Jason Reynolds

BookTube [Video] – Jason Reynolds

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By YouTube Originals

In this special episode of BookTube, our community of close readers asks award-winning author Jason Reynolds about his new book, Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You. Co-author Dr. Ibram X. Kendi chimes in to help explain the book’s origins.

Jason Reynolds: Honesty, Joy, and Anti-Racism

Transcript provided by YouTube:

00:04

A burning question that I have

00:05

is did you always want to be an author?

00:08

Did I always want to be an author?

00:10

No, I wanted to be Michael Jordan.

00:13

In my community, we knew teachers, we knew government workers,

00:16

we knew hustlers, we knew athletes,

00:18

but we didn’t know any authors.

00:20

We didn’t spend time in the library.

00:21

When you grew up where I grew up, being an author

00:23

isn’t a thing that we even knew that we could be.

00:25

Today, I’m super excited

00:27

to be talking about Jason Reynolds’ book “Stamped,”

00:30

which is a remix of “Stamped From The Beginning” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi.

00:33

Both Reynolds and Kendi are incredible voices,

00:37

and I feel so deeply privileged

00:40

to be in conversation with them today.

00:42

It felt like I was having a really deep, intimate conversation

00:46

about topics that I’m really, really fascinated by.

00:48

“Stamped” does a fantastic job in being an approachable way

00:52

to view the history of anti-black racism.

00:57

It is not only incredibly entertaining,

00:59

but it’s our responsibility.

01:32

What’s happening, everybody? This is Jason Reynolds,

01:35

the author of “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, And You.”

01:39

This is a book meant to give some context

01:42

about the racial dynamic of this country as it stands today,

01:46

and the history of it dating all the way back to the 1400s.

01:49

We call it a remix of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s masterpiece

01:54

“Stamped From The Beginning,” which outlines the history

01:57

of racist ideas in America.

02:00

I’m so excited to be a part

02:01

of this special episode of “BookTube.”

02:04

Here I am in my office in Washington, D.C.

02:08

where I do all my work for the most part.

02:10

And I’m looking forward to talking to y’all about “Stamped.”

02:13

– Let’s get it. – What up, y’all?

02:15

My name is Jesse, and I am from the YouTube channel

02:18

and the Instagram Bowties & Books.

02:22

A’ight. Bowties & Books.

02:24

I have been a part of the bookish community

02:27

for the last two years as of August.

02:30

I focus a lot on reading books that center BIPOC

02:36

Regarding “Stamped,” I have a lot to say about this book.

02:40

I have thoughts, y’all. I have thoughts.

02:44

Personally, I absolutely loved the aggressive ways

02:47

in which different power structures are broken down

02:50

while still having a casual and highly readable element.

02:54

The book is based off of Dr. Kendi’s “Stamped,”

02:57

which is a best-selling and highly technical book.

03:03

Jason, why was it important

03:06

for you to use accessible language

03:08

while you were writing this book?

03:09

First of all, this is a good question.

03:11

My job is to level the playing field.

03:13

My job is to make sure that language can be water.

03:16

And what I mean by that is water affects

03:18

everybody’s body the same.

03:20

Every human being has to have water, right?

03:23

And I think my job is to take all that research he did in his book

03:27

and translate it into something

03:30

cool and interesting for a 12-year-old

03:35

It doesn’t matter how old you are.

03:37

You can get something from any narrative.

03:38

Human beings invest in human beings

03:40

despite whatever age that human being is.

03:42

My 75-year-old mother has read it

03:44

and has a better understanding of her own life,

03:47

and she actually lived through many of the things

03:49

that most of us will never actually experience.

03:52

I personally found myself

03:54

just frantically nodding my head in agreement

03:57

during “Stamped’s” discussion of how throughout history

04:00

black people have literally always been expected to adhere

04:05

to the rules of white conversation,

04:07

especially when navigating discussions about race.

04:10

– Yeah. – For example,

04:12

black people are literally never allowed to get angry

04:15

when we are having conversations about race.

04:17

We are expected to be cool, calm, and collected

04:20

at every point during the discussion

04:23

or else our voices, our anger, our pain isn’t seen as valid.

04:27

– Talk about it. – It’s also a way for white people

04:29

to control the conversation and to give themselves…

04:33

– Jesse. – …to stop listening to us

04:36

when they no longer feel comfortable.

04:38

Yo, real quick, I make it a habit to not tell

04:40

no lies to nobody, including white people, right?

04:44

I’m not a person who couches these conversations

04:46

just because I’m in a room with white folks. No!

04:48

If I love you like I claim to love you,

04:50

despite how you feel about me,

04:52

then I gotta respect you enough to tell you the truth,

04:54

even if that truth makes you uncomfortable.

04:56

You ain’t gotta like it, you ain’t gotta like me.

04:59

But I’m gonna tell you the truth regardless

05:00

because life is too short for me to hold it in.

05:03

So, Jason, what does resistance mean

05:06

and what does resistance look like to you personally?

05:09

It has to be internal wrestling with complicated ideas

05:12

that we think we know the answer to.

05:14

I have to make sure that I’m checking myself constantly.

05:17

As much as I’m writing about it,

05:18

I’m trying to deconstruct it,

05:20

and I’m trying to work on my own stuff internally, right?

05:22

I’m not off the hook. I’m not always an antiracist.

05:24

I try to be every day. I try to push toward it.

05:26

And I think my resistance has everything to do with making sure

05:29

that I’m holding myself accountable

05:31

more than holding all the people around me accountable, right?

05:34

I also think that as there is so much injustice,

05:38

there also is so much rich and vibrant history of blackness.

05:43

– No doubt. – So another question that I have to you

05:46

that ties directly to this theme of joy

05:49

is how do you as a black man

05:51

preserve and protect your black joy

05:54

– on an everyday level? – Ooh-whee!

05:58

Whew, you know how the books say breathe?

06:00

I think this is a moment where I have to do so.

06:14

Been black. Gonna be black.

06:15

And the funny thing about being a black person

06:18

is that when people talk about blackness or black people,

06:21

they typically talk about the struggle, right?

06:24

The truth is that being black is joyous.

06:27

It is a joyous thing to be a black person.

06:29

It’s a part of who I am every day.

06:31

And so I’ve always been okay with who I am and what I am.

06:35

I was raised to believe that I never need to feel shame

06:43

My mom is probably the greatest human

06:46

that I’ve known thus far in my life.

06:48

She raised us in a super progressive,

06:50

really interesting and open household.

06:52

We were raised in a house where we could talk back if we wanted to.

06:57

We could sort of debate with our mother in a way

06:59

that most– most parents just don’t allow for.

07:01

But my mom wanted to teach us that we had a voice and we had feelings

07:04

and those feelings are valid, even if she doesn’t change her mind.

07:07

We also were raised to make sure that in the midst of that expression,

07:10

that we expressed ourselves with confidence.

07:12

So I couldn’t disagree quietly.

07:14

I couldn’t disagree and sort of mutter it or murmur it, right?

07:17

I sort of had to roll my shoulders back, stick my chest out,

07:20

and say the way I felt as if I meant it.

07:23

And if I did, she’d take it seriously.

07:26

And these are all sort of the things that I use to this day

07:28

when it comes to making my work, so shout out to moms.

07:31

Hi, I’m Danielle Bainbridge.

07:33

So I’m a historian, and my YouTube channel Origin of Everything

07:36

is about breaking things down from the beginning.

07:39

So this book was personally a really great read for me

07:42

because it took a complex and difficult subject, racism,

07:45

and made it interesting and entertaining

07:47

without sacrificing the hard facts.

07:49

Let me just take a second real quick and just say

07:52

she seems like my kind of person.

07:54

Seems like she knows what she’s talking about.

07:56

One of these days, Danielle, you and I, we’ll meet.

07:58

I think it’s important to mention that you were named

08:00

the new Library of Congress’ National Ambassador

08:03

for Young People’s Literature.

08:04

Congratulations on that high honor.

08:06

– Thank you, Danielle. – I’m curious to hear

08:08

what that experience has been like for you?

08:10

It was an absolute honor.

08:12

I was appointed by the Library of Congress

08:15

the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature for 2020 and 2021.

08:19

I have a role and a job to do,

08:21

and I take it really, really seriously.

08:25

I make sure that I put as much time as possible into young people.

08:30

And I realize that I have so much to say to our young people,

08:32

especially those who grew up like me.

08:34

If you want to know where the cure is,

08:36

if you want the antidote to hopelessness,

08:38

spend a little more time with young folks.

08:40

I’ve read Dr. Kendi’s original book “Stamped From The Beginning.”

08:43

– Shout out to Dr. Kendi. – And I can only imagine how hard it must have been

08:46

to take Dr. Kendi’s incredible book,

08:48

– which is really dense– – Wait. Real quick.

08:50

She said, like, Dr. Kendi’s book, which is really dense.

08:54

I just want to say, yes, it is.

08:58

I imagine it must have been intimidating to be tasked with such a big job.

09:01

Where did the idea for the remix come from,

09:03

and how did Jason Reynolds come into the picture?

09:05

First of all, it’s important to know that he asked me to do this

09:09

right after he won the National Book Award for that book,

09:13

I said absolutely not, you know?

09:17

I wanted a YA version of “Stamped From The Beginning” because people asked.

09:22

People would say, you know, this book needs to be

09:25

in every, sort of, high school.

09:27

It needs to be in every middle school.

09:29

We should not be learning this history

09:32

only when we become adults.

09:34

And so that galvanized me and encouraged me

09:39

So, of course, when I asked Jason,

09:43

he said no over, you know, and over again.

09:48

My “no,” it came from a place of respect.

09:51

And secondly, in came from a place of insecurity.

09:55

You know, I got through college barely, right?

09:58

I wasn’t some– some genius kid.

10:01

That wasn’t my– my thing.

10:02

And so I was just concerned that I would say yes

10:06

and then be in over my head.

10:08

– But he kept asking. – I persisted, you know?

10:11

Not necessarily because I wanted to get a win,

10:15

but just because at the end of the day,

10:17

I wanted young people to read this book.

10:20

I mean, he kept asking. Talk about a persistent person.

10:23

And eventually, he convinced me that it was bigger than the both of us.

10:27

And he convinced me, you know, that perhaps he could see something in me

10:30

that I couldn’t see in myself at the time.

10:32

Ibram: Jason has just a unbelievable skill and talent,

10:36

and that’s why I knew that if he was to write “Stamped,”

10:40

that it would turn out into precisely what it turned out to be,

10:46

In reading and listening to “Stamped,”

10:48

your voice comes through so clearly.

10:50

There’s a lyricism to your handling of language

10:53

and a real mastery and artistry with words.

10:56

Can you talk about your philosophy behind writing?

10:59

There’s this quote, an Alfred Hitchcock quote.

11:01

He says something along the lines of,

11:04

“The face does not exist until I put light on it.”

11:07

Language is light, right? Language is the light

11:10

in which he speaks of for me in my world, right?

11:13

Young children who are growing up in the Bronx

11:17

or in D.C. or in Chicago,

11:19

though we know those lives are real,

11:20

those lives could easily be dismissed

11:23

if someone doesn’t put language to it.

11:25

I only have 26 le– there’s a limited,

11:28

a finite amount of resource here.

11:30

I have 26 letters to work with that I get to arrange

11:33

in all kinds of different combinations

11:35

to figure out how to cast spell on the person that reads them.

11:38

– What an amazing thing. – Hi, everyone. I’m Joanna.

11:42

Before I start talking about what I loved about the book,

11:44

I should probably set the table a little bit.

11:47

I am a recent American. I’m originally from Venezuela.

11:51

And I gotta tell you something. From the outside looking in,

11:54

America has excellent branding.

11:57

Land of the free, home of the brave.

12:00

It’s not– but then you get here and it’s like,

12:01

“Wait a minute. Like, is it?”

12:03

One of the ways America sold racism to us

12:06

was through pop culture and art.

12:08

And a lot of us were too busy watching the movie to even notice.

12:11

There’s some obvious examples the book brings up,

12:13

like “Birth of a Nation,” America’s first Hollywood hit.

12:17

Now this movie wasn’t just about the KKK,

12:20

– it celebrated the KKK. – Yeah.

12:23

So, let’s wrap our head around that.

12:25

The movie that put Hollywood on the map

12:29

made the KKK look like some cross-burning Avengers.

12:32

So, “Birth of a Nation,” I was kind of expecting that.

12:36

But then the book goes like, “Hey, guess what?

12:40

So, was I shocked to learn that my favorite Disney movie

12:43

was based on a racist book?

12:45

I mean, not really anymore.

12:47

I feel like this happens to me all the time.

12:48

Someone will say, “Hey. ‘Dixie Chicks.’

12:50

That name is problematic.”

12:52

And I’ll be like, “Are you sure about that?”

12:53

Do a quick Google search.

12:55

Immediately, first result, yes, it’s completely racist.

12:58

And I know this is an obvious one, but Aunt Jemima.

13:00

It’s obvious now, but for the longest time,

13:03

I didn’t realize it was reiterating a racial stereotype.

13:06

And the model who Aunt Jemima is based on,

13:12

So, Jason, did you see these things as inherently problematic growing up?

13:16

So what’s interesting is when I was a kid, no.

13:20

I did not know these things were problematic.

13:22

My mother collected memorabilia that was actually racist.

13:28

And there are a lot of black people who do this,

13:29

who collect Pickaninny dolls and Sambo dolls

13:34

And my mom was a person who collected these kinds

13:36

of antiques and had them in our house.

13:38

So when I was a kid, of course I didn’t know

13:39

that anything was wrong with these images

13:42

until I got a little older.

13:44

And that proves the point that I think a lot of us–

13:46

a lot of racism as it– as it sort of exists

13:49

in the present time is hiding in plain sight.

13:51

One of the most actionable takeaways from this book for me

13:55

was that it isn’t enough to be aware of racism

13:58

or be against the concept of racism,

14:00

but to be actively antiracist.

14:21

that’s an answer that I– that I will not–

14:26

There is not such thing as becoming an antiracist.

14:31

Racism continues to change and shift.

14:32

It shows itself in different ways,

14:34

and so we will have to continue to change and shift and evolve

14:37

so that we can continue to combat it in different ways.

14:40

This is the rest of our lives, journeying through

14:43

trying to figure out how to self-correct

14:45

to the point that it becomes autocorrect.

14:47

And if we can all do that,

14:49

then perhaps we can make the world

14:53

Hey, y’all. How are you doing?

14:55

I am so excited to talk about “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, And You.”

15:00

My name is Kim. I run a multiplatform digital community

15:03

for black women called For Harriet.

15:07

because I wanted to have intergenerational conversations

15:09

about the experiences of black womanhood

15:12

that don’t really get talked about in the mainstream.

15:14

– Shout out to Kim. – There were so many great moments in “Stamped”

15:17

that I gravitated to, but I loved chapter 15 of this book

15:21

called “Battle Of The Black Brains.”

15:23

– Yeah, yeah. – Which is about W.E.B. Du Bois,

15:26

who was a fantastic scholar,

15:28

a civil rights activist from way back,

15:31

and Booker T. Washington,

15:33

who was an activist, a businessman,

15:35

a political leader, and how they were two giants of black history,

15:40

but also deeply imperfect.

15:42

Actually, kind of problematic.

15:45

It is so, so important for us to really reckon with the fact

15:49

that our leaders, the people that we view as icons,

15:52

– had some issues. – Mm.

16:03

…focus on lower pursuits such as tending the fields,

16:14

Jason, I actually wanted to ask you how do you reconcile

16:17

the many great things that so many of our heroes did

16:20

with the problematic aspects of their past?

16:23

The fact that they did a lot of stuff that is frankly shady and kind of gross?

16:27

– What do we do with that? – Oof. Tough, tough, tough question.

16:31

I try to contextualize what it is that they did.

16:34

So many of them make decisions based on where they are in history

16:38

and the opposing forces that are there.

16:41

I mean, I think about my own mom, right? My family.

16:44

The truth of the matter is is that just because a person is a hero

16:48

does not make them any less a human.

16:51

My name is John Fish, and I’m a 21-year-old

16:53

Harvard student from Ontario, Canada.

16:55

In Canada, I didn’t really learn a whole lot

17:00

And being a white kid in a white family,

17:02

my only real perception of anti-black racism

17:05

– was through media. – Hmm.

17:07

I remember being a 13-year-old watching the George Zimmerman trial.

17:09

And I remember thinking that it was so unfair,

17:12

but I couldn’t place it in the correct

17:15

historical and social context.

17:17

Jason, I think that “Stamped” does a really good job

17:20

expressing this history of anti-black racism as an evolution

17:24

and telling the story as it happened.

17:27

I’d be really curious to hear how you think the media

17:30

and how you think that education, schools,

17:33

could do a better job at telling this history.

17:35

Mm! In America, we celebrate black people in February.

17:38

You ask the average young American who they know,

17:41

and they’ll tell you Martin, they’ll tell you Rosa Parks,

17:43

they’ll tell you Harriet Tubman.

17:44

If you’re lucky, you might get a Nelson Mandela in there.

17:46

There’s, like, the Super Friends of black history

17:49

that we sort of pluck from as often as possible.

17:52

And they sort of serve as the avatars

17:54

for the rest of our lives and our struggle,

17:55

when the reality of the matter is

17:57

they just barely scratch the surface.

17:58

I mean, there are textbooks in America

18:01

where they will not call enslaved Africans “enslaved Africans.”

18:05

Instead they call them “migrant workers.”

18:07

John Fish, you’re a smart guy.

18:09

You know that that is not the same.

18:11

There are all these sort of conversations around like,

18:12

“Oh, well, we don’t have enough time to go into detail.

18:15

We don’t have enough time to teach an intensive lesson

18:18

on the history of black people in America.”

18:21

When what they’re really saying is,

18:22

“We don’t have the interest in teaching the truth

18:24

about American history.”

18:26

Black people happen to be

18:27

the backbone of American history.

18:29

And so the fact that we get left out of it

18:31

makes it even more egregious.

18:33

The way they could do it better

19:18

Usually when I give these interviews, I talk about my mom.

19:21

And my father often sees these things and he’s like, “You never talk about me.”

19:24

And so I want to be sure to say my father’s a good dude.

Jason Reynolds

This post was previously published on YouTube.


Photo credit: Screenshot from video

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