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Book Review “Frequently Asked White Questions”

By Ajay Parasram and Alex Khasnabish

For those of us white people who are well intentioned regarding racism but still fear making mistakes even with our good intentions, Frequently Asked White Questions by Ajay Parasram and Alex Khasnabish (2022 Fernwood Publishing, Halifax, NS) is for us. Both are university professors in Halifax and the book developed from their work and personal experiences which led to a drop-in session at Dalhousie 2 years ago – Safe Space for White Questions – which developed into monthly online sessions, now available at SSFWQ on YOUTUBE

A recurring problem is our confusing structural racism with the indictment of ourselves as individual racists, which leads to our being emotionally dismissive or defensive. We need to build resilience, so they encourage valorizing the discomfort from ‘good mistakes’, made with eager-to-learn open minds without defensiveness.

Too often we assume we already live in a merit-based world because, like fish swimming in water, we’re unaware that world is based on philosophies and policies which favour white concepts as being the norm and only criteria. Another pitfall is our tendency to appear as saviours or overly guilty penitents – both of which centre on ourselves, removing the focus from the problem itself.

They also explained the problem in the ‘non-for-profit industrial complex’ with its focus on specific areas which actually fosters the status quo, because the intertwining of oppression and exploitation in society are never discussed.

The 10 chapter topics include:
* how to fix past wrongs without creating new ones;
* how to talk about social justice without turning people off;
* how to make antiracism part of our lives;
* how racism relates to other forms of oppression.

The book offers resources for our best intentions in order to make life easier for exhausted racialized people everywhere — including a bibliography, an excellent glossary and 10 top principles for thinking about racial politics as a white person.

Beverley Burlock  grew up in a small ocean town in Nova Scotia, Canada, born into an award winning weekly newspaper family. Thus from the beginning, ink was in her blood, questions were in her brain. Since the questions extended into theology, she was often ‘in trouble’ from an early age, though that never stopped the questions. She has both journalism and theology degrees, and has worked in both professions, calling out injustice in both. Always an avid reader, now in retirement, she can blissfully read to her heart’s delight on an even broader range of topics.

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