Have you ever wanted to really understand antiracism? This new release from a BIPOC author explains how to be antiracist in nine key areas of our lives. #antiracist #antiracism #imnotracistamai #amreading #bookreview #BIPOC #bethebridge #BrownFacesWhitePlaces

I receive free electronic advanced reader copies of these books through an arrangement between the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion on NetGalley’s website. I only review books on my blog that I really love.

Have you ever wanted to really understand antiracism? This new release from a BIPOC author explains how to be antiracist in nine key areas of our lives.

Have you ever wanted to really understand antiracism? This new release from a BIPOC author explains how to be antiracist in nine key areas of our lives. #antiracist #antiracism #imnotracistamai #amreading #bookreview #BIPOC #bethebridge #BrownFacesWhitePlaces

I’m Not Racist, Why Do I Need to Understand Antiracism?

Contrary to the aphorism “what you don’t know won’t hurt you,” systemic racism hurts all of us, regardless of skin color. And if we don’t do our part to understand antiracism, we become part of the problem. A decade-long conversation initiated by a student who wanted to avoid discussing the book Farewell to Manzanar started my quest to understand antiracism and the big questions about race, justice, and equality.

“I get giving some money to the Japanese Americans who spent time imprisoned during the war,” one of my juniors said. “But have you heard about Indian tribes who want to take back the Black Hills? We can’t just give back land Americans have lived on for hundreds of years!” 

“Why not?” I asked.

“We own it now. My parent’s ranch has been in our family for five generations. It’s ours.”

“What if I think the land looks empty and decide I want to build a town on your ranch?”

“We have guns.”

“What if I have more?”

“The neighbors would help.”

“What if I have an army with better guns? Your ranch is isolated in a part of Montana no one cares about.”

“I’d get the government involved.”

“What if I paid them off? Maybe I promise them to take care of you and your family because the new town is more important than your ranch?”

“That’s not fair.”

“How do you think the Native Americans felt?”

“We shouldn’t have to give up our land.”

The bell rang, releasing us from the discussion, but the conversation stayed with me. What could a simple high school teacher do about such overwhelming problems? I wish I would have known then what I know now after reading Latasha Morrison’s new book.

Brown Faces, White Spaces: Confronting Systemic Racism to Bring Healing and Restoration

By Latasha Morrison, Waterbrook, May 21, 2024, 288 pages.

Covet. Justify. Take

The concept of taking what doesn’t belong to us started in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve chose to take and taste what didn’t belong to them. They justified their action (the snake gave them the perfect excuse) and took the fruit.

Over the centuries, the story has played out all over the world without pause: coveting, justifying, taking. Sometimes, we take land, and sometimes, we take advantage of people, but the roots remain the same: coveting, justifying, taking.

Latasha Morrison’s new book brings hope and healing for everyone caught up in the vicious covet, justify, take cycle, which is pretty much everyone.

The book highlights nine familiar spaces that make up the fabric of life in the United States. Morrison explains how systemic racism has either founded the spaces or perpetuated inequality for BIPOC people in those spaces. Unfamiliar with the term BIPOC? It stands for Black, Indigenous, or Person of Color—basically, everyone who isn’t white.

Morrison shows how systemic racism continues in education, healthcare, the justice system, the marketplace, the military, property ownership, entertainment, sports, and the church. Each book chapter studies systemic racism in one of the nine areas. Morrison shows how the often-unacknowledged racism hurts both brown and white people. She explains how God calls us Christians to build bridges instead of walls. At the end of each chapter, she tells an inspiring story of someone working in that area to erase systemic racism.

I’m Not Racist. Is This Book Really for Me?

According to Morrison, “We cannot heal what we continue to conceal.” A decade ago, if you would have asked me if I was racist, I would have vehemently denied it.

After all, I grew up in a Christian home, didn’t tell disparaging jokes about other races, and married a man from Cuba. For the first 15 years of my teaching career, I taught English as a Second Language to students from all over the world. So, while I wasn’t overtly racist, I didn’t do anything to combat racism or even notice all the spaces around me where racism blinded me to its existence.

But when I stood in front of a classroom full of Navajo, Apache, and Hualapai students to teach them about U.S. History, I felt gobsmacked. How could I, in good conscience, ask my students to learn about how uncivilized they and other Indigenous tribes were in the 15th century? Eleven years before Columbus arrived in the New World (full of alleged savages), authorities in Spain burned six people alive over religious differences.

Within two decades of the founding of Jamestown, British soldiers trapped Irish women and children in a church in Ireland and burned them alive (1649). People have funny ways of expressing their ‘civilization’ and odd definitions of ‘savagery.’

The Problem with the Textbook Version of History

Have you ever wanted to really understand antiracism? This new release from a BIPOC author explains how to be antiracist in nine key areas of our lives. #antiracist #antiracism #imnotracistamai #amreading #bookreview #BIPOC #bethebridge #BrownFacesWhitePlaces

I ditched the history textbooks and started researching with my students. Teaching this way exhausts me, but history textbook authors don’t go out of their way to highlight the great civilizations that existed in pre-Columbian times.

They don’t show how people from continents other than Europe have contributed to our nation. Authors of those door-stop-sized tomes certainly don’t highlight the barbarity of the British Army, whose Major-General Jeffrey Amhurst ordered troops to use germ warfare against the Indigenous tribes in 1763. Those books leave out the story of how, in 1782, David Williamson, leader of a local Pennsylvania militia, ordered his men to bludgeon to death over 90 Christian children, women, and men. Their crime? Belonging to the Delaware Tribe.

We like to pat ourselves on the back for our civility and enlightenment. But if we search a few branches up our family tree, we would all find a handful (or more) of savage relatives. A history teacher must research history—all of it, and help students draw their own conclusions based on facts, not a pretty picture of history.

Indoctrination or Education?

Because systemic racism exists, we’ve been fed the party line in the United States for hundreds of years. At the same time, we mock communist countries who rewrote history to fit their narratives. We shake our heads in disbelief at how the Nazis rewrote history and purged Jewish contributions from public places.

It’s time to stop believing everything our history books and teachers tell us. History books are not the Bible, nor were they written under inspiration. If you limit U.S. history to what your history teacher taught you, the teacher has failed. You have taken part in indoctrination, not learned about history. Real historians research history from multiple points of view to understand complex behaviors and outcomes. History classes should teach us to be historians, not mindless believers in someone’s narrative.

History classes should teach us to be historians, not mindless believers in someone's narrative. #historybuff #historyteacher #antiracist Click To Tweet

Spoiler alert: George Washington didn’t chop down a cherry tree. Parson Weems, an early social media influencer, created that doozy in 1800. The Pilgrims didn’t land on empty shores. They broke into empty Indigenous dwellings and stole items for their own survival and gain. And Paul Revere didn’t go on a midnight ride that saved the nascent rebel nation. William Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem doesn’t qualify as a historical document.

American history, the kind we learn in elementary and high school, is nothing more than a narrative of what people want to believe about our history. It’s the kind of story people tell at funerals, with just the highlights and the good stuff. And for decades, I, too, thought it was the gospel truth.

Why I Loved This Book

This book review seems less like a book review and more like a personal narrative of my journey toward understanding antiracism. It all goes back to the question I started with. “I’m not racist. Do I need to read this book?” YES! Yes, you do. We can no longer hide behind the skirts of our undergraduate history teachers.

After all, they were just people doing their job in the easiest way possible: Assign readings from a history textbook, give quizzes, rinse, and repeat. Instead, we must learn to question history. We need to learn how to research, analyze, and think independently.

Brown Faces, White Places gently shows readers a broader picture of history—one you won’t find in textbooks. But do your own research. Search your Bible and look for news accounts from reliable sources. Read books from different historical perspectives. Learn to learn and ask good questions. If you don’t think you’re racist, this book is for you. Maybe you’ve wanted to really understand antiracism, this book is also for you. What you discover might surprise you.

I don’t hate my country; I love it enough to want it to be better. Morrison’s book is a great place to start. Her practical suggestions will help you understand antiracism and give you concrete advice on becoming an antiracist.

Have you ever wanted to really understand antiracism? This new release from a BIPOC author explains how to be antiracist in nine key areas of our lives. #antiracist #antiracism #imnotracistamai #amreading #bookreview #BIPOC #bethebridge #BrownFacesWhitePlaces
Do You Want to Understand Antiracism? Read #BrownFacesWhiteSpaces by @LatashaMorrison today! #antiracism #understandantiracism #amreading Click To Tweet

1 Comment

  1. This sounds like another great book I should add to my to-read list, Anita. (Just got the Kindle sample sent to me.) I appreciate you sharing the backstory of your own antiracism story too. I think it’s so important for us to hear this from other white people because we all still have work to do. Racism is so inbred in us and in our systems that we often can’t see our own blindspots without help. Thanks for the work you do to make the world a better place.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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