Most people recognize conspicuous racism such as Confederate statues, Proud Boy rallies, or even sports-team nicknames, or some less obvious racism like the brand name of our pancake syrup or a poor choice of words on a hot mic. But the toughest racist behaviors to weed out are the ones that slip by every day, that get never get called out, that occur over and over. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge we make these mistakes all the time, completely unaware of our actions.
Anti-Racism 4REALS: Real Talk with Real Strategies in Real Time for Real Change, opens by sharing the story of how they met at a conference derailed by everyday racist behaviors. Sheila Beckford, a black Latina United Methodist pastor, and Michelle Ledder, a white African Methodist Episcopal pastor, partnered to produce both a product and a partnership rooted in understanding, respect, and honesty—exactly what you want from an anti-racism book. They are discerning about anti-racism books and practices and unapologetic when their message contradicts other books on the subject. Chalice Press has almost two dozen books on anti-racism, inclusion, and racial reconciliation; Beckford and Ledder challenged a few Chalice Press books. We agreed there are multiple approaches to the same goal and that books on anti-racism are not one-size-fits-all. And of all those books, Anti-Racism 4REALs may be the book to read first if you’re looking for changes you can make today, on your own, right now.
Remember the last time you found yourself cringing at a racist comment but also flinching at confronting the racism? Anti-Racism 4REALS teaches you how to disrupt racism in the moment. It also shows you how some anti-racism training, such as creating a mental distance from whiteness through language, practices, and even prayer and inadvertently weakens the anti-racist training, actually perpetuates racist behaviors. Stunning, yes, but true!
Anti-Racism 4REALS digs into the stubborn, difficult roots of racism, those invisible acts, with worksheets, questions, and exercises to help readers understand why those acts are racist, then learn how to correct that behavior. The book concludes with 137 ways to be truly anti-racist, including prompts and practices that will help you further your own anti-racism while helping those your care about and interact with every day understand their own gaffes. Some are simple reminders to stop acting in ways that obviously propagate racism, while others are big projects that will take work and patience but will pay off big-time when they’re complete.
Talking to Beckford and Ledder through the production of Anti-Racism 4REALS has been a gift, even though those conversations have been challenging. Talking to them encourages me to think more carefully about my word choice and my sentence structure, two small but important changes I’ve made since reading their manuscript. They are gracious conversation partners IF you’re willing to enter the conversation with humility and an open mind, which is how you should enter any conversation on racism. They are eager to talk to reading groups and congregations about their ministry.
Nobody ever said anti-racism work is easy, because it never is. Anti-Racism 4REALS provides an opportunity to look racism straight in the eye, confront it, and stop it in its tracks—right now. The sooner we start the work, the sooner we’ll racism will wither away from our culture. Not a moment too soon.