Systemic racism has become almost instinctual, and radical unlearning would need a lot of knowledge and self-awareness. While it might be difficult to rage against the unsettling silence in the face of oppression that our society has grown comfortable with, we need to appraise the kind of world we want to leave for posterity. Reading has always been central to any positive change our world has witnessed since the beginning of civilization. Thus, one of the foundational steps in upending racist forces has to be reading. Here is a list of anti-racist books to help you educate, empathize, and unlearn better for the sake of our marginalized ancestors, our ostracized friends living across time zones, and future generations.
So You Want to Talk About Race By Ijeoma Oluo
Oluo is a phenomenal writer who has used her voice to reduce the gap between the understanding of racism between white people and people of color. She has offered a very nuanced perspective on the minority myth, the school-to-prison pipeline, cultural appropriation, racial profiling, the N-word, and other kinds of micro- and macroaggressions dominating our racial landscape in the 21st century. This book will be particularly helpful not just for those who are ignorant of how racism is still the current reality of America, but also for those who are aware of its existence but don’t know much about its many covert and overt manifestations.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism By Robin DiAngelo
DiAngelo starts by challenging the common misconception of white people about why they are not racist. Racism has its roots deeply ingrained in our society and no matter how progressive we are, we have been culturally trained to preserve the modules of an institution that is antagonistic to people of color. This book is a wake-up call, a rude awakening for every privileged person out there thinking racism died with the onset of the Emancipation Act. Exclusively white emotions like survivor’s guilt or anger at being called out serve no one unless a conscious effort is taken to oppose the racial disharmony plaguing our world.
Between the World and Me By Ta-Nehisi Coates
Coates frames this book in the form of a letter for his adolescent son about what it’s like to inhabit a Black body. Unlike him and his ancestors, his son lives in an age when America has been graced by African Americans in positions of authority. Race is a product of racism and Black people were used as cannon fodder when America built its empire. Manifestations of racism might have changed. The hanging tree has been replaced by racial profiling and the school-to-prison pipeline. But the core sentiment still remains the same. Highly moving and deeply profound, this book should be read by everyone trying to make sense of our beautiful, unjust world.
An American Marriage By Tayari Jones
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy just started living the American dream. Their fulfilling careers and satisfying conjugal life come to a halt when Roy is sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment for a crime he didn’t commit. This book personalizes the unshakeable ramifications of racism as we see their marriage falling apart. Celestial has already found comfort and a new love in Andre when Roy comes back after five years. Torn apart by a country bent on criminalizing Black people, this is a haunting tale of lives losing their natural momentum and humanity. Bigger, uncontrollable forces are at play here stripping Black people of their personhood.
Ghost Boys By Jewell Parker Rhodes
Twelve-year-old Jerome gets shot by a white cop. The novel is written from the point of view of the ghost rendition of Jerome. He will eventually befriend Emmett Till and Sarah, and together they will start laying down the groundwork for a better tomorrow. This book is extremely educative and a very good way of introducing the concept of racism to young kids. It encourages readers to debunk their system of binary labeling as humans come in all shades. History, politics, and humanity come together to weave a gripping tale of the racial dynamics that torment our society as a whole.
How To Be An Antiracist By Ibram X. Kendi
This book is an extremely nuanced take on not just how to cultivate an anti-racist mindset but also how to go beyond that and build an all-inclusive society. Though self-awareness is mandatory, it is never enough. It can be a useful day to day guide for white people on how to actively challenge their own privilege. Ethics, history, law, and science have been woven together to create a powerful, engaging, and intricate manual for everyone on how to be better at liberating themselves as well as others from a racist society.
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness By Austin Channing Brown
At the age of 7, Austin realized that her parents named her Austin to fool her white employers into thinking that she is a white man. A society where people of color still have to remold and rename themselves to fit in can’t be called democratic. At an age when all sorts of institutions, be it educational or religious, brag about being inclusive this book is a thought-provoking meditation on why our words fall short in bringing about real change. An empathetic read that invites the reader to confront their deep-rooted bias, this book truly is a work of genius.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race By Reni Eddo-Lodge
Award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustrations about the current racial landscape in 2014. She wrote an article for her blog, bearing the same name as this book, that eventually led to Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race. White people in Britain, just like white people living anywhere else, are extremely apathetic towards the consequences of racism that people of color have to encounter all the time. This book was much needed to counter racist stereotypes as Eddo-Lodge provides a timely framework and illuminating perspective on what it’s like to inhabit a still racist Britain.