Tag: antiracism

The Kind of Thinkers Who Write Books and Get Censored (An Introduction)

Let’s not forget that book banning is, fundamentally, conversation banning. A book gets banned when someone with power deems it dangerous, and it is only deemed dangerous when the thoughts dripping through the pages threaten a comfortable yet questionable, well-enough-rooted institution. So, one of the most sensible ways of honoring forbidden literature is to continue the tradition of feeding uncomfortable yet necessary conversations, and partaking in them.

So, in celebration of Banned Books Week, I hereby give you a drop’s worth of some of the current thought leaders around the world—authors, activists, visionaries, and public officials— whose discourse is worth researching for anyone with even the mildest commitment to human evolution. Not all of them have written books, but plenty of them have, and all of them are serving the thoughts that banned books are made of.

 

  1. Nawal El Saadawi
    An Egyptian writer, physician, and psychiatrist, Nawal El Saadawi has dedicated half a century to peeling back the layers of patriarchal thought, and advocating for women’s rights. She has honed in on the topic of female circumcision, but nowhere near stopped at that; her ceiling-shattering feminist rhetoric and refusal to conform to oppressive class and gender norms have gotten her exiled, censored, imprisoned, and pilloried throughout her life. Thoroughly self-educated and an extraordinary modern thinker, El Saadawi has written in almost every genre and has been published in at least thirteen languages. Her autobiography, A Daughter of Isis (not to be confused with ISIS), is a detailed account of her early life and involvement in social freedom struggles.
Nawal El Saadawi mid-schooling a group of dudes in Tahrir Square, via Sampsonia Way

 

2. Hoda Katebi
A twenty-three-year-old advocate for education and an ethical revolution in the fashion industry, Hoda Katebi is one of the notable young activists that makes me proud to be a millennial. Officially labeled a “writer, community organizer, and creative educator” on her website, this Chicago-based Iranian-American is not only a major mouthpiece for garment workers’ rights, but also a fearless liberal voice in regards to modern Muslim identity, and against military regimes. She is astonishingly fashionable (a detail that is only relevant due to the fact that she works in fashion), so if you look through her Insta feed, you’re likely to gather outfit inspiration. Or, you could check out her book Tehran Street Style, a photographic compilation of some of the best dressed men and women in the political and fashion capital of Iran.

Hoda Katebi’s plaid game, via Glamour
Hoda Katebi in a SCARF, via Chicago Magazine
Hoda Katebi with Hasan Minhaj, via Vogue

 

3. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
One of the modern queens of feminist and anti-racist literature, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a prodigious master of activism through storytelling, and it would seem she has become so intentionally. In her Ted talk “The Danger of a Single Story,” she discusses the power of stories in creating biases, ideas, and conceptions about people—racial and gender biases being no exception. Her feminist rhetoric is inclusive and intersectional, and her representations of the world so real, you can pick them up and pin them on your bulletin board next to your polaroids. So far, she has written six books, including her wildly famous We Should All Be Feminists and Americanah.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on The Daily Show, via Comedy Central

 

4. Sarain Fox
An indigenous Canadian dancer and artist as well as an activist, Sarain Fox’s involvement in social and environmental issues boils down to a concept she has coined as reconciliACTION. Her mission is fundamentally rooted in seeking truth as a bridge towards sustainability and reconciliation of the peoples who inhabit her native Canada, aboriginal or otherwise. She uses her artistic platform to facilitate necessary dialogue between original populations and the descendants of European colonists.

Sarain Fox speaking with Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, via Working it Out Together

 

5. Paola Mendoza
Author of the recently published Sanctuary (in addition to her 2013 novel The Ones Who Don’t Stay), Paola Mendoza is a major mouthpiece for human rights, particularly in the context of immigration. Mendoza has so far co-founded the Women’s March, written two social commentary novels, risen in her personal life from gang member to civically engaged activist, directed bilingual films, and advocated for fair trade clothing production. Mendoza is nothing short of a superhero.

Paola Mendoza advocating for cruelty-free wear, via Fair Trade Certified

I’m going to go ahead and reiterate that these are a handful—a starting point, if you will, to an educational journey into forward-thinking literature and discourse. Start right here, but once you get to that rabbit hole—yes, that one—take it. For God’s sake, go down that rabbit hole.

Featured Image via The Joplin Globe

This New Book Challenges Race and Racism

There is a new book that talks about the construct of race, titled Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You. The novel, published March 10, was written by Ibram X. Kendi, a historian and professor at American University. His new book is actually a new take on another that he had written before. Stamped From The Beginning is a much longer, more  academic book that serves as the parent of his newly released title.

 

image via goodreads

 

Kendi’s new book discusses race in a way that makes it understandable and enjoyable for young readers today.  In a news podcast by NPR News, Elissa Nadworny speaks with Kendi on the challenges of writing this book.  Kendi says that his motivation for creating this book was that he spoke with young black students.

One student, Amanee James, a 10th grader in Washington, D.C., says that she has only learned about notable black figures in American history like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X., or Harriet Tubman, for example.  As Nadworny states in the podcast, most students “only learn broad strokes about slavery.”  Amanee then says that with history, people cut off the parts that they don’t want to tell, that people won’t tell young people the deeper and darker stuff about slavery, and for no good reason. History is entirely subjective, and not all of it is reported and taught in the textbooks that we read as children and emerging adults.  Parts certainly could be omitted to create a certain image about the United States.

 

image via amazon

 

Kendi discusses this in the podcast and states that we [society] think that we protect young people by not teaching them the deep stuff about race and slavery, but it is in fact more harmful by doing that. This is when Kendi got the idea to make Stamped From The Beginning more accessible to younger readers. He reached out to Jason Reynolds numerous times to try and convince him but Reynolds refused to help him. Finally, Kendi was able to convince Reynolds to help publish a new version of his book by saying the task was translation.

 

Reynolds then spoke in the podcast, saying that the challenge was to convert large amounts of complex information, which is okay in an academic book, into something that young people (including anyone else) can break apart and digest. To do this, Kendi used cultural touch points in his new book, like Queen Latifah or Public Enemy, or even modern day song lyrics, in order to make the book relatable and understandable.

Kendi says that there are three kinds of people: people who believe race isn’t an issue anymore, that it was left in the past, people who believe that race is like an animal that never went extinct, but in reality survived and evolved into something else, and then people who know that race is everywhere.

 

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You goes further and proposes three categories that people can fall into: Segregationists, Assimilationists, and Antiracists. Kendi says that Segregationists are those that are haters, the racists that express hatred toward races they deem different. Assimilationists are those who are complacent, or “fake.” These people want to like other races on the basis that they are like them.  Then there are the antiracists, who stand against the first two groups and believe that everyone is equal.

 

image via npr

 

Nadworny then goes into climate theory, the idea that if African people lived in cooler climates, their skin would become white. This historically persistent theory originally came from Aristotle and even the people who wrote the U.S. constitution believed this theory. Kendi then informs that many leading figures in early America believed in this theory and they were considered smart for it. The ideas that Kendi presents in his book serve to challenge things like the climate theory, even if it was debunked. Kendi’s book simd to get people thinking about race, and to the extent in which it’s present in our society.

 

featured image via yahoo tv

 

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