In the history of our country, the systemic suppression of races other than white is so ingrained in our society that often we don't realize when actions and words are offensive.
In the interest of understanding racism in both our past and present, we must take a look at the history of racism's evolution. No book does this better than Jason Reynolds' "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You."
Reynolds terms the book a "remix" of the National Book Award-winner, "Stamped From the Beginning" by Ibrahim X. Kendi and is geared for young people. At the book's beginning, he states emphatically that this "is not a history book." Rather, he explains, "This is a present book. A book about the here and now. A book that hopefully will help us better understand why we are where we are as Americans specifically as our identity pertains to race."
Written in an easy, accessible manner, the book outlines the path of racial discrimination starting in 1415 with Gomes Eanes de Zurara when he penned the first defense of African slave trading. It continues through present day citing significant historical events that perpetuated racist views and those who fought against it. It defines how these views were born and evolved into the great racial divide we still see today.
Ibram and Reynolds identify the main theories as the probable rationale for oppression of Africans for ages to come. The first of these is climate theory, which dates back to Aristotle and questions whether Africans were born inferior or that the climate had caused it.
The second was the curse theory that found its origins in the biblical story of Noah and his son Ham. This biblical-based theory branched off into the absurd notion that Africans were savage and cursed, and only through their enslavement by white people could they find salvation.
The book lays out the path from these egregious and erroneous theories and how they directly laid the foundation of racism still present in our society. Reynolds does a fantastic job of writing in a conversational style that young people will find engaging and eye-opening.
For "not a history" book, it does a great job of teaching the important lessons of how we got to where we are today with regard to race. I highly recommend this book to people of all ages, for "those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it."
Lisa Cartee is the children's clerk at the Missouri River Regional Library.