Race-related regional read coming soon
January 8, 2021
|By Katie Berkedal, Program Director|
Grant to support Waking Up White Regional Read
We recently awarded a grant to help the Waking Up White Regional Community Learning Collaborative bring a regional read to La Crosse this summer. The $6,990 grant will support the local group’s efforts to increase awareness of white privilege and racial inequities through reading and discussing Debbie Irving’s best-selling book “Waking Up White.”
The regional read is a partnership between the La Crosse Public Library and the Waking Up White Regional Community Learning Collaborative designed to inform, equip and empower the region to build and sustain an equitable, just and inclusive multicultural community.
Breaking down barriers to build racial equity
“Racial disparities and overt displays of racial bigotry remain an issue for many well-intentioned white people,” said Amanda Strosahl, a Waking Up White Collaborative Steering Committee and Regional Read Committee member. “Our lack of historical knowledge and our hyper-segregated communities impede our understanding of systemic racism and the struggles of Americans of color. This makes it difficult to live out our best intentions and work effectively across racial lines.”
Joining the regional read
The regional read is scheduled to run this summer into fall. It’s the second component in a three-part project that began with the 2019 anti-racism project “Creating a Healthier Multicultural Community.” The project will culminate in November with a White privilege symposium where author Irving will be one of the keynote speakers.
The regional read will include eight theme-based public presentations, 20 “Book Chat Meet Ups” aided by trained facilitators, book distributions and lending and the creation of additional collaboratives with libraries, religious organizations, government entities and schools and universities.
La Crosse Public Library Programming & Community Engagement Coordinator Barry McKnight, head of the Regional Read Committee, noted the community already has more than 1,500 copies of the book and has had readings underway since 2019.
Why the regional read is important
“Broadening the audience is an imperative part of creating a healthier multicultural community,” said McKnight. “Good white people feeling either that racism has improved or that they personally are not racists stands in the way of changing the status quo. The regional read of ‘Waking Up White’ is intended to encourage self-reflection and help residents deconstruct racism.”
The La Crosse Community Foundation has a keen interest in creating a more inclusive community, according to Jamie Schloegel, executive director of the foundation.
“If we want to end systemic racism, we need more information and conversations to learn how we, as a predominantly white community, can best function as allies. This project, hopefully, will help us break down racial stereotypes and better understand the structural barriers faced by people of color. We must uncover conscious and unconscious biases if we want to move toward becoming a more equitable community,” she said.