Opinion

Library project aims to foster understanding

You have a homework assignment, central Ohio, and The Dispatch encourages all to embrace it.

A challenge has been issued by the Columbus Metropolitan Library and eight partner libraries for central Ohioans of all ages to read, contemplate and discuss an acclaimed book that will undoubtedly open many eyes to the horrors of slavery and lingering affect still endured by Black Americans.

The initiative launched this week, “Let’s Talk About Race: One Book – One Community,” urges people to read “STAMPED: Racism, Antiracism, and You” and then participate in dialogue intended to promote tolerance and understanding of different perspectives. The 11-week program culminates in a virtual talk with Jason Reynolds, one of the book’s two authors, on Jan. 24.

It should be an easy read, but certainly not a comfortable one. The point is to help more of us, regardless of our backgrounds, appreciate the insidious implications of race and racism here and now, more than 155 years after America was divided, North and South, in four years of bloody battle over what role slavery would play in the young nation. 

American philosopher George Santayana is remembered for an observation that has never been more relevant: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

America’s promise, as outlined in the Declaration of Independence in 1776, still affirms: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

But the reality, as many have come to realize in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis as America celebrated Memorial Day, is that too many Americans of color still do not share in the guarantees upon which the nation was founded. 

It was Floyd’s death and resulting protests across the country and in Columbus that inspired the metro library to ask “what could we do” to help the community wrestle with race and social justice, Patrick Losinski, the library’s chief executive officer, told The Dispatch Editorial Board. “It was time for us to step up and lead,” he said. 

Other libraries participating in the communitywide book club with events of their own are those in Bexley, Grandview Heights, Grove City (Southwest), London, Plain City, Upper Arlington, Westerville and Worthington.

No, slavery does not exist today as it was practiced throughout the South in the middle of the 19th century. But the incendiary mindset that allowed white Americans to view Black people as something less than human, as somehow not worthy of equal treatment and respect, has never been fully extinguished. Its remaining embers must not be allowed to spark another civil war.  

If “STAMPED” helps more of us understand the unwarranted injustice of stamping any single race as inferior or superior to others, it should empower us to finally stamp out the racism that holds segments of our population back from fully realizing their potential. Seeing clearly how racism hurts all of us should be the inspiration to keep it from harming any of us.

Public libraries and the illumination they cultivate by circulating good books to expand our thinking have long been a national treasure. “One Book – One Community” is just one more example of how the Columbus Metropolitan Library and its eight local partners continue playing an indispensable role in creating a better quality of life in central Ohio.  

– Columbus Dispatch

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