“As we launched our research for 40 Ways to Raise a Nonracist Child, I halfway hoped that we’d find some overlooked or forgotten antidote to racism. Or even better, a vaccine. A solution that at worst would require periodic boosters. But, alas, there are no magic tricks,” Mary Ann French writes in the introduction of the book she co-authored with Barbara Mathias.

Publication of the book comes as the entire nation searches for a miracle to stop the rash of African-American church burnings; a 13-year-old girl was arrested and charged with arson in one case in North Carolina, serving as undeniable evidence of the need for the book French and Mathias have penned.

Writing the book wasn’t easy, says French. The authors—one white, one black, both journalists with children—were forced to confront their own stereotypes about racism and refine their definition of a racist. “It was painful, challenging, and life-changing,” she says. The fortysomething African-American half of the duo has a 6-year-old son and is a staff writer for the Washington Post. Mathias, a fiftysomething free-lancer who has also written for the Post, is white and has five grown children.

The authors argued about whether blacks can truly be racists if they lack certain kinds of power. Sometimes it got ugly: “There were times when we argued vehemently, and one particular ‘lost weekend’ we insulted and questioned each other’s views with a passion that threatened to end our project,” Mathias wrote.

But despite the fights, French says, “both of us are proud for having done this.”

Fortunately, readers of 40 Ways to Raise a Nonracist Child are the beneficiaries of French and Mathias’ intense battles, and their fine research.—Jonetta Rose Barras