Anti-racist book club strives to educate community

Fight against racism inspires club


Anna Benishek

Photo Illustration by Anna Benishek.

Anna Benishek

Juniors Semona Robel and Jack Westrup founded the anti-racist book club in hopes to offer new perspectives to students around the area.

According to Westrup, the objective of the anti-racist book club is to provide students with different points of views about racism and captialism.  

“The purpose of our club is to educate people on an anti-racist prepective from an anti-captialist perspective because I believe the two go hand and hand,” Westrup said. “The material we’re going over right now is actually ‘how to be an anti-racist’ and it ties directly into those goals.”

Robel said they started the book club to help the community grow to become open-minded and maintain a safe environment to acquire information. 

“We did it mainly because we wanted to see change in our school and our community in general. With everything going on in Minnesota with the death of George Floyd and Daunte Wright, we sort of noticed this trend of people not educating themselves,” Robel said. “We thought that it would be a great idea to sort of provide that space for people to learn and discuss.”

It’s a safe space where some people are more verus and a lot of deep and intricate aspects of this which is why I joined because I want to do that as well. But there’s no judgement in the club at all. They’re just all there to help out and promote the idea of anti-racism. ”

— Gracia Rettig

Junior Gracia Rettig said it’s a great environment to talk about controversial topics and be open to different opinions about books and race in general.

“Having a space like this, judgement free, where we’re just all kind of coming to learn and understand better is super healthy and super productive because it’s not forced on anyone. You come and you learn and you listen,” Rettig said. “It’s also helpful to be reading the book because then it’s different and it’s not just hearing people talk to you.”

According to Robel, having these types of clubs are beneficial to our school and the community to educate people to understand racism. 

“St. Louis Park is a fairly liberal area and fairly diverse as well in terms of race and ethnicity and sexual orientation,” Robel said. “A lot of schools near us don’t necessarily have that diversity and it’s actually harder for them to actually understand racism, anti-racism and capitalism and the way the two sort of interact with each other. And it’s really important to learn about those two things.”

Westrup said having this club is important to have in schools because it introduces people to a new standpoint. 

“I felt that it would be a good counterpart to SOAR [Students Organized Against Racism] not only because we’re educating people, but because it also kind of ties into it. Indoctrinating more people and getting them in the right mindset,” Westrup said. 

Robel said it’s necessary to educate everyone about these topics and hopes her club will grow within the community. 

“I feel like I’m making a difference. It might not be a super huge thing now or this year but (I) certainly wish it continues to grow and establish itself in the community,” Robel said. “I truly think that it’s really important for not only high school kids, but also younger children as well to get a anti-racist education. I only hope it continues to grow and we just continue to make a difference.”