Kaolin, the author of Talking About Race (publisher: Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, Inc.), contacted me about her book, and I thought it sounded so interesting that I told her to send it to me. And I’m so glad she did. This post is going to be a little different than my normal posts about books you can use with students (you could probably use this with teens and college-age students)–I am going to share the book with you and tell you how to use it, but I will show you examples straight from the pages of the book. I also want to share with you a little of the author’s story. So, here we go. . .
Kaolin was born Patricia Anne Graham, and she legally changed her name to Kaolin with no surname in 1991. She has had many jobs in her life: a waitress, a singer, a writer, and a teacher. She’s worked in adolescent programs with teens with disabilities and in politics. She has also worked on a tree farm. In 1994, she designed and taught a course titled, “Let’s Talk About Race: Confronting Racism Through Education,” which after many years became this book I’m talking about today.
The book is divided into seven chapters with a “writing interval” at the beginning. It is written for “white people working to achieve racial equality in their lives, and to readers of color who would like insight into psychological and social experiences white people encounter.” Personally, I find this perspective fascinating–as a white woman, I never thought it appropriate or even necessary to address the concerns and topics that Kaolin discusses in her book. But after reading it, I see that it is, and I saw myself and my feelings in the pages of her book–especially when I was younger. I can see youth groups, book clubs, college classes, and more reading and studying this book. It will start conversations that need to be had. I hope that I can discuss these issues with my stepson soon and with my daughter when she is older. And as the cover states, it does not just have to be white people–it can be all races working together.
As Kaolin states in her introduction about why she wrote it: “Because learning how to talk about racism is hard. Most of us ‘react’ to it first. . . The lack of thought that has gone into many white people’s position about racism is amazing to me. . . Talking About Race meets that need.”
She begins with recognizing racism with lists that describe what a racist believes and with a section that even addresses, “How do you know you whether or not you are a racist?” The next chapter is titled “Resisting Racism,” which can actually bring up many uncomfortable feelings–especially when children/teens are faced with racism from parents or other loved ones, and they don’t know how to confront these beliefs or even act around the person. Kaolin gives some ideas for figuring this out. She continues this theme in the “Defenses and Insecurities” chapter.
The book goes on through real-life examples and encouraging prose, as well as pages of thinking questions with room to write answers, to face racism head on and understand how it can affect people in a family and in a community. Kaolin forces people to also look at themselves and how behaviors can either promote or stop racism. It’s not a book intended for people to feel bad about themselves or members of their family. It’s a book written to get people talking and thinking and hopefully changing hurtful behaviors.
I highly recommend using Talking About Race with teens and college-age students. I think it is perfect for a home school group, a church youth group, a community group like Boys and Girls Club, and more. It’s well-done!
Here are a few of the questions from it that get adults and children USING the book:
- If you woke up this morning and there had been no racism in your life, how would your life have been different?
- Have you ever feared someone because of his or her color? Have you been fearful of anyone because of your color?
- With respect to your own color, would you say you were born lucky?
- Do you think white people have no problems?
- In order to correct a racist situation, I would need. . .
Check it out on Amazon or at Kaolin’s website if you don’t believe me!