This book is not about pie, but you might want to eat a slice of pie while you read it!
Dr. William T. Lewis, Sr. has given us a rare gift in Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Pie: Conversations with My White Friends about Race. The book is a personal, insightful, empathetic look at race and allyship from both Black and White perspectives.
A gifted storyteller, Dr. Lewis invites us on a walk down memory lane where he gently weaves together his experiences growing up and “adulting” Black while highlighting the history of structural racism and its stronghold in modern America.
In addition to his own story, the author includes a number of candid interviews he conducted with White friends and colleagues who open up about their own racial awakening.
Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Pie was written for one sole purpose: to help the reader facilitate empathetic conversations. You can it as a springboard to have brave conversations about race with your friends, family, colleagues, or small group. There are questions at the end of each chapter to help you get the conversation going.
Over the past few years, more and more people have realized how prevalent racism is in the world—especially here in the “United” States of America. Many on social media have used their platforms to honor social justice leaders and remember those lost too soon.
Graphic Art by Ariel Sinha
After the brutal and very public murder of George Floyd, Dr. Lewis was contacted by many White allies who were genuinely concerned about him. These brief encounters turned into seeds for what would eventually become this book.
Humbled and grateful for their concern, no amount of compassion would alleviate the pain and frustration of the constant disregard of Black lives which continues to this day.
It was not long until the author was compelled to take action. Although it was NEVER on his mind to inquire about the lived experience of White people, Dr. Lewis felt like God was giving him an assignment he could not refuse: GET CURIOUS.
You can take the Sweet Potato OR Pumpkin Pie Quiz on the author’s website here:
Lewis reached back out to his White friends and colleagues with a special request: Would they join him to have a candid conversation about racism, their naivete as folks living with White privilege, and their personal racial awakening. And pie, of course!
He explained their brave conversations would be recorded and published as a podcast: Beyond Color Blind. 🎙️
One by one, each question was met with a resounding “YES!”
His guests were exactly what he’d hoped they would be—vulnerable, honest, and humble. And they eventually became the impetus for the book, Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Pie. In fact, select podcast transcripts are included at the end of each chapter to supplement the lessons being taught.
Dr. Lewis’ conviction is clear: “I believe we need to talk with each other before the crisis so that we can hear each other during the crisis, and then we can help each other heal after the crisis” (emphases: italics, his; bold, mine)."I believe we need to *talk* with each other before the crisis so that we can *hear* each other during the crisis, and then we can help each other *heal* after the crisis." William T. Lewis, Sr. #braveconversations Click To Tweet
Woven throughout his story, Dr. Lewis highlights historical events that have shaped the Black experience in America—many of which were left out of my history classes in public school.
Like many White folks these days, I’ve realized how biased my education was, and how from the earliest days of my childhood I was being taught that White was normal and everyone else was “less than.” It’s appalling, and it must be stopped.
Books like Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Pie are CRITICAL for our education because they reveal parts of our history that were purposefully left out of our education as American citizens. If you aren’t familiar with the following, then buy this book and educate yourself.
- 1705 Virginia Slave Codes
- The Lost Cause by Edward Pollard
- Reconstruction and the resulting deconstruction due to “Jim Crow” laws
- The connection between Christianity and Slavery
- The Mississippi Plan (1890)
- The Birth of a Nation (1915 film)
- The origin of the Confederate Flag
- The Tuskegee Study (experiments on 600 Black men)
- Emmett Till
- The Southern Strategy (1981)
- The 13th Amendment
It’s important not only to know how these teachings and messages shaped America, but also how they continue to divide our society and influence our culture.
Dr. Lewis covers the construction of racial identity of Blacks and Whites separately. Chapter 4 offers an overview on Black identity formation from “pre-encounter” to “internalization-commitment,” and Chapter 6 covers the development of White identity from “contact” to “autonomy.”"Racism has really done a number on all of us, Black and White alike." William T. Lewis, Sr. Click To Tweet
I think this quote about sums it up: “Racism has really done a number on all of us, Black and White alike” (page 37).
We must encourage each other to get past the tar-pit middle of our racial identity development because that’s where bigotry is nurtured. It’s where hope and empathy go to die.
Our best hope for unity is a society full of humans who have fully developed their racial identities. Humans who join together and work conscientiously from a place of internalized commitment (Black) and autonomy (White) to overturn structural and systemic racism.
Please get this book. Read it. Share it with a friend. Start a conversation. Use the conversation prompts at the end of each chapter to have brave conversations about race.
Sweet Potato or Pumpkin Pie: Conversations with My White Friends about Race
by William T. Lewis, Sr. MSW, PhD
Graphics & Photo credits: Mature friends in conversation at home - Photo by Rido81. Licensed by Laura Zielke for use on this page. Say Ner Name: Breonna Taylor - Graphic Art by Ariel Sinha Justice for Ahmaud - Graphic Art by Ariel Sinha Justice for George - Graphic Art by Ariel Sinha Happy Birthday, Tamir - Graphic Art by Ariel Sinha Justice for Daunte - Graphic Art by Ariel Sinha Say Her Name: Ma'Khia Bryant - Graphic Art by Ariel Sinha Beyond Colorblind Podcast Logo by Dr. William T. Lewis Sr. Toddlers with flag - Photo by nrradmin. Licensed by Laura Zielke for use on this page. Group selfie - Photo by xapdemolle. Licensed by Laura Zielke for use on this page.
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