This almost never comes up in normal conversation, because why would it? But in college, most of my studies centered around sociology. Thanks to my fantastic professors, we had entire semesters devoted to colonialism and critical race theory. And they changed the ways I see and interact with the world. Since the Black Lives Matter protests, a lot of white-owned businesses have been "muting" their feed to "listen" to Black folks. Instead of muting myself, I've been sharing the readings that helped me understand race in this country. Below is a list organized by topic, including other lists that are curated by people who are smarter than me!
Readings & REsources for white people
On the social construction of race and scientific racism
Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic. A basic overview of what critical race theory is, its tenets, historical context, and more.
The Social Construction of Race, by Ian F. Haney Lopez. This is a short read that quickly deconstructs any biological basis of race.
The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen J. Gould. This book looks at the historical construction of race through "scientific" means, including things like craniology and IQ tests. It's really interesting and covers a lot of history that is often forgotten.
Fatal Invention by Dorothy Roberts. A more current look at how our society continues to try and provide scientific constructions of race, rather than accepting that race is a social construct. This book is more heavily focused on genomic and medical science and technology.
Discourse on Colonialism by Amie Cesaire. This classic text will help you understand how colonizers are able to lose touch with their humanity and see outside groups as "other." This is a foundational principle in social theory.
An Indigenous People's History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz. An examination of our country's settler colonialism from the Indigenous perspective.
Decolonization is not a metaphor by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang. A shorter read about what decolonization actually means and why it should make white people uncomfortable.
On whiteness and white privilege
White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism. This collection is edited by Paula Rothenberg. If I had to recommend one essay in it, you MUST read "White Privilege: Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh. That list changed my life.
White Fragility by by Robin DiAngelo. This is both a book and a paper, and she also has a great talk on YouTube. The paper is available for free here. I would definitely recommend starting with this if you are already feeling defensive.
On intersectionality (the idea, developed by Black feminists, that our society is composed of multiple, interlocking systems of oppression)
Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black by bell hooks. I don't have a PDF to share, but this book is worth buying outright. It covers so much ground and really changed the ways I think about structural issues.
Kimberle Crenshaw's "Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color." A key voice in examining intersections between class, race, gender, and patriarchy in shaping the lives of women of color.
Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins. A primer on Black feminist thought, and worth the deep dive.
On the history of slavery, particularly as a system of unequal wealth creation
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. A thorough look at Black American history, framed in the same timelines as five key American intellectuals. Very approachable reading and I think it's currently #1 on Amazon, so popular, too.
The Price for Their Pound of Flesh: The Value of the Enslaved, from Womb to Grave, in the Building of a Nation by Daina Ramey Berry. A historical portrait of slavery as a system of wealth, and the value of slaves throughout their life cycle. A 10-year project come to fruition, it is as well researched as it is horrifying.
Capitalism and Slavery by Eric Williams. Written in 1944 by the first prime minister of the newly independent Trinidad & Tobago. It's a seminal text that discusses how slavery led to our capitalist system, and has sparked a new wave of modern scholarship exploring how wealth is created by exploiting Black bodies. Speaking of which....
The Half Has Never Been Told, by Edward E. Baptist. A modern interpretation of American history that links slavery inextricably to the economic successes of America.
On post-Civil-War Black history in the US, from reconstruction to Jim Crow
Reconstruction by Eric Foner. This is a straight-up history book, so not the most approachable. There is also an e-book of his called A Short History of Reconstruction that may be an easier read. And there is a great 2006 interview on Fresh Air with Foner to get the broad strokes, which you can listen to or read.
The Jim Crow Museum - not a book, but a museum website that has a ton of great information, resources, and racist memorabilia you can view. If you have no idea what Jim Crow was all about, start here.
Slavery by Another Name by Douglas A Blackmon. There is also a 90-minute PBS documentary based on this book. Both explore the legal, forced labor exploitation of African-American prisoners during the Jim Crow era. The book won a Pulitzer!
The Condemnation of Blackness by Khalil Gibran Muhammad. This book explores how the link between Blackness and criminality in modern America was created. Essential reading to understand how our discourse around Blackness, crime, and policing developed in this country. You can read the introduction here.
The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein. This book explores how the US government segregated America, including how and why African-American neighborhoods were bulldozed in favor of interstates. If you have ever lived in a city, you should read this book. I couldn't find an excerpt, but you can read this book review.
On the Civil Rights Movement
Martin Luther King, Jr.'s letters and speeches. I like this TIME article because it provides context and links to full text. If you want the full goosebumps, check out YouTube for video and audio recordings of some of these speeches.
March Books 1-3 by John Lewis. Full disclosure, John Lewis used to be my rep when I lived in Atlanta, and I proudly voted for him. To hear him speak is really something. These books are a graphic novel chronicling the march on Selma--super approachable and straight from the source. You can also watch the movie "Selma" for more on this, and it is actually free to rent right now!
The Autobiography of Malcolm X. An essential viewpoint of the Civil Rights era, the book begins before his birth with the KKK harassing his pregnant mother. It's essential reading to understand the anger and fear of white people during this time. Malcolm X is often pitted against MLK, but in truth, their viewpoints began to converge shortly before he was assassinated.
A More Beautiful and Terrible History by Jeanne Theoharis. An honest analysis of the ways in which we whitewash Civil Rights history and see it as a thing accomplished, rather than how far we still have to go. I really like her perspective on this. It took decades of organizing, strategizing, mobilizing, arrests, and police violence to get that hard-won legislative victory, and we still aren't done.
On mass incarceration, police violence, and the Black Lives Matter movement
The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander. A critically acclaimed, key book detailing mass incarceration in the US as an extension of Jim Crow. This is a must-read!
From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime, by Elizabeth Hinton. I consider this book to be the academic companion piece to The New Jim Crow. It focuses more on legislation and history, but also goes back a bit further in time.
They Can't Kill Us All by Wesley Lowery. A chronicling of the Black Lives Matter movement from on-the-ground reporting. It covers police violence as well as the people who are working to end it. A really great read if you are feeling out of the loop.
From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. It explores some of the history leading up to our current moment, as well as questions of intersectionality, organizing strategy, and more. You can read the blog post that started the book here.
On anti-racist work, white allyship, and what it means to be an ally
"Holy shit, being an ally isn't about me!" A collectively written account of the differences between performative allyship and actual allyship.
How to Be an Ally if You Are a Person with Privilege, by Francis E. Kendall. A great read on what allyship might look like. It includes really concrete examples of language, framing, and actions to take.
Allyship and Accountability Glossary by Levana Saxon. I hope that all the other reading I've suggested gives you a good footing for all of these concepts. It's a great refresher for everyone, though!
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. This book has been super popular and covers a lot of the things I've listed as individual subjects. It also has guidance on what happens when you screw up (you will) and how to do better.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. Another bestseller lately, this popular book discusses what an antiracist society might look like, and strategies for activism.
Other lists and resources
The Antiracist Reading List by Ibram X. Kendi. I definitely borrowed from this list for some of the history recommendations since Kendi is a historian.
Institutionalized Racism: A Syllabus by Catherine Halley. This list has a lot of great readings on racial disparities in health, education, and housing that I did not cover here.
Antiracism Books for Kids by Jessica Grose. Explaining current events to littles can be hard, and these books might help.
Reimagining Justice: A Primer on Defunding the Police and Prison Abolition. You should definitely still read Angela Davis. But this list is a great look at some of the policy changes being demanded right now by protestors.
An Antiracist Poetry Reading List by Maya Popa. Recent poetry collections that provide a snapshot of Black life in America, through verse. A great way to switch up from all the nonfiction books!
Antiracism and Health Reading List from Harvard. As a former public health researcher, I would be remiss without recommending a bunch of readings on health disparities and medical racism. There is some overlap with what I've alread suggested, but it includes a lot of great resources specific to medicine and public health.
31 Resources That Will Help You Become A Better White Ally by Anna Borges. It's wild (and amazing) that this is in Self magazine, a mainstream fitness publication! I really like this list because it includes resources on how to act once you are prepared to. For example, a link to "How to Talk To Relatives Who Care More About Looting than Black Lives." This list is gold and Anna deserves a promotion.
Do you have resources to add? Send me an e-mail or link them in the comments, please!