In the weeks following the police killing of George Floyd, anti-racist protests have vaulted a number of Black leaders, artists, intellectuals, and authors to the foreground of American consciousness. Among them is YA author and former bookseller Kimberly Jones, whose seven-minute video “How Can We Win” has gained national media attention, been viewed three million times, and was given the final word of John Oliver’s episode dedicated to police violence on his show Last Week Tonight.
“How Can We Win” opens with Jones dismantling the debate within Black communities regarding the value of different types of protests and riots as a distraction. “As long as we’re focused on what they’re doing, we’re not focusing on why they’re doing it,” she says.
But Jones reserves much of the video for a searing critique of the white supremacist “up from your bootstraps” take on the American Dream, which she says ignores how Black poverty in America is inextricably linked to the fact that the nation’s economics were built on slavery. Equating it to a rigged game of Monopoly, Jones likens it to making Black people “have to play on behalf of the person you’re playing against. You have to play and make money and make wealth for them, and then you have to turn it over to them.”
“You can’t win,” Jones says. “The game is fixed.”
A former manager of Little Shop of Stories, the children’s bookstore in Decatur, Ga., Jones has gained acclaim for her 2019 novel I’m Not Dying With You Tonight (Sourcebooks Fire), which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Co-authored with Gilly Segal, the book tells the story of two girls whose lives intersect when a race riot breaks out at a high school football game and they simply try to survive.
That message of survival is at the heart of Jones’s video. “The social contract is broken,” she said, adding later, “You broke the contract when you killed us in the streets.”
Fellow authors have shared the video widely, including The Hate U Give author Angie Thomas, who took to Twitter to say, “Y’all are blessed that @kimlatricejones writes for our young people, and half of y’all don’t even know it. Go buy her and @really_gilly’s novel, I’m Not Dying with You Tonight.”
For her own part, Jones expressed gratitude at receiving the support of people like Thomas. “I’m in a surreal universe where my everyday rant has reached the world,” Jones wrote on Twitter, “and is being shared by my IDOLS!”