Bellarmine Justice Summit on Race

2016-17, A Year of Preparation

Books for Discussion - Faculty and Staff

Below are several recommended books that address race and race relations through a variety of lenses. Our hope is that one or more of these titles will pique your interest and you will read one over the summer. During the fall semester we will offer opportunities to gather in small groups to discuss these books. We encourage you to read a little or a lot or just come to a discussion to hear what others think. Our plan is to spread these discussions out over several months so you will still have time to read during the school year as well as the summer.

Our intention is for the faculty and staff to start thinking about the topic in order to help prepare us for what are sure to be some challenging, potentially uncomfortable conversations with students in 2017-18.

We will happily purchase a copy of the book you would like to read. Please email Joe Cussen ( with your selection(s) if you would like the book(s) purchased and delivered to your mailbox next week.

Memoirs and Personal Perceptions

The Rice Room: Growing Up Chinese-American from Number Two Son to Rock 'n Roll, Ben Fong-Torres (1994 & 2011). 296 pages.

A personal memoir, Fong-Torres highlights the trials and tribulations of growing up as a second-generation Chinese immigrant in the Bay Area. Updated and expanded with more photographs in this 2011 edition.

Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehesi Coates (2015). 176 pages.

Beginning with the words “Dear Son”, the author makes the work’s intention clear from the start: to introduce his son to the larger social, economic, and historical context of the fear within which black people in general, and young black men in particular, live in contemporary America. In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden? A powerful and definitely challenging memoir. (National Book Award winner, Pulitzer Prize finalist, #1 NYT bestseller).

This is Not a Test: A new narrative on Race, Class and Education, Jose Vilson (2014). 220 pages.

In his collection of multifaceted essays, he provokes discussion on issues of race, gentrification, and the teaching profession from the eyes of a Black-Latino educator with a mix of research and first-hand experience.

Science & Ethnic Studies

Living Color: the biological and social meaning of skin color, Nina G. Jablonski (2014). 280 pages.

Living Color is the first book to investigate the social history of skin color from prehistory to the present, showing how our body’s most visible feature influences our social interactions in profound and complex ways. Nina Jablonski begins this fascinating and wide-ranging work with an explanation of the biology and evolution of skin pigmentation, tracing how skin color changed as humans moved around the globe, exploring the relationship between melanin and sunlight, and examining the consequences of mismatches between our skin color and our environment due to rapid migrations, vacations, and other life-style choices.

Teaching and Race Relations

Talking about Race: Alleviating the fear, S. Grineski & J. Landsman (2013). 340 pages.

To overcome the common fear of discussing race, of saying “something wrong”, this book brings together over thirty contributions by teachers and students of different ethnicities and races who offer their experiences, ideas, and advice.

Taking on Diversity: How we can move from Anxiety to Respect, Rupert W. Nacoste (2015). 368 pages.

Dr. Rupert W. Nacoste, a psychology professor at North Carolina State University often counsels students about their problems dealing with diversity of all kinds, including of gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual-orientation. Here, he shares his most effective techniques for handling the unavoidable realities of being in a neo-diverse community, whether that means in college or America as a nation. The author’s proven “safe space” strategy can be applied to the campus, community groups, churches, and workplaces as a means to facilitate positive dialogue about diversity.

Social Science & Politics

The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander (2012). 336 pages.

Alexander argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control. She points out how the old forms of discrimination in employment, housing, education, and public benefits, denial of the right to vote, and exclusion from jury service are suddenly legal once you’re labeled a felon.

Social Science & Schools

"Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?" And other conversations about race, Beverly Daniel Tatum (2003). 294 pages.

Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see black youth seated together in the cafeteria. Of course, it's not just the black kids sitting together-the white, Latino, Asian Pacific, and, in some regions, American Indian youth are clustered in their own groups, too. Is this self-segregation a problem we should try to fix, or a coping strategy we should support? How can we get past our reluctance to talk about racial issues to even discuss it? Tatum writes that Whites are afraid of using the wrong words and being perceived as "racist" while parents of color are afraid of exposing their children to painful racial realities too soon. Using real-life examples and the latest research, Tatum presents strong evidence that straight talk about our racial identities-whatever they may be-is essential if we are serious about facilitating communication across racial and ethnic divides.


Hope Sings, So Beautiful: Graced encounters across the color line, Christopher Pramuk (2013). 238 pages.

Award-winning author Christopher Pramuk offers a mosaic of images and sketches for thinking and praying through difficult questions about race. The reader will encounter the perspectives of artists, poets, and theologians from many different ethnic and racial communities. topic will stimulate fruitful conversations and fresh thinking, whether in private study or prayer; in classrooms, churches, and reading groups; or among friends and family around the dinner table.

Workplace Culture

What if? Short stories to spark diversity dialogue, Steve Long-Nguyen Robbins (2008). 216 pages.

What If? delivers a creative and innovative new way to explore the issues that dominate today's multicultural, multiethnic workplace. To the twenty-five witty yet inspiring stories in this collection, Steve Long-Nguyen Robbins has added tips and suggestions for putting these key learnings into action. Combined, What If? offers a powerful lens into the human experience.