In 1995, I worked on one of my last books for New Society Publishers, Uprooting Racism, by Paul Kivel. I was both editor and typesetter. It was in my capacity as the former that I wrote this publisher’s note.
In this book, Paul Kivel is taking on a lot. He’s speaking to white people as a fellow white person about a hush-hush subject: racism. He’s speaking with an honesty that allows for confusion and for admission of his own inner prejudices. In an era when many whites express pride of the advancement of the civil rights movement, he asks why so much of our world is still racially proscribed.
Our society has been built upon a foundation of racism for so long that it’s become part of the landscape: always there, seldom acknowledged. In this book, Kivel acknowledges and he questions. He asks us where we came from, he asks us what we know. He’s resisted the temptation to make this a manual of political correctness, and has instead allowed us to share our own prejudices with him as we read.
Kivel challenges us to look at our place in society. Just because we’ve begun to unlearn racism doesn’t mean the person washing the dishes of a favorite restaurant isn’t still African American. Or that the editor of a favorite magazine isn’t still a white person. Or that the taxi driver we hail isn’t still classified an illegal alien by a government restricting immigration from darker-skinned regions of the world.
Paul Kivel doesn’t give us pat answers to these dilemmas. He knows there will be no point at which we can sit back and consider our job completed. We must continue to wrestle with these questions, and in the confusion find moments of connection and clarity.
Uprooting racism is of course a large task, much larger than any one of us. But by working in our communities, and by engaging with our neighbors, workmates, and friends, we can make a difference. May this book inspire and confuse you!
Martin Kelley, for the New Society Publishers