Like many, Crystal M. Fleming found herself surprised by the results of the 2016 presidential race. “For me, it was a terrible indictment of our society that there was so much support for someone who was an open racist, a misogynist, and just a really indecent person,” Fleming said. After the inauguration she asked herself, “What am I going to do with my outrage? What am I going to do with my despair?”
For Fleming, a Harvard-trained sociologist whose first book was about racism in France, the answer was clear. “I increasingly felt called to write something that was more accessible, less academic, that could respond to the kind of racial ignorance and denial that I saw on an almost daily basis,” she said.
Writing for nonacademics after years of graduate school wasn’t easy, Fleming said. “It was hard to activate the other side of my brain!” she laughed. The result was “How to Be Less Stupid About Race,” a book aimed at a broad audience with the goal, Fleming added, “to empower people who want to better understand the origins of systemic racism, recognize it as a manifests in everyday life and in different social institutions, and work together to challenge it.”
The book’s tone is both passionate and intimate — Fleming chronicles her personal life as well as her intellectual journey toward black feminism — reflecting its author’s intersectional approach to understanding society. “I really think we have to bring all of these conversations together,” she said, “otherwise we don’t get a clear understanding of how our society is structured by power, and how racism is deeply connected to gender, sexuality, and other forms of difference and domination.”
In particular, Fleming challenges well-meaning white people to confront their own relationship to racism and power. “No one is exempt from being socialized into white supremacy,” she said. “And that’s true no matter where you are on the political spectrum.”
Fleming will read at 6 p.m. Monday at the Boston Public Library.
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Kate Tuttle, president of the National Book Critics Circle, can be reached at email@example.com.