In today’s social climate, denouncing racism is not enough. We must actively work toward anti-racism in a system built on and profiting from racism. If you are white, you must use your white privilege to fight as an ally against systemic racism.
Now, more than ever, white people need to help raise the voices of the black community. We must unlearn the racism handed down through generations. We must actively support the black community and fight for a just and equal society.
This list of books is not comprehensive; there are many books that we could list that address systemic racism and its toll on black communities. Instead, these five are a starting point to go from being “not racist” to “anti-racist.” As white allies, we must do better.
1. So You Want to Talk About Race—Ijeoma Oluo
Ijeoma Olou’s book, So You Want to Talk About Race, is an excellent starting point when looking to learn about anti-racism and how to be anti-racist. Although it has been at the forefront of media coverage for a while, we still find it difficult to talk about racism, police brutality, and white supremacy. To make talking about these subjects easier, Oluo’s book takes readers through different topics in the book, from intersectionality to affirmative action. The user-friendly way in which Oluo writes this book helps bridge the gap between silence on the subjects to honest conversations about racism and how it affects almost every aspect of life in America.
2. How to Be an Anti-Racist—Ibram X. Kendi
The opposite of “racist” isn’t “not racist,” it is “anti-racist,” a concept presented in Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Anti-Racist. In this book, Kendi’s concept of anti-racism looks to shape alternative ways of thinking about ourselves and others within our society. Kendi poses the idea that instead of trying to reform existing policies and systems in place, what an anti-racist society would look like and how can we have an active role in creating it. Kendi’s book uses a combination of ethics, history, law, and science to bring to the page the contributions we can make to form a fair and just society.
3. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race—Reni Eddo-Lodge
Journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is a response to her frustration with discussions of race and racism. Eddo-Lodge’s book looks at how those who lead these discussions are blind to racism or willfully ignorant to racism’s lasting effects in society. In her book, Eddo-Lodge examines a multitude of topics from erasure of black history to whitewashed feminism to political purpose of white dominance. Eddo-Lodge’s book not only examines these issues, but works to help readers actively see, acknowledge, and counter racism in our society.
4. The New Jim Crow—Michelle Alexander
Michelle Alexander’s book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, challenges the idea that the election of Barack Obama brought a new era of colorblindness in the United States. Instead, Alexander argues in her book that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” This book takes an in-depth look at how the U.S. criminal justice system targets black men, destroys black communities, and upholds systemic racism.
5. White Fragility—Robin DiAngelo
Anti-racism educator Robin DiAngelo’s book, White Fragility, tackles the idea that racism is not limited to ‘bad people.’ DiAngelo’s book addresses how white fragility can manifest itself in emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and in actions such as arguing and silence when racially challenged. These actions further white racial stability and prevent purposeful cross-racial communication. The book explores how white fragility develops, how it fortifies racial inequalities, and what we can do to combat racism.
Are there any anti-racism books you recommend so white allies can do better? Let us know in the comments!