Are you still reading?

Book lists, shelfies, reading groups were big news this time last year in response to widespread public (media?) acknowledgement of racism in the global north as overt, insidious, structural institutional and constant. But how many of the recommended texts were actually read and how many are still being read?

Two threads on Twitter this week, reminded me of the reading thing again, but both address themes that have been with me through the year. The first thread is here from @FINOkoye with all the swears of despair, expressing where I am often at too. How do you continue to push/strive for better as things get back to “normal” and life opens up again and the numerous navigations of being in the world start piling up and nothing has really changed?

The second thread is here from Edwin Coomasaru: Resource Portal on Anti-Racism and Decolonial Approaches to Art History and Visual Culture. Yes it’s another reading list, but crucially, a well organised (can I say curated?) one that picks out both key texts, histories, theory and subject specificity. One to keep coming back to as it grows and helps with the how, as in how do you continue to read broadly to understand lived experiences and knowledge beyond your own, your place in the world AND also read specifically to develop anti-racist and ethical practices in your work or research.

For me, there shouldn’t really be a separation, but I suspect for some people this reading feels like additional labour. As many have said before: it really is the least you can do, and if not now, then when?

Thought about as work, it moves from performative to onerous and constant, never-ending and then hopeless: nothing changes, I am just one person, not everything is about racism, I have to do and think about other stuff…. Only the last of these is really true, though.

So, if you have lapsed or never started, are moving on or getting further in, keeping going, going back or stuck these are my suggestions for now:

For life: Layla F. Saad‘s Me and White Supremacy (2018)

Book cover for Me and White Supremacy  - title text and author name

For understanding the complexities of empire and colonialism: Priyamvada Gopal‘s Insurgent Empire: Anticolonial Resistance and British Dissent (2020)

Image of paperback book cover for Insurgent Empire

For history, context and peopling the past without falling into the trap of exceptionalism: Olivette Otele‘s African Europeans: An Untold History (2020)

Book cover of   African Europeans.  Title text over painted portrait detail of a black man