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New book by Minnesota author examines whiteness

Minnesota author David Mura has just released a new book called “The Stories Whiteness Tells Itself: Racial Myths and Our American Narratives.” It examines the narratives people create to justify white supremacy and sustain racist oppression.

Mura’s book begins with an essay on the killing of Philando Castile and ends with an essay on the police murder of George Floyd - both of which took place just a few miles from his home.

“I realized that the roots of what happened to Philando Castile go all the way back to the beginnings of our history,” said Mura. “And that in many ways, the script for what happened, began being created at the advent of slavery.”

Mura is a third generation Japanese American author, poet, novelist, playwright, critic and performance artist whose writings explore race, identity and history.

Mura says he’s been thinking about race in relation to white supremacy ever since his parents were imprisoned in US internment camps.

“In various ways my parents took the message, both consciously and unconsciously, that their crime was not anything they had done, but their race and ethnicity were their crime,” said Mura. “In my late 20s, I began to read Black authors. And I finally had to admit I wasn't white, I was never going to be white. I'd read through an all white Anglo American canon, and never found in any of those white authors the language to talk about race, whereas reading [James] Baldwin and [Toni] Morrison and Bell Hooks, I found a language that I could use and terms and ways of looking at the world that I could use to examine my own identity.”

Mura is a frequent collaborator with African American novelist and educator Alexs Pate. In the 1990’s they co-created a performance piece based on the events surrounding the video of the Rodney King beating by LA police. David also served as Director of Training for Pate’s Innocent Classroom program that trains K-12 teachers to improve their relationship with students of color.

Mura says American society began with two conflicting goals - one being the goal of freedom and democracy and a second goal of establishing white supremacy and maintaining its oppression over Black and native people.

“America is fine with telling our nation's history through the lens of the first goal. White America is not fine with telling the story of America through the lens of white supremacy, and the efforts of white Americans to oppress Black, native and other BIPOC people,” said Mura. “This idea is that somehow telling this history will harm white children… so the lie of America is the way that we've covered over, over and over again, the efforts of white supremacy and whiteness, to establish the oppression of Black Americans.”

Mura says we can see the unwillingness to discuss the whole truth about race and racism in recent efforts by government officials, such as Ron Desantis, working to ban AP African American History. Mura says with so much effort being made to not teach our racial history, it becomes harder to understand and address racism in the present.

“America needs to undergo a re-examination of our history, of the way race functions in our society. To really unpack that thinking and behavior and help people to see the absurdity, the untruth and the gaslighting that's embodied in those categories, and begin to think anew about what we could be as a country, said Mura.”

Mura will read from “The Stories Whiteness Tells Itself: Racial Myths and Our American Narratives” on Monday February 27 at Next Chapter Booksellers in St. Paul.

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