Reading For Good

One of my goals for 2017 is to read more nonfiction. For starters, I’m tackling that personal challenge by joining my public library’s brand new Social Justice Book Club.

The inaugural book is “The New Jim Crow” — the critically acclaimed bestseller addressing the mass incarnation of African Americans and racial injustice in the U.S.

I just began the first chapter. Amazon describes the book this way:

“Legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that ‘we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.’ By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness.”

And as I take it all in — I’m hit with the news of more minorities under attack. Even closer to home.

At least three times in three months in Cincinnati, hate has spewed from the tip of a spray-paint can.

I’m reminded vile thoughts bubble up in the ugliest of ways. Screamed. Written. Legislated. Even scribbled.

November 2016: An interracial couple’s home in Price Hill is ransacked. Swastikas and the words “white power” spray-painted across the walls and doors.

January 3, 2017: A swastika is spray-painted on a huge sign at the entrance to Hebrew Union College, a rabbinical school founded in 1875 as the first permanent Jewish institution of higher learning in North America.

January 22, 2017: The outside of Withrow High School is covered in Swastikas and racist graffiti including slurs against the African American and LGBTQ community, plus the word “Trump.” About 97-percent of the students at the school are nonwhite.

It’s frightening when swastikas and incendiary slurs rear their ugly faces. Once. Twice. Three times? Completely disturbing. It summons up an evil from humanity’s darkest days.

But there is light.

Cincinnati showed up. People donated to an online campaign to help the couple whose home was ransacked. Allies held vigil outside the university after its sign was cleaned up. And when students returned to the vandalized high school, cheering community members lined up outside to greet them and show their support.

Love seeped in.

I’m thankful for that. And I’m thankful for my recent turn to nonfiction. Grateful there are people writing boldly about the need for action, change, and justice.

Nonfiction can remind us of the past and teach us about the future. It can open minds and open hearts. Challenge us to consider new ideas. Prompt us to think. Rock our beliefs. Transform our world.

I can’t imagine anything more important right now.

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