York Public Library takes pride in its position as an apolitical institution with materials available representing all ideologies and political platforms.
Racism, however, is not tied to one party or another; it’s not a Republican or Democratic issue. Racism is a moral, ethical, and cultural failure deeply rooted in American society which can only be defeated with awareness and action. Believing racism is wrong is easy, but seeing it and taking action is harder, especially when many people are genuinely unaware of just how prevalent racism is today, even in our own small community.
Perhaps they have never experienced racism, nor been adequately educated, but ignorance cannot be an excuse. We must educate ourselves because without a deeper understanding of the issue, nothing will change. And change it must. February is Black History month so it is the perfect opportunity to dive right in.
Each of us must take the time to learn the true history of slavery and its ongoing reverberations. We must make ourselves aware of existing societal norms and the laws enacted, both in the past and in present day, to keep African Americans and other minority groups disenfranchised: voting laws, gerrymandering, housing discrimination, criminal injustice… the list goes on and on.
I personally recommend “Waking Up White” by Debbie Irving which brought white privilege into clearer focus for me. But don’t stop there. Go deeper and learn more about Black History in America. We all know about Martin Luther King, Jr., Ruby Bridges and Rosa Parks, but there is so much more. Did you know one in every four cowboys was black? You would never know that by watching or reading any westerns. Who was Bessie Coleman or Dorie Miller, W.E.B. DuBois, Matthew Henson or Ralph Bunche? They were pioneers, heroes, activists, authors, explorers, and a Nobel Prize winner. Have you heard about the amazing and influential Harlem Renaissance and how much it enriched American literature, art, music and even politics? That’s just the beginning, there is so much more information available online or from the library.
We have many resources to help you discover the rich history of African Americans and African American culture. Go to yorkpubliclibrary.org to find the Read Woke Reading Challenge for book lists by African American authors. Here are some recommendations: “How to Be Less Stupid About Race” by Crystal Marie Fleming; “How to Be An Anti-Racist” by Ibram X. Kendi; “Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family” by Condoleeza Rice; “The Yellow House” by Sarah M. Broom; “Becoming” by Michelle Obama.
York Public Library is committed to being a safe and welcoming resource for all people and to provide a spotlight for all voices, especially those of the underrepresented or disenfranchised.
Jeanine Means is a library assistant at the York Public Library.
This column originally appeared on Seacoast Online.