In a year where isolation became a way of life, June 6, 2020, stands out because it’s the day millions of Americans emerged from the safety of their homes and took to the streets to continue the call for racial justice. My children and I joined a crowd of thousands in a Black Lives Matter protest in our St. Louis suburb, and all signs indicate that experience has molded their view of the world for decades to come.
A keystone book in our anti-racism line, Anxious to Talk about It is only a few years old—but the rapidly changing racial justice movement suggested updating the book. When I talked to author Carolyn Helsel about the prospect of a revised edition, she said she was already considering an update to the book. A year later, Chalice Press is proud to share the result of that work, Anxious to Talk About It: Helping White People Talk Faithfully about Racism, Second Edition, available now wherever you buy books.
The second edition is being published as the United States continues to grapple with systemic racism, white nationalism, and a vicious debate over how we teach our history. Across the country, police tactics that discriminate against people of color are under scrutiny, especially after the trial of George Floyd’s murderer, a crime that brought renewed energy in last summer’s BLM marches. We witness racism veiled as election reform, making it more difficult for people of color and poor voters to cast their ballots. We see efforts to ban the 1619 Project curriculum that teaches American history with an unflinching look at the consequences of slavery. We find Confederate flags fluttering in the breeze as quiet reminders that racial hatred simmers in every corner of the country.
The ABCs of Diversity: Helping Kids (and Ourselves!) Embrace Our Differences, cowritten with Y. Joy Harris-Smith, teaches adults how to talk to children about racism and diversity in ways that they’ll be able to process and engage. Preaching about Racism: A Guide for Faith Leaders blends Helsel’s experience as a seminary preaching professor and her anti-racism work in a must-read volume for pastors who want to tackle racism from the pulpit.
In the second edition of Anxious to Talk About It, Helsel revisits the rapidly changing context of racial justice conversation with fresh stories, new research, and tips for parents, teachers, and others. The book’s goal is to help whites better understand and embrace their feelings of anxiety, shame, and guilt, and to work through them so that they can join conversations with more courage and confidence. It doesn’t take much digging to find examples of how controversial some may find these ideas—or to demonstrate how needed this resource truly is. Helsel provides conversation starters to help you build a community with others who, just like you, want to eradicate racism from our society but need a nudge of courage and wisdom to do so. Whether you’ve been having these conversations your whole life or this is your first attempt at engaging in anti-racist efforts, Anxious to Talk about It, Second Edition, will make those conversations deeper, richer, and more productive.
Helsel brings grace and tenderness to a tough topic, beginning with the understanding that conversations emerging from the book will be uncomfortable—but hopefully a blessing.
“Anxious to Talk about It is a great starting point,” Helsel says, “if you’re a white person who doesn’t yet feel comfortable in the discomfort of talking about racism or who feels like you have to be this perfect white person in order to lead conversations about race and racism. You don’t have to do this perfectly. You don’t have to show up with all the knowledge you need. What matters is that you are showing up.”
Helsel continues, “This is a growing process, a learning process full of gifts. There are going to be gifts that are hard to receive in this conversation, but there are so many gifts that bless us by calling us into this journey to anti-racism.”
Undoing centuries of racism, breaking the bad habits we have all acquired over the years—one book isn’t going to achieve all this in the course of 192 pages. There are so many excellent books worth reading, each with their own unique approach to understanding the roots of racism and how to extricate it from our society. Anxious to Talk about It, Second Edition, should be on your anti-racism reading list.