This week I finished reading, This is the Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism by Don Lemon, Anchor of CNN Tonight.
Don Lemon has given this reader a clear and concise look at racism in America, with a focus on major events in 2020: the Covid-19 crisis, disastrously mismanaged by the administration of the 45th president; the Black Lives Matter movement which gained fresh breath by the dying words, “I can’t breathe” of George Floyd, and the 2020 Presidential election, in which the American people limited Donald Trump’s presidency to a single term.
Through his lived experience as a Black man in the United States of America, he allows the reader to gain a measure of understanding of the microaggressions and the not so micro acts of discrimination all members of the Black community continue to experience daily.
Through his eyes as a journalist, he gives the reader an unobstructed view of the continuing legacy of an “irredeemable past.”
As a journalist, Don Lemon has a wealth of experience interviewing scientists, authors, historians, other members of the journalistic community, and the everyman/woman trying to live their lives on the streets of America.
This background has resulted in a well written, clear, and concise overview of historical events that created the environment for all that occurred in 2020. It also addresses how a society can change if—and that’s a big if—that society can put the heartbreaking work into facing the issues we as individuals carry.
You don’t have to be an American to learn something from this book. I copied the Appendix lists of further reading and listening suggestions at the back of the book. My education will continue. I also found This is the Fire to be an excellent companion to another book I am currently reading: How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.
I think of every individual citizen—myself included — who makes up the social fabric of a nation which says in its anthem:
“Oh, Canada, . . . with glowing hearts we see the rise, the True north, Strong and free. From far and wide, Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee.”
Can we say as a nation and as individuals that our hearts are glowing when we see all that is happening in our nation? Is our nation strong, and free for all of its citizens? I am proud to be Canadian. But, there is room for improvement, as any democratic nation will tell you. As one citizen of Canada, I want to be part of the health of our nation going forward. It starts with me. It starts by listening to the voices silenced for so long, listening to opinions I may not agree with, open my heart and attempt to understand where possible.
I look at events in my own country of Canada, especially around the issue of colonialism and its ongoing destructive effect on the Indigenous community, the health crisis of Covid-19, and a federal election which many say is unnecessary during a pandemic.
Here are two quotes—from so many I could have chosen—that I feel speak to me in my life and this time in the history of humanity.
“I’m asking you to open your mind and allow space for potentially uncomfortable ideas. . . . Folks of all races, ages and persuasions will have to turn toward those with whom we disagree, those who fear change, and we must challenge ourselves to listen to their concerns before we attempt to exorcise their dread.”
“. . . being aware of who you are and your own privilege . . . its exhausting. But there’s no other way, because to give up, to just embrace ignorance leads to some really dark places.”
I have been taking the time over the past few years to read and listen to the experience of all my citizens of this planet we live on. Yes, it has been exhausting and overwhelming, but I will not give up.
Where are you on this journey?
Please leave a comment.