12 Books That Will Help You Educate Yourself On Systemic Racism

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Books about racism

“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” ― Angela Y. Davis

(This article first appeared on Secret NYC.)

When we watched the infamous video of George Floyd’s life being taken away by someone whose job it was to protect him, we immediately felt visceral outrage that was followed by an all-consuming paralysis. With the horrific image haunting us, we have been left feeling overwhelmed with powerlessness as we realise the true gravity of the situation that spans centuries. But it shouldn’t take a video to make us begin the change, and the change shouldn’t be limited to one day.

It’s ongoing action within ourselves and our immediate communities. So, while the coronavirus outbreak keeps us indoors, there are a number of things you can do. Firstly, you can show your support by donating to relevant organisations, and you can start educating yourself.

Here is a list of books that come from a diverse range of sources, such as the Black Lives Matter organisation, professors and leaders in the field, as well as individuals that have experienced racial injustice.

1. So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

In this New York Times bestseller, writer and speaker Ijeoma Oluo guides readers through how to have honest conversations about race and how it is a part of daily American life. Oluo walks you through, empathetically yet bluntly, how to talk about everything from explaining white privilege to white, privileged people to telling friends and family that their jokes are racist.

2. Racism Without Racists by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

This book, which was updated in its fifth edition in 2017 to include the Black Lives Matter movement, the 2016 election and more, documents all of the ways in which white people “account for — and ultimately justify — racial inequalities” through stories, arguments, language and more.

3. Blindspot by Mahzarin R. Banaji & Anthony Greenwald

We all have a blindspot. In this book, psychologists Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald explore the hidden biases we all inherit from societal messages regarding age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, and nationality.

4. Biased by Jennifer L. Ebernhardt, PhD

Racial bias exists in all parts of our culture: neighbourhoods, schools, workplaces, and of course, the criminal justice system. In “Biased,” Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt supplies readers with the tools to address these issues through language and action. We all have this problem, but we can all work to solve it.

5. Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins

This book explores the words and ideas of Black feminist intellectuals as well as other African-American women not in academia, including Angela Davis, bell hooks, Alice Walker, and Audre Lorde.

6. Freedom Is A Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis

It’s impossible to talk about antiracism without mentioning Angela Davis. Her ability to succinctly capture a complex situation has made her one of the most quoted individuals on the matter—at least in terms of viral social media posts. Freedom Is A Constant Struggle (2016) goes deeper by gathering her interviews, speeches, thoughts and essays into one moving collection. It touches on everything from the anti-Apartheid movement, black feminism to highlighting connections with the Ferguson protests. As we face racial injustice, Davis reminds us that freedom really is a constant struggle.

7. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

In this poignant collection of speeches and essays, Lorde directly calls on us to “never close our eyes to the terror, to the chaos which is Black which is creative which is female which is dark which is rejected which is messy which is.” She addresses everything from sexism, racism, homophobia, ageisms and class and provides a case for using it as a foundation for change.

8. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

The book is divided into two parts: “My Dungeon Shook — Letter to my Nephew on the One-Hundredth Anniversary of the Emancipation” and “Down At The Cross — Letter from a Region of My Mind.” While it largely captures Baldwin’s anger at the state of the nation during the 1960s it also provides hope. He reminds us that is the duty of everyone living in society to make the change.

9. White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

Robin DiAngelo is an antiracist educator who exposes the counterproductive reactions that white people have when their views on racism are challenged. The book delves into the discomfort white people feel when they are faced with the topic of racism and it unpacks the flawed system we currently live and how white people refuse to acknowledge their participation in it. The book has become a New York Times bestseller and is currently the top-selling book on Amazon, which tells you enough.

10. How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

In this compelling memoir, Ibram X. Kendi explores what a new antiracist society would look like. He goes beyond racial injustice in America and intricately weaves concepts of policy, law, ethics and science with personal examinations of ourselves and our way of thinking about racism. This is an essential read for anyone that wants to not only understand but to transform society and change inequalities.

11. Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Books about racism

Initially a blog post, Reni Eddo-Lodge turned her work into one of the seminal texts about racism in the UK, which catapulted it up the bestseller lists. If you’re looking for a book to help you identify and confront institutional racism, this is an excellent place to start.

12 Natives: Race & Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala

Books about racism

Musician, journalist, poet, and author: there is, honestly, extremely little that Akala can’t do. That includes tackling race and class from both a political and a personal perspective in this book, which confronts the tensions and denial at the heart of Britain’s relationship to race.

Note: The first four books in this list were recommended in Tasha K’s shareable anti-racism resource guide. Please consider donating to her for putting together these suggestions and reading the resource on this important work (links within doc).

Featured image: Instagram / @greenlightbklyn