Sunday Morning! “They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us” by Hanif Abdurraqib

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Rufus F.

Rufus is an American curmudgeon in Canada. He has a PhD in History, sings in a garage rock band, and does many things. He is the author of the forthcoming book "The Paris Bureau" from Dio Press (early 2021).

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  1. Avatar Doctor Jay
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    says:

    This sentence:

    So, no, I did not buy the book as part of the current required anti-racism reading list for white people who’ve suddenly recognized black people in their deaths.

    is a dagger. The work we white people have is in finding black people we, each of us, relate to and understand. Doing “research” on black people is not going to carry us forward. Talking to the one you see all the time at your favorite restaurant will do a much better job, in my opinion.

    I mean, political action, yes. Sure. But the big prize, as far as I’m concerned, is changing our own hearts and propagating that change to others.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Doctor Jay
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      says:

      Yeah, that was a little jab. I was talking to my bookshop friends the other day and they’re getting a run on books about racial justice from well-meaning white liberals calling them frantically. Which is all understandable, but you think jeez, is this the first time you noticed that other people have different experiences?

      I think a book like this one is more interesting because it is about what it’s like to be black and Muslim in America, which is another person’s experience, and it’s also about loving Prince and Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance and Fleetwood Mac, which okay maybe I don’t entirely relate, but I can listen to the music with someone else’s ears, and that is a pleasure.Report

  2. Avatar Damon
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    says:

    ” The work we white people have is in finding black people we, each of us, relate to and understand.”

    Black folk got some work to do in that are too. Funny story. One of our engineers, who happens to be black-he’s Bahamian by birth, came into my office while I was listening to Reggie. His face had a “what the hell” look on it, and he asked me what I was listening to. I told him it was my favorite Reggie band, and his reaction was one of surprise. I asked him “What, white guys don’t listen to Reggie?” and I chuckled. Point being…EVERYONE has expectations and assumptions.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Damon
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      says:

      Sure, everyone has assumptions. I don’t think any one group having a lot to learn negates any other group having a lot to learn.

      One of the things I was surprised by in the book were bits that I guess relate to what people now call “intersectionality”. For instance, there’s a great essay about growing up black and working class and loving Bruce Springsteen, but hearing the songs differently than white working class listeners do, which made sense in a way that I’d never thought of.

      Conversely, there was a section about being invisible to certain white people that I could relate to- he talks about a white woman on a phone putting her grocery bags on his lap while he was on a park bench and then pretending not to see him placing them on the sidewalk! In my job, it’s difficult because there’s what you might call the “fourth wall of class” where professional people will freeze you out, but you still have to interact with them!

      So, yeah, this is what books are best at is just giving an idea of what other people’s lives are like.Report

  3. Avatar Aaron
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    says:

    I have had this book sitting on my shelf for a few months and finally picked it up last week and, agreed: February 26, 2012 just slayed me. Phoooo.Report

  1. November 15, 2020

    […] of Sundays, which is fitting because the last book that bowled me over, Hanif Abdurraqib’s They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, was also published by the scrappy Two Dollar Radio, out of Columbus, Ohio. Okay, maybe surrealism […]Report

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