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CAPE FEAR MEMORIAL BRIDGE: Updates, resources, and context

CoastLine: White people on the work of antiracism

Black History Month brings a raised awareness of people left out of America’s mainstream historical narrative. It can generate much-needed discussion of current areas of inequality among the races.  But so often the burden for leading these explorations lands on the shoulders of our Black teachers, historians, and leaders.  Not on this episode. Listen to two white people, Professor Kim Cook and Jim Downey, undertake the work with humility and some inevitable awkwardness.

February is, of course, Black History Month. Along with a focus on lesser-known people of color who have had a significant historical impact, news organizations and educational institutions also typically engage more on current issues that affect all of us – especially people of color.

With the deeper engagement comes a heavier load for Black leaders, historians, teachers, and officials. They are often disproportionately burdened with teaching, raising awareness, and explaining what it means to be Black in 21st century America. This can occur whether or not that person is professionally engaged in discussing racial issues.

For those reasons, this edition of CoastLine puts the psychological and emotional labor on white people in service of moving toward racial reconciliation. It’s a load that white people can choose to undertake or ignore, a form of white privilege in itself.

Ibram X. Kendi discussing his book "How to Be an Antiracist" at Unitarian Universalist Church in Montclair, New Jersey
TonyTurnerPhoto / Creative Commons
Ibram X. Kendi discussing his book "How to Be an Antiracist" at Unitarian Universalist Church in Montclair, New Jersey

The goal of this episode is not to prove that a racialized American culture exists. Plenty of social scientists and other researchers have thoroughly documented the ways race profoundly affects life outcomes in the United States; racial disparities show up in health and longevity, wealth accumulation, job opportunities, and political influence.

Our goal is to point to the ways these structures have long been – and still are – invisible to well-meaning white people and to explore what it means in practice to be an anti-racist.

It is also not our goal to beat the drum of white guilt – our own or others. That’s not helpful. What is helpful is white awareness, commitment to learning, and action.


Dr. Kim Cook, professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington; recently awarded the Division on Critical Criminology & Social Justice Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Criminology; Director, Restorative Justice Collaborative at UNCW

Jim Downey, glass artist; leader, New Hanover County Community Remembrance Project, which focuses on commemorating the victims of Wilmington’s 1898 massacre


NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources information on the 1898 Wilmington massacre:


Heather McGhee, Ted Talk: Racism has a cost for everyone:


Further reading:

Racism Without Racists:  Color-blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America, by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

Caste:  The Origins of our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson

The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee

Waking Up White and Finding Myself in the Story of Race, by Debby Irving

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

We Were Eight Years in Power, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

How to be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi

Duke University:

The Association Between Racial Wealth Inequities and Racial Disparities in Longevity Among US Adults and Role of Reparations Payments

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 4 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.