I am a fan of lists. I make a list each week, each day. I make a list for my lists. I enjoy a good curated list of resources. I enjoy a curated list of books, artists, music, and scholars. I am curious though about the general outpour over the past few weeks of this need for lists. I imagine it’s the rush to know all about anti-racism immediately, as is the white supremacist culture rooted in urgency and perfectionism. I am curious about this desire for another person to curate this list so quickly at the request of white folks. These texts, these authors, these scholars, these works are not new. 

I have been thinking about these lists of books and resources, but also of the lists that have been read at protests. I am curious where to begin a list of Black people murdered by police. Does one begin when they became aware that this was occurring? When they became outraged? The list is inevitably flawed and biased – always leaving out those who were not publicized or did not fit into the carefully created box of model murder victim. These lists begin when enslaved folks were forced into the ships on the coast of Africa or even before then. How do we negate all of those deaths by a list that can be read in front of a crowd that is looking only for a sound bite or a perfectly posed picture? 

These book lists are similar. How does one enter the conversation? Are they looking for the fastest way to become an anti-racist? Does the text “How to Be An Anti-Racist” even give the steps clearly? Are they looking for an understanding of history and how this country arrived here? Are they looking for an understanding of white folks and whiteness and how it works on their own lives? 

A list is inevitably flawed and will not work for every person. A list without an understanding of why you even want to read means books without the cover opened and another perfect book stack photo op. A list without intention does nothing to stop the murder of Black folks by police. A list without an awareness of who you are and where you need to go will never make the systemic change necessary.

1 thought on “Lists

  1. I have noticed and thought too about the abundance of list generation and also created a book list on this about 2 years ago (–FIClRm9D_6xY/edit?usp=sharing) that breaks down the list into meaningful categories for folks to find the right angle to step into the conversation.

    In one way, I think that the look to lists are because many people want to do something (but when they say that, they mean something simple) and lists can represent simplicity. I do X, then I do Y, and then I do Z. A book list often represents “I can read, so that’s something I can do around this issue.” List also indicates process and progress (even though that isn’t necessarily true). So a person looking to show they are making progress is to work through a book list.

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