find awareness-raising titles to help children “see the humanity of all of their neighbors–and so eventually we have adults who see all people that way, too.”

Gillespie admits she is not a psychologist or parenting expert. But she seeks recommendations from experts and “community leaders of color.” Harvey’s Raising White Kids is one, along with EmbraceRace, which offers helpful webinars and conversation among parents of children of color.

“If the police officers involved in the latest killing of an African-American man would have seen him as truly human,” she writes, “the kind of force they used would not have been excusable in their minds. Humans just don’t treat other humans that way.”