#BlackLivesMatter: An Anti-Racist Reading List

by Catherine Nicholls

The world is a pretty horrible place at the moment, and it’s totally justified to feel scared, powerless, angry, and everything in between. Racial injustice has existed for centuries. Black people have been oppressed for generations. It’s horrific and wrong, and it needs to change.

The recent fatal police shooting of George Floyd has outraged the world, and rightly so. This call to action needs to be met. We need to protest, donate, support one another, and fight for what is right. One way to do so is to learn. In order to dismantle racism, we must know how it pervades in society. Where it comes from. How inherent a role racism plays in society, in the law, in education. We must learn, listen, understand, and amplify voices that need to be heard. Here are some resources to understand racism, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and what it means to be an anti-racist.

READ:

They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery

“And by focusing on the character of the victim, we inadvertently take the focus off the powerful and instead train our eyes and judgment on the powerless.” 

The Blurb: Lowery investigates the cumulative effect of decades of racially biased policing in segregated neighborhoods with constant discrimination, failing schools, crumbling infrastructure and too few jobs. Offering a historically informed look at the standoff between the police and those they are sworn to protect, They Can’t Kill Us All demonstrates that civil unrest is just one tool of resistance in the broader struggle for justice.


Between The World And Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“The destroyers will rarely be held accountable. Mostly they will receive pensions.” 

The Blurb: Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?


Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde

“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us to temporarily beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change.”

The Blurb: Audre Lorde described herself as ‘Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet’. Her extraordinary belief in the power of language of speaking to articulate selfhood, confront injustice and bring about change in the world remains as transformative today as it was then, and no less urgent. Your Silence Will Not Protect You brings Lorde’s poetry and prose together for the first time.


The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

“Please try to remember that what they believe, as well as what they do and cause you to endure does not testify to your inferiority but to their inhumanity” 

The Blurb: James Baldwin’s impassioned plea to ‘end the racial nightmare’ in America was a bestseller when it appeared in 1963, galvanising a nation and giving voice to the emerging civil rights movement. Told in the form of two intensely personal ‘letters’, The Fire Next Time is at once a powerful evocation of Baldwin’s early life in Harlem and an excoriating condemnation of the terrible legacy of racial injustice. 


The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness By Michelle Alexander

“The nature of the criminal justice system has changed. It is no longer primarily concerned with the prevention and punishment of crime, but rather with the management and control of the dispossessed.” 

The Blurb: Challenging the notion that the election of Barack Obama signalled a new era of colourblindness in the United States, The New Jim Crow reveals how racial discrimination was not ended but merely redesigned. By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of colour, the American criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, relegating millions to a permanent second-class status even as it formally adheres to the principle of colourblindness.


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

“White privilege is dull, grinding complacency. It is par for the course in a world in which drastic race inequality is responded to with a shoulder shrug”

The Blurb: Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.


Freedom Is A Constant Struggle by Angela Davis

“If we do not know how to meaningfully talk about racism, our actions will move in misleading directions.” 

The Blurb: In these essays, interviews and speeches, Angela Y. Davis illuminates connections between struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world. Reflecting on the importance of black feminism, intersectionality and prison abolitionism for today’s struggles, Davis discusses the legacies of previous liberation struggles. She highlights connections and analyses today’s struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine. Facing a world of injustice, Davis challenges us to build the movement for human liberation.


So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

“If you live in this system of white supremacy, you are either fighting the system of you are complicit. There is no neutrality to be had towards systems of injustice, it is not something you can just opt out of.” 

The Blurb: In So You Want to Talk About Race, Editor at Large of The Establishment Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the “N” word. Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions readers don’t dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans.


White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

“It is white people’s responsibility to be less fragile; people of color don’t need to twist themselves into knots trying to navigate us as painlessly as possible.” 

The Blurb:  Using knowledge and insight gained over decades of running racial awareness workshops and working on this idea as a Professor of Whiteness Studies, Robin DiAngelo shows us how we can start having more honest conversations, listen to each other better and react to feedback with grace and humility. It is not enough to simply hold abstract progressive views and condemn the obvious racists on social media – change starts with us all at a practical, granular level, and it is time for all white people to take responsibility for relinquishing their own racial supremacy.


Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo

“Privilege is about context and circumstance” 

The Blurb: Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different characters. Mostly women, black and British, they tell the stories of their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. Joyfully polyphonic and vibrantly contemporary, this is a gloriously new kind of history, a novel of our times: celebratory, ever-dynamic and utterly irresistible.



WATCH:

13th (2016; dir Ava DuVernay)

The Description: The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity.


Strong Island (2017; dir Yance Ford)

The Description: A deeply intimate and meditative film, Strong Island asks what one can do when the grief of loss is entwined with historical injustice, and how one grapples with the complicity of silence, which can bind a family in an imitation of life, and a nation with a false sense of justice.


Teach Us All (2017; dir Sonia Lowman)

The Description: It’s been decades since Brown v. Board of Education, yet American schools remain largely segregated. Some leaders are working to change that.


I Am Not Your Negro (2016; dir Raoul Peck)

The Description: I Am Not Your Negro offers an incendiary snapshot of James Baldwin’s crucial observations on American race relations — and a sobering reminder of how far we’ve yet to go.


When They See Us (2019; dir Ava DuVernay)

The Description: Based on a true story that gripped the country, When They See Us will chronicle the notorious case of five teenagers of color, labeled the Central Park Five, who were convicted of a rape they did not commit. The four part limited series will focus on the five teenagers from Harlem — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise. Beginning in the spring of 1989, when the teenagers were first questioned about the incident, the series will span 25 years, highlighting their exoneration in 2002 and the settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014.

You may also like

Leave a Comment