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I’m in a book hangover.
The kind of hangover I had after reading Molokai. Where you’re so desperately attached to the characters and the storyline and the plot. Only this time, it was different. Because this time, I didn’t have to imagine living on an island in a leprosy colony. This time, I just have to take a look at our current justice system and how minorities are unfairly targeted in this country every day.
Maybe my emotions were exacerbated by the fact that I went to MLK’s historic site this weekend while I was in Atlanta. Or maybe it was because my co-worker made a comment similar to that of the white supremacist in this book:
“Why is there a Black Entertainment Television but not a White one?”
“Why do we always make such a big deal when it’s the first black _______?”
Followed up with, “But, I’m not racist of course.”
I’m not saying my co-worker is, in fact, racist. I’m just piecing together all of these experiences I have and realizing how grateful I am for this book. That Jodi Picoult decided to take a risk to expand our cultural conversation about race and prejudice.
You have to read this book.
You absolutely have to.
And, when you do, let’s talk about it.
But, in the mean time, here are some of my favorite quotes. (When I was younger, I used to type up my favorite quotes in a Word Document. But, since I have this blog and since I’m urging you to go read this book, I will use this forum to share some of the beautiful words that Jodi Picoult offers her readers in regards to race).
Small Great Things Quotes
- “What if the puzzle of the world was a shape you didn’t fit into? And the only way to survive was to mutilate yourself, carve away your corners, sand yourself down, modify yourself to fit? How come we haven’t been able to change the puzzle instead?”
- “There is no such thing as a fact. There is only how you saw the fact, in a given moment. How you reported the fact. How your brain processed that fact. There is no extrication of the storyteller from the story.”
- “You say you don’t see color…but that’s all you see. You’re so hyperaware of it, and of trying to look like you aren’t prejudiced, you can’t even understand that when you say race doesn’t matter all I hear is you dismissing what I’ve felt, what I’ve lived, what it’s like to be put down because of the color of my skin.”
- “It’s the difference between dancing along the eggshell crust of acquaintance and diving into the messy center of a relationship. It’s not always perfect; it’s not always pleasant—but because it is rooted in respect, it is unshakable.”
- “Active racism is telling a nurse supervisor that an African American nurse can’t touch your baby. It’s snickering at a black joke. But passive racism? It’s noticing there’s only one person of color in your office and not asking your boss why. It’s reading your kid’s fourth-grade curriculum and seeing that the only black history covered is slavery, and not questioning why. It’s defending a woman in court whose indictment directly resulted from her race…and glossing over that fact, like it hardly matters.”
- “Equality is treating everyone the same. But equity is taking differences into account, so everyone has a chance to succeed.”
- “What if, ladies and gentlemen, today I told you that anyone here who was born on a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday was free to leave right now? Also, they’d be given the most central parking spots in the city, and the biggest houses. They would get job interviews before others who were born later in the week, and they’d be taken first at the doctor’s office, no matter how many patients were waiting in line. If you were born from Thursday to Sunday, you might try to catch up – but because you were straggling behind, the press would always point to how inefficient you are. And if you complained, you’d be dismissed for playing the birth-day card.” I shrug. “Seems silly, right? But what if on top of these arbitrary systems that inhibited your chances for success, everyone kept telling you that things were actually pretty equal?”
- “Prejudice goes both ways, you know. There are people who suffer from it, and there are people who profit from it.”
- “…did you ever thing our misfortune is directly related to your good fortune? Maybe the house your parents bought was on the market because the sellers didn’t want my mama in the neighborhood. Maybe the good grades that eventually led you to law school were possible because your mama didn’t have to work eighteen hours a day, and was there to read to you at night, or make sure you did your homework. How often do you remind yourself how lucky you are that you own your house, because you were able to build up equity through generations in a way families of color can’t? How often do you open your mouth at work and think how awesome it is that no one’s thinking you’re speaking for everyone with the same skin color you have? How hard is it for you to find the greeting card for your baby’s birthday with a picture of a child that has the same color skin as her? How many times have you seen a painting of Jesus that looks like you? Prejudice goes both ways, you know. There are people who suffer from it, and there are people who profit from it.”
- “The whole point of this examination is to make me feel lesser than… but I have spent 20 years seeing how beautiful women are. Not because of how they look, but because of what their bodies can withstand.”
- “Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
- “Babies are such blank slates. They don’t come into this world with the assumptions their parents have made, or the promises their church will give, or the ability to sort people into groups they like and don’t like. They don’t come into this world with anything, really, except a need for comfort. And they will take it from anyone, without judging the giver. I wonder how long it takes before the polish given by nature gets worn off by nurture.”
- “On one side of the seesaw is my education. My nursing certification. My twenty years of service at the hospital. My neat little home. My spotless RAV4. My National Honor Society-inductee son. All of these building blocks of my existence, and yet the only quality straddling the other side is so hulking and dense that it tips the balance every time: my brown skin.”
- “I feel like I’ve been standing underneath an open window, just as a baby gets tossed out. I grab the baby, right, because who wouldn’t? But then another baby gets tossed out, so I pass the baby to someone else, and I make the catch. This keeps happening. And before you know it there are a whole bunch of people who are getting really good at passing along babies, just like I’m good at catching them, but no one ever asks who the fuck is throwing the babies out the window in the first place.”
- “I tell them that there is nothing more selfish than trying to change someone’s mind because they don’t think like you. Just because something is different does not mean it should not be respected.”