Being an ally to BLM through the arts, Part I

Aug. 21, 2020, 8:05 p.m.

In the wake of the horrific killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained national support and protests have taken place across the country in unprecedented sizes. These calls for structural change and racial equality have all come amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has disproportionately affected the Black community. As two Asian American high school students, we want to help our community better understand the Black Lives Matter movement, and how to be allies to it. This article is the first part in a series about books and articles, TV shows and movies and music related to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Reads: To be an ally to the Black community, people need to listen and understand lived experiences. Below are a number of books, ranging from autobiographies to poetry, that tackle various topics such as the aftermath of police brutality and how to detect different forms of racism. Research and discussions with friends informed the recommendations on this list.

Being an ally to BLM through the arts, Part I
(Photo: Penguin Random House)

“How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi, The New York Times bestseller, undermines the uprooting of structural racism and inequities in our society that we embody in ourselves. Kendi employs history, science, definitions and ethics to discuss this systemic injustice. By telling his own life story, Kendi proposes the thesis that being not racist is not enough and that everyone should strive to be anti-racist: “Being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.” He guides the reader on a path from being racist to anti-racist, and breaks down racism by overturning its component policies, thus rebuilding a more equitable society. Every chapter is named after and focused on different elements of racism, and within each chapter, Kendi prompts the reader to think about their own actions and what a future, anti-racist society could potentially look like. The author points out that “Racial inequity is a problem of bad policy, not bad people” and that “Denial is the heartbeat of racism.” 

Being an ally to BLM through the arts, Part I
(Photo: Sounds True)

“Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out” by Ruth King combats the darkness of racism through meditation practices; this novel shows how our world can evolve. As King says, “Racism is a heart disease” and “it’s curable.” This powerful saying is persistent throughout the novel to show that racism can be subverted. King draws from her experience as a meditation instructor and provides the language and mindset needed to have difficult conversations about race from a compassionate and empathetic place within ourselves. She inspires readers to have a critical self-reflection and awareness journey.

Being an ally to BLM through the arts, Part I
(Photo: St. Martin’s Press)

“When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” by Asha Bandele and Patrisse Cullors addresses the systemic racism that has caused African American deaths. Bandele and Cullors share their experience as founders of Black Lives Matter and address how some cultures believe that innocent Black lives are expendable. This is a novel that will provide insight on others’ lives and the trauma that they have to go through to find their rights. 

Being an ally to BLM through the arts, Part I
(Photo: Penguin Random House)

“Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning” by Cathy Park Hong is a memoir that addresses the experiences of Asian Americans and them finding their identities, and also shows differences between stereotypes and ethnic minority issues. Bustle states that “this memoir-in-essays is a must-read at a time of rising racist violence and distrust.” It has a good mix of political, personal and social perspectives in it that shows the brutality of casual racism. This is a great conversation-starter book to get your hands on. 

Being an ally to BLM through the arts, Part I
(Photo: Graywolf Press)

“Citizen” by Claudia Rankine tells a story of what happens when a citizen realizes the reality of societal ills. Instead of facing these realities and trying to remedy them for the sake of a better world, minority groups bear the burden of these issues. It is a frightening, epic, large truth that we have to bear. Using social commentary, poetry, eye-capturing pictures, prose and slogans, this piece of writing powerfully breaks down the American racism that has been occurring for centuries. Salon calls it “Moving, stunning, and formally innovative­ — in short, a masterwork.”

Looking for something shorter? Give these articles a try!

1. ‘Model Minority’ Myth Again Used As A Racial Wedge Between Asians And Blacks by Kat Chow incorporates the work of researchers that have been analyzing how and why Asian Americans and Black people are commonly stereotyped differently in society. It dives into the history of how the lives of Asians Americans were changed by American values. 

2. Tou Thao and the Myths of Asian American Solidarity by “Time To Say Goodbye” raises questions about what it means to be Asian Americans, as it seems that Asian Americans are only being oppressed as “Third World” people. The message of the article is to tell Asian Americans to reflect on what it means to come together in solidarity to speak up for justice, while questioning the role that Asian Americans play in the nation as they do not benefit from white supremacy.  

Though there are many ways you can support the movement, there is no one right way. This is not an exhaustive list, and you do not need to do everything. These artworks resonated with us, but there are definitely more ways to be educated. 

Feel free to also check out an additional article from The Stanford Daily’s Vol. 257 Editorial Board where they focus on more reads, contacts to reach out to, classes to take, petitions to sign and places to donate. 

Contact Leanna Sun at leannaxsel ‘at’ and Karen Mai at kmai4 ‘at’ 

Karen Mai is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily's Summer Journalism Workshop.Leanna Sun is a high schooler writing as part of The Daily’s Summer Journalism Workshop.

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