Saskatoon women start anti-racist book club to educate themselves

Two Saskatoon women say they're are starting a book club because they want to educate themselves about systemic racism and privilege.

Women said they wanted to educate themselves after witnessing Black Lives Matter movement

Nadine Zettl, pictured with husband Jean Grey and children Robin and Sage, says the Black Lives Matter movement motivated her and a friend to start a book club to educate themselves. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Saskatoon mom Nadine Zettl says she didn't often think of herself as a member of a bi-racial family. She also didn't think much about systemic racism.

That started to change a few months ago.

Zettl and friend Olivia Chadwick began to talk about the Black Lives Matter and Indigenous Lives Matter movements in Saskatchewan and around North America.

They talked to another friend, Kathy Walker, who teaches Indigenous political thought and other subjects at the University of Saskatchewan. On Walker's advice, they decided to form an anti-racist book club.

Walker said she was "really impressed" with Zettl and Chadwick's humble, open-minded approach to the idea.

"All of these small acts of responsibility make a difference," Walker said.

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University of Saskatchewan lecturer Kathy Walker said she was impressed her non-Indigenous friend wanted to start an anti-racist book club. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Zettl said she wants to learn about issues of race and systemic racism. She said it's one of many steps that people of privilege need to take.

"The Black Lives Matter protests really brought to light a lot of things we hadn't considered before, including our own white privilege. It just felt like the right moment to start this project," Zettl said.

"I think that if we're gong to lift our society up, it's going to be through education. We can't make other people try to be aware of a problem that we don't understand ourselves."

Their first book will be How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi.

Zettl and Chadwick are recruiting book club members and say anyone is welcome. They they plan to read one book a month and host a discussion afterwards either online or physically distanced in person.

They say this is the first small step in learning how they can be an better ally to Black and Indigenous people and other people of colour

Both Chadwick and Zettl said the book club is personal, but agree it could also help them in their jobs. Chadwick is a fitness coach who works with women marginalized by their body shape and Zettl works for people with disabilities.

"It's one thing to read it, but another to live it. We need to have those conversations," Chadwick said.

Chadwick and Zettl said they're grateful for Walker's help. Walker said she was happy to do oblige.

"I think it's important everyone educate themselves on what racism is," Walker said. "As an Indigenous person, we experience racism all the time. It's very visible to us. For others, it's normalized or invisible."

A Saskatoon book club's first selection will be Ibram X. Kendi's How to be Antiracist. (Random House Publishing Group)

Walker provided a suggested reading list. Here are some selections by Saskatchewan authors:

  • Peace and Good Order: The Case for Indigenous Justice in Canada by Harold R. Johnson.
  • Storying Violence: Unravelling Colonial Narratives in the Stanley Trial by Gina Starblanket & Dallas Hunt (being released July 24th).
  • Keetsahnak: Our Missing and Murdered Indigenous Sister edited by Kim Anderson, Maria Campbell & Christi Belcourt.
  • The Sleeping Giant Awakens: Genocide, Indian Residential Schools, and the Challenge of Conciliation by David B. MacDonald.
  • Prairie Rising: Indigenous Youth, Decolonization, and the Politics of Intervention by Jaskiran Dhillon.
  • Halfbreed by Maria Campbell.
  • Prison of Grass by Howard Adams.