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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

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Antiracist summer book club: Loyola’s steps in engaging in conversations about racism


Throughout August, Loyola offered an “Anti-Racist Summer Reading Group” centered around the book “How to be an Antiracist,” an autobiography by Ibram X. Kendi. This book examines a unique perspective on racism, urging individuals to understand that identifying as “not racist” is not sufficient in the fight to end racial injustice. Instead, Kendi is calling for the need to be actively anti-racist.

There has been increased attention on the need for conversations around racial injustice on college campuses across the country. Living in Baltimore—a city with a long history of redlining and other discriminatory policies that prevail today—has made this discussion even more important for Loyola students. Over the last few months, the University has received a series of petitions and letters outlining the unjust experiences that students of color have had on campus.

Meeting once a week for approximately six weeks, these small discussion groups made up of about ten students had unfiltered yet necessary discussions on racism in regards to class, gender, and public policy, among other themes.

What was unique to this program was the inclusion of professors and faculty. It was uplifting to acknowledge that our educators were experiencing the same inner conflicts, aspirations to discuss, and ultimately work toward becoming catalysts for change.

This summer book club presented the perfect opportunity for students to have guided discussions independent from the classroom. Not neglecting the need for racial injustice to be covered in curricula, providing an inclusive space within campus (and away from the subjection of grades and professors) for these discussions to occur is imperative in moving toward the larger aim of education.

Students seemed to emerge from these conversations with a better sense of racism on campus and in the city. 

“I know that reading one book won’t solve any problems, but we had great conversations applying what we read to what we observe in daily life on campus or in Baltimore. I really learned a lot of new ideas and perspectives. I feel like I’m better prepared to have a conversation about race or confront someone holding a racist belief,” Marissa Sullivan ‘23 said.

Loyola shows its commitment to fostering discussions about racism as well as other topics through offering this book club. This is further demonstrated by the creation of the Student Government Association (SGA)’s 10-week BMORE Engaged Program, made up of peer-led discussion groups centered around a variety of justice topics, ranging from racism, to food access, to immigration. Loyola also continued a similar book club option for the fall semester, this time providing students with a variety of books to choose from, all centered around racism.

One problem—a continuous struggle for Loyola—is making this opportunity, along with similar ones, known to the entire student body and faculty. Of course a pandemic causes the dissemination of information to be rather difficult. However, sending out a mass email about this summer discussion group, rather than having the SGA Instagram share one post, would have been more beneficial not only for students who don’t have social media, but for a University that claims to be committed to ending racial injustice on campus.

“What excites me the most about the anti-racist reading groups is that they were comprised of Loyola community members from all across campus. Athletic coaches, liberty staff members, professors, students, and alumni all recognized the importance of this conversation and committed to it. Also, because the reading groups were action-oriented, I am hopeful that all the participants will take what they learned from this experience and create meaningful action and change in their own smaller communities at Loyola,” Cara Kossuth ’22, the student who founded this program, said. 

Loyola has taken steps to spark conversations about racism, though these actions may not be widely known. This article is meant to show what measures students and faculty are taking to educate themselves and to create a more equitable campus. 

While this opportunity was a step in the right direction for the University, there is still a lot of work to be done by the administration. I hope that Loyola continues to offer these opportunities, and not solely because there was an outcry for the University to address racial injustices, but because these conversations are necessary in shaping conscious and empathetic individuals.

Featured Image courtesy of Chandler-Gilbert Community College via Flickr Creative Commons

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Antiracist summer book club: Loyola’s steps in engaging in conversations about racism