“Cultural intelligence” – the capability to relate and work effectively across cultures – is something that every white, privileged person needs to work on to help make this world a better place.
If you know how to read, or how to listen to people talking, you can be part of the solution to the urgent problems of inequality, injustice, and racism.
Make a New Year’s Resolution to understand the people around you better by improving your cultural intelligence, one page at a time.
I started doing this early in my journey of self-awareness by gifting myself with a subscription to Audible.com (an endorsement for which I don’t get paid). I now have a library of nearly 200 books, most of them chosen to help me improve my cultural intelligence. Many of them I’ve listened to 3 times or more. They’ve informed me profoundly and changed who I am on a deep level. (I talk a lot about this in Grace-Colored Glasses. Get my newsletter?)
I say this in all humility, because I wish I’d learned these things decades ago. As a white Christian, I lacked compassion for people of other cultures for most of my life. That is not cool and not Christlike.
Without going into too much detail, cultural intelligence, according to David Livermore, has to do with motivation to experience cultural diversity, learning about different cultures (and being self-aware of one’s own culture), and eventually becoming adept in multicultural encounters.
Of course, choosing to learn does not obligate you to seek out multicultural experiences – but it might motivate you to stretch your comfort zone. (You know what they say about comfort zones: once they stretch, they never return to their original shape.)
(PS don’t play that game with yourself – the one where you say “I fall asleep when I try to read, so I’ll just be nice to my neighbors. That will be my contribution to making the world better.” You’re going to be nice to your neighbors anyway. You can stay awake and learn. Or listen to a book while you walk, drive, go for a bike ride, do housework, etc. No excuses.)
Do I have to?
If you are white, but don’t think you’re privileged, that’s a good starting place. Challenge that assumption by reading a book about white privilege. Maybe you’re right, and maybe you’re…about to grow (see how I didn’t use the word “wr%ng”?).
Here are a few titles I recommend to get the ball rolling:
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo
- White Awake: An Honest Look at What It Means to Be White, by Daniel Hill
- White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, by Carol Anderson
For a crash course in American history as it really happened (not the whitewashed version we learned in school), you must read:
- A People’s History of the United States, by Howard Zinn
For more on modern racism, try one of these:
- How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi
- When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander
- Rising out of Hatred: The Awakening of a Former White Nationalist, by Eli Saslow
For the history of racism (everyone should read at least one of these), I recommend:
- Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, by Ibram X. Kendi
- Buried in the Bitter Waters: The Hidden History of Racial Cleansing in America, by Elliot Jaspin
For a Christian perspective on race and white privilege (including history), check out one (or more) of these:
- America’s Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America, by Jim Wallis
- The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church’s Complicity in Racism, by Jemar Tisby
- White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity, by Robert P. Jones
- Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion, by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
How about gun control? These are excellent, and may surprise you:
- Fight Like a Mother: How a Grassroots Movement Took on the Gun Lobby and Why Women Will Change the World, by Shannon Watts
- Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
Here is an eye-opening book about poverty and homelessness (hint: it’s not about laziness):
- Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond
Want to find out about Native American history? This is the best out there:
- An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States: Revisioning American History, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
How about a radically different culture? These are just two of many books that will humanize “others”:
- The Other Side of the Wall: A Palestinian Christian Narrative of Lament and Hope, by Munther Isaac
- Threading My Prayer Rug: One Woman’s Journey from Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim, by Sabeeha Rehman
Which book will you read first in 2021?
Do you have a book to recommend to me? Please leave it in the comments! And happy New Year!
FEATURED IMAGE: “Reading Book Study Student – https://thoroughlyreviewed.com” by ThoroughlyReviewed is licensed under CC BY 2.0