An Important ReadPosted: November 2, 2020
My tiny book club met this evening via Zoom to discuss a wonderful book of importance right now. We read Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warm of Other Suns, bestseller about the great migration. Given where the country is with Black Lives Matter it seemed like a good idea to try and understand this seminal event in America.
Although I was aware that Blacks left the south and migrated north I had no idea that it happened continuously over a ninety year period, making it not so much an event as an eventuality. Wilkerson, a scholar, spent years interviewing people who had made the migration and settled on telling the story through the lives of three different people. She turns the non-fiction history into a readable novel like book.
As a white woman, who grew up in Connecticut I have little personal frame of reference to understand the African American experience. Of course I have studied history of the American south and knew about Jim Crow laws, but this book brings to life all that it meant to African Americans who lived under it and why they escaped looking for something better. Better was only relative because although they migrated North, discrimination was never far behind.
It was heartbreaking to learn about how in Chicago blacks could only rent places to live in one skinny area of the city and they paid rents that were double what whites paid for places much nicer and larger. When they wanted to move to a better neighborhood, there was no where else to go, no matter how much money they had.
The one thought that ran through my head as I read about one indignity after another is that I can’t imagine enduring such blatant unfairness at every turn and keep taking it without lashing out. If you don’t understand why Black Lives Matter is an important movement you need to read this heartfelt book.
Life may not be fair, but for some they never have a chance to just get par, let alone get ahead. We can never truly walk in each other’s shoes, but we should at least try and understand.