We were having supper in a small hotel in Portugal and my husband struck up a conversation with the only other diner, a man from Chicago. He was in Portugal looking for a retirement home to buy. He and his wife had planned to retire in Arizona or Florida but the election of Donald Trump and the fear he might get re-elected in 2020 has them looking elsewhere for a retirement residence.
Our dinner companion said he wants to throw up every time he sees Donald Trump on television. He called him and I quote “a moron without morals.” He told us he is particularly sickened by the evangelical Christian support of a man who is the antithesis of everything Christianity should embody. I asked him why he thought Donald Trump enjoys so much support in the United States. His answer was quick. “It’s racism. Pure and simple.” He felt Donald Trump made people feel less uncomfortable about their underlying racist tendencies. He was sure Trump was voted in as a back lash against the election of a black president.
The morning after our conversation with the Chicago businessman I happened to read an article in The Atlantic called The Heavy Burden of Teaching My Son about Racism in America. It was by Jemar Tisby, a PhD history candidate and the president of a group called The Witness. They seek to engage the Christian church in an honest dialogue about racism in America.
Tisby’s article explained how he, like all diligent black parents, has had to introduce his seven- year old son to the reality of racism in the United States. Black parents must remind their children early and often that people may consider them threatening for no reason. They must tell their kids they will have to work twice as hard as others and won’t get second chances. They have to teach their children that just hanging out with other black kids in too big a group can raise suspicion.
Parents must choose the right way to explain lynching and slavery since they play such an important role in family history. Tisby lives in Mississippi and he says racism is especially prevalent in the American south. He believes in the south for “every adult who is trying to train their children to confront racial intolerance, there is another teaching their children how to perpetuate and preserve it.”
I had wanted to believe my Chicago acquaintance from the previous evening was exaggerating when he talked about the extent of racism in the United States. Tisby’s article suggested he was not.
And we Canadians need not grow too smug, We have our own issues of racism to address.
I’m So Tired of You America
A Novel So Long It Took Us Through Eight States
Dave and I have been listening to Jodi Picoult’s novel Small Great Things on our drive back to Manitoba from Arizona. It is a loooooooooong book! Nearly sixteen hours of listening. Jodi always addresses a social issue in her novels and presents ethical dilemmas for her readers to consider. The issue in Small Great Things is racism and the ethical dilemma is faced by a black labor and delivery nurse named Ruth. She has been told by her supervisor not to touch the baby of a white supremacist couple Britt and Turk Bauer after they complain about having a black woman care for their baby. But the newborn goes into cardiac arrest when Ruth happens to be the only staff person in the nursery. She must decide whether to try to save the baby’s life or follow the orders she has been given not to touch the child. Due to her decision she is fired and charged with murder in the baby’s death.
Jodi Picoult is known for her meticulous research and this book helps you learn almost too much about how newborns are cared for in hospitals, how court cases are researched, the incredibly scary world of white supremacists in America, and the effects of racism on communities, society and individuals. Jodi says in an afterword she did not write this book so much to show the burden African-Americans carry because of the color of their skin, but rather to show white Americans how racist they are, even if they think they aren’t.
I was concerned about how the book would end because Jodi can sometimes give you a surprise ending that is troubling and unsatisfying. I kept telling Dave what I was worried would happen. This book did not end the way I predicted and left some of my questions unanswered but I was satisfied with it.
Jodi’s books always have multiple narrators and this story is told by Ruth the nurse, Turk Bauer the white supremacist and Kennedy McQuarrie Ruth’s lawyer. Perhaps because I was listening to it rather than reading it, I sometimes felt that Jodi repeated too many things in her consecutive narratives instead of always moving the story ahead as quickly as she might have. I did think the novel could have used a good edit and as I listened kept thinking of parts I would have slashed.
Still this was a good story that kept us engaged as we drove through eight different states. In fact listening to this story set in America while driving through America added to its appeal and made it even more thought-provoking.
Note: The title comes from a quote by Martin Luther King
If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way
Sing You Home- A Book Set to Music