'Anti-oppressive' book club features lessons in 'cultural humility'

The club is a monthly program of Pacific University's Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

Ibram X. Kendi is among the authors the book club will discuss.

Pacific University in Oregon released its list of reading material for the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion book club, setting its sights on ”anti-oppressive practices and productive discussion.” 

The book club, which will meet once per month for faculty and staff, will discuss books such as How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Tim Wise.

The university’s website states that the book club is a “brave space” where attendees are “asked to practice cultural humility.”

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How to Be an Antiracist, for example, asks readers to imagine “what an antiracist society might look like” rather than “working with the policies and system we have in place.” 

Kendi also gives readers advice on how they “can play an active role in building” an antiracist society.

As previously reported by Campus Reform, Kendi argues in the book that discrimination against an individual because of their race is not itself a racist act.

”The defining question is whether the discrimination is creating equity or inequity,” Kendi writes. “If discrimination is creating equity, then it is antiracist. If discrimination is creating inequity, then it is racist.” 

”Someone reproducing inequity through permanently assisting an overrepresented racial group into wealth and power is entirely different than someone challenging that inequity by temporarily assisting an underrepresented racial group into relative wealth and power until equity is reached,” Kendi writes.

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White Like Me similarly argues that every American should be involved in the “fight against racial inequality.” 

Wise told Campus Reform that “I hope the book serves as a good discussion starter about race and racism in America, and the way in which all of us are shaped by racialization — both because of the history of the country and the current inequities that continue to fester.” 

“My goal in writing it was always to challenge people (especially white folks) to simply ask: what does it mean to be white in a nation that was created specifically for people like you?,” he added.

Other colleges and universities across the country have also used Kendi’s work on their campuses.

As Campus Reform reported in April, Gayle Hutchinson, the president of California State University, Chico issued a statement committing the school to “anti-racist” actions after reading Kendi’s “How to Be an Antiracist.”

“We have been striving to create a more equitable University for years,” Hutchinson wrote. “I want us to carry the concepts of racial equity and justice with us always as a reminder and impetus for growth as anti-racists and progress for institutional change at Chico State.”

Similarly, as reported by Campus Reform, after reading “How to be an Antiracist,” Central Michigan University President Bob Davies announced that the school would work to become “antiracist.”

In a blog post, Davies explained that after he read the b, and in light of the “senseless killings of several Black men and women” over the summer, Central Michigan University “must” adopt a new end goal: to “become an antiracist institution.”

The other authors represented in the book club are Ijeoma Oluo, Anatasia Kim, and Alicia del Pardo. 

Campus Reform reached out to Pacific University, Ibram X. Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Anatasia Kim, and Alicia del Pardo for comment; the article will be updated accordingly.