Excerpt from The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy

Introduction

Race, for us, is like the miner’s canary. Miners often carried a canary into the mine alongside them. The canary’s more fragile respiratory system would cause it to collapse from noxious gases long before humans were affected, thus alerting the miners to danger. The canary’s distress signaled that it was time to get out of the mine because the air was becoming too poisonous to breathe.

Those who are racially marginalized are like the miner’s canary: their distress is the first sign of a danger that threatens us all. It is easy enough to think that when we sacrifice this canary, the only harm is to communities of color. Yet others ignore problems that converge around racial minorities at their own peril, for these problems are symptoms warning us that we are all at risk.

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