One of the best ways to combat racism in ourselves is to read widely and deeply on the subject. These anti-racist books, culled from reading lists offered by advocates and professors, address racism from a variety of angles. Some are educational texts that explain how it worms its way into so many aspects of society, largely without our noticing. Some are works of fiction that illustrate its destructiveness through story. And while this list is by no means exhaustive, we hope it gives you a starting point as you embark on or continue your own journey.
The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race by Jesmyn Ward The National Book Award-winning author of Salvage the Bones edited this anthology of essays and poems that engage with James Baldwin's 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time. Organized into three sections, it looks at our legacy, the state of things today, and how we can work toward a better future.
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson Born out of a Washington Post op-ed, this book addresses the way that African American social progress has been stymied by white opposition throughout history, from the Jim Crow laws to the War on Drugs and even the response to Barack Obama's election. It offers a fresh perspective that history books didn't teach us.
So You Want to Talk about Race by Ijeo Oluo From why it's not OK to touch your Black friend's hair, to how to tell your coworker their joke is racist, to talking about white privilege in general, this book can help us all navigate those difficult conversations. If you're uncomfortable talking about race, let this book be your guide.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Anjelou In her heart-wrenching debut memoir, Maya Angelou shares her experience with racism and bigotry and how she turned to literature and her own inner strength to help her survive. For those who need their lessons couched in story, you can't go wrong with Angelou.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi The title says it all. This book breaks down the author's own journey toward active anti-racism, while serving as a guide for people who want to go beyond not being racist, into working to create a more just society. It's essential reading for anyone asking, "What more can I do?"
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine With her signature blend of essay, poetry, and imagery, Rankine illustrates the many racial aggressions that permeate society, from the grocery store to the classroom, and in the media. For anyone who's ever thought we lived in a post-race society, this book will change their mind.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates Ranging from the broad social issues of our time to an intimate conversation between a father and son, this powerful book reckons with our shared history in a way that will both touch and challenge readers. It's part memoir, part reported history, and totally essential.
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad Use this workbook to help dismantle your own biases, with personal anecdotes and examples, digestible explanations and definitions, and further reading to continue your journey. Wherever you are on your quest to combat racism, this book can help.
When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Collors and Asha Bandele This memoir from one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement is a poetic exploration of what it feels like to be a Black woman in America and how Patrisse Khan-Cullors turned her pain into political power. It's an empowering call-to-action that will make the reader want to stand up and do something.
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations about Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum By looking at the psychology of racism and self-segregation, this classic text can help us enable conversation across racial divides. It may help you understand and look honestly at the makeup of your own social structure, too.