In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, books on anti-racism are in high demand among those learning how to be better allies to people of color. They’re also diving into conversations about racial disparities in Minnesota.
The Friends of the St. Paul Library has announced that the second selection for its One Book One Minnesota program is the 2016 anthology “A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota.” The book centers around conversations about racial disparities in Minnesota through essays written by Native American writers and writers of color.
For the next two months, the anthology will be available for free downloads through EBooks Minnesota.
“We also recognize that we have a legacy as a historically homogenous institution,” said Beth Burns, president of The Friends of the St. Paul Library, in a statement. “In fact, we have benefited from this privilege while not fully reflecting the very communities we exist to serve. As a nonprofit organization, independent of any public library, we have to intentionally be part of the solutions. We can do better, we can do more, and we will. This is a step.”
“A Good Time for the Truth” brings together the voices of 16 Minnesotan writers that provides a spectrum of perspectives on the experiences of living in a largely white state. According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics in 2019, 84.1 percent of the state’s population is reported white.
However, research led by the Wilder Foundation, a nonprofit community organization based in St. Paul, indicates that there has been a growth in communities of color since 2010 by 29 percent, the ninth highest growth rate in the country.
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While the writers confront and reflect on their realities beneath the statistics, it’s also a deeper dialogue for those looking to be a part of closing racial disparities and gaps within their communities.
As editor of “A Good Time for the Truth,” Sun Yung Shin said that there is power in books, especially now that more white people are intentionally seeking out resources on how to become actively anti-racist and better supporters for uplifting marginalized communities.
“We are trying to reach as many people as possible,” she said. “We need as many people as possible working on ending racism and understanding it and being able to see it, to name it and reflect on it. And this is the continuous cycle of reflection, action and learning.”
Shin herself was born in Seoul, South Korea during Park Chung-hee’s military dictatorship and was adopted by a white couple in the Chicago area. When she started living in Minnesota at the age of 18, her world was drastically different from the diverse community she lived before.
When creating an anthology and collecting writings from people of color throughout Minnesota, Shin was focused on introducing “every kind of reader” to enter the book when reading through the experiences that people of color had while living in their state.
“A sense of moral responsibility that to be a moral grown up, you have to understand the history of your place,” Shin said. “The history of your cultural inheritance is one of racialization.”
Books on anti-racism have been flocking off the shelves at independent and major retailer book stores since Floyd’s death and the ongoing protests calling for the end of systemic racism.
The most recent New York Times list of best-selling nonfiction in e-books and print, five of the top 15 titles address racism, and one of the books, “The New Jim Crow” written by Michelle Alexander about mass incarceration was published a decade ago.
Almost all of the top best-selling books on Amazon and at Barnes and Nobles take on topics of anti-racism and civil rights such as “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi, “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo and “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo.
The recent surge in anti-racism book sales comes with complex feelings for Shin. She’s heartbroken that these resources continue to be needed, and upset that it took Floyd’s killing for companies, businesses and other mainstream consumers to highlight works created by people of color.
While she encourages readers to learn about the stories and perspectives from the voices of those living in Minnesota as people of color, she also cautioned that the work doesn’t end once the last page is read.
“I want people to go in with the mindset that this is a moral journey,” she said. “It can be a spiritual journey. … But first, they have to believe us where that person is in their journey of understanding what racism is and how it operates and how it affects people.”