NDG Book Review: “Do the Work! An anti-racist activity book

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By Terri Schlichenmeyer

You are almost out.

Out of energy, out of ideas, out of motivation, totally exhausted from everything you’ve been doing lately. Seeing racism, taking action against inequality, speaking out against it, standing up for friends and family, it all takes its toll and when you’re just plain tired you need something to help you focus. You need to “Do the work!” by W. Kamau Bell & Kate Schatz to energize you.

So you’ve fought racism, and at this point you’re just “burned out” by it all. This process is not easy and ending racism will not happen overnight, but breathe. This book is intended to help you in several ways. Of course, this will help white people – but it’s also for anyone who needs ideas to fix what’s broken.

The first thing to do is talk about it. Having a discussion about racism and why white people do this or black people do that might sound scary, but the conversation helps sort out thoughts and foster understanding. It also helps clear the air, if you speak with respect.

Do you know your privileges? If you’re white, you probably grew up not even realizing you have it – but you do. Recognizing this is difficult – these are the things that benefit you, after all – and “verifying your privilege” is necessary before moving forward. You will also want to know that privilege is fluid.

Learn to spot racism when it’s hidden, because what you see every day is “just the tip of the iceberg”. Remember that you don’t hate history, you “hate history lessons!” Get to know heroes who have already “done the job”. Find out how Jim Crow laws and redlining helped entrench racism in the last century, and how gerrymandering is doing it now. Make a protest sign, play games, take a quiz or two, color a page with markers or crayons. Know the history of black policing. “Getting dirty” by being an ally. Remember that you will make mistakes and “may not win”.

Seriousness of subject matter and effort aside, “Get the job done!” is actually quite a fun book. Authors W. Kamau Bell and Kate Schatz use humor, facts, and (watch out!) four-letter words to get their points across, but this book also offers relief from anti-racism work in the form of a relaxing playtime, quizzes, places to draw or fill in the blanks, places to take notes and informative games to try.

That doesn’t make it fluffy, though. Around fun and games, there are firm words for white people and their allies to read, ideas to ponder, and declarations to make you squirm, presented chaotically with an invitation to dive in at will. Despite the occasional silliness and the feeling of going wild at times, it means business for the bewildered, confused and determined.

Judging just from the swearing and other language here, this notebook is absolutely for older teens and adults. You can bring young children on your trip, but “Do the Work!” is a book you’ll want to keep them away from.

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