23 February 2021
In November 2020, the American Library in Paris launched a new programming initiative, “Critical Conversations,” that allows Library members to participate in expert-led discussions. “Critical Conversations” represents an exciting opportunity for the Library to offer our members direct, sustained engagement not only with each other, but with professionals in fields of interest at the center of societal change, growth, and transformation.
Below you will find the syllabus of our first series, which was led by Dr. Tarani Merriweather and entitled “Race in America.” The 25 participants who tuned in from across Europe and America for weekly meetings were central to the success of our pilot and we include community-sourced recommendations they suggested for further reading and reflection below. Thank you to Tarani and all of our participants.
Stay tuned for announcements regarding future “Critical Conversations” happening at the American Library.
-Catherine Olien, Programs Manager
About “Critical Conversations”: Our hope is that participants will join us to educate and challenge themselves, through reading and dialogue, on timely topics. We aim to inspire critical conversations within our community, as we believe open debate is vital to healthy societies and democracies. This series is made possible by the generous support of the Heather and Robert Keane Family Foundation.
Syllabus for Critical Conversations- Race in America
American Library in Paris November 2020
Dr. Tarani Merriweather
Week 1: The Past
The history of the United States doesn’t start in 1776; it is necessary to go back to the 15th century to acknowledge the genocide of those indigenous to the land. For our limited purposes, we will go back to 1619, when the first enslaved Africans landed on American soil.
Read: The 1619 Project
Watch: I Am Not Your Negro
Week 2: The Present
Much of the racism that is inherent to the country is still felt today, not just in interpersonal interactions, but it is written into the law. Acknowledging race isn’t the problem; racism is. It is not enough to say one is not racist, but it is necessary to be actively anti-racist. Living through a global pandemic has unearthed longseated disparities around access to healthcare with Covid-19 disproportionately affecting Black and brown people the most.
Week 3: The Future
Race relations have certainly changed, but there remain many, many far-reaching disparities, from economic outcomes to whether we are given the benefit of the doubt when stopped by the police. We cannot begin to address the future until we redress the past.
And after the series ends…
Continue the conversation after we wrap up with these suggestions for further reading.
More recommendations sourced during and after the series (submitted by participants):
Books related to race:
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
The fire next time by James Baldwin
Invisible by Stephen Carter
A Peculiar Indifference by Elliott Currie
Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Davis
Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side by Eve L. Ewing
How to be less stupid about race: on racism, white supremacy and the racial divide by Cristal Fleming
The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton
Dr. Gloria J. Brown Marshall’s books
Tusk Tusk by David McKee
The South Side, A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation by Natalie Moore
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Dream Hoarders: How the American Upper Middle Class Is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why That Is a Problem, and What to Do About It by Richard Reeves
STAMPED by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi.
How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America by Heather Cox Richardson
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
The Buddhist on Death Row by David Sheff
Just Mercy by Bryan Stephensen
The Fire This Time by Jesmyn Ward
Caste: The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson