Welcome to the Anti-Racism Self-Help Aisle

By Jamie Kirk

If the nationwide uprising following the horrific murder of George Floyd has left you eager to actively tackle and dismantle racism in your community and learn more about the practice and ideology of anti-racism, one of the best things you can do is to educate yourself by opening up a book. No Facebook Post. No Instagram post. No Tweets. A Book. You’d be forgiven if you’re unsure of where to start since there are truly hundreds of compelling topics and books on the subject of racism. Don’t sweat it too much. The important thing to do is to start: Here are a few picks I feel are essential reading. Maybe challenge yourself to read two of the below by the end of the year – not having time is not a good excuse these days.  

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
Beverly Daniel Tatum  

Walk into any racially mixed high school, and you will see Black, White, and Latin youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? 

So You Want to Talk About Race
Ijeoma Oluo

In this breakout book, Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today’s racial landscape from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination, and the Black Lives Matter movement offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide. 

How to be an Antiracist
Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

The author’s anti-racism concept re-energizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America – but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. 

The Vanishing Half 
Brit Bennett 

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, Southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults; it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same Southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Black Skin, White Masks 
Frantz Fanon

A major influence on civil rights, anti-colonial, and black consciousness movements around the world, this book is the unsurpassed study of the black psyche in a white world. Hailed for its scientific analysis and poetic grace when it was first published in 1952, the book remains a vital force today from one of the most important theorists of revolutionary struggle, colonialism, and racial difference in history. 

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism
Robin DiAngelo

This New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality. 

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America 
Richard Rothstein 

In this groundbreaking history of the modern American metropolis, the author explores the myth that America’s cities came to be racially divided through de facto segregation – that is, through individual prejudices, income differences, or the actions of private institutions like banks and real estate agencies. Rather, the book incontrovertibly makes clear that de jure segregation – the laws and policy decisions passed by local, state, and federal governments – that actually promoted the discriminatory patterns that continue to this day. 

Invisible Man 
Ralph Ellison 

First published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, this book is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does the author’s nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely new model of what a novel can be. 

Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and It’s Urgent Lessons for Our Own
Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. 

James Baldwin grew disillusioned by the failure of the civil rights movement to force America to confront its lies about race. In our own moment, when that confrontation feels more urgently needed than ever, what can we learn from this struggle? 

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong
James W. Loewen 

Americans have lost touch with their history, and in this book, the author shows why. After surveying eighteen leading high school American history texts, he has concluded that not one does a decent job of making history interesting or memorable. Marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and outright lies, these books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion conflict, and drama from our past.  

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