As protests for George Floyd and black lives continue across the country, it’s important to understand the current movement and the issue of racial injustice throughout America. Although re-sharing posts regarding Black Lives Matter and youth-led protests on social media is an easy way to spread awareness, learning about the privilege that exists to those with fairer skin is essential to change. Educate yourself on the history of systemic racism in America and learn how you as an individual can help by reading these books.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
In his memoir and political guide, Ibram X. Kendi argues that we are either racist or antiracist, there is no in-between. He confesses that for most of his life, he was a racist, and instead of pointing out the racist actions of others, he reflects on his morals and past. Kendi combines science, ethics, law, and history to create a narrative of his realization of anti-racism. How To Be Antiracist is the perfect book for someone who wants to go beyond just acknowledging racism, and begin to contribute to a truly equal and fair society.
“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander
Michelle Alexander brings to light the impacts of the American prison system on black people and how it has created a “caste-like” system. A system that has caused millions of African Americans to be locked up behind bars, and then degraded to second class status, deprived of the rights supposedly granted during the civil rights movement such as the right to vote, the right to serve on juries, access to housing, education and public benefits. Alexander challenges the civil rights community to recognize how mass incarceration targets black communities, and to take action against a biased system.
“Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America” by Kwame Ture & Charles V. Hamilton
“Black Power” exposes the deep-rooted systemic racism in America and suggests a radical plan of reforming the traditional political process to combat the racism built into American society. The book focuses on the struggle that black people face when trying to get involved in politics, explaining that black communities’ attempts to become active in politics have been obstructed by a system that doesn’t want back people to have power. Ture and Hamilton write that black power means more than dismantling white supremacy, the black community must also come together and establish togetherness.
“Black Feminist Thought” By Patricia Hill Collins
Patricia Hill Collins explores the writings and ideas of other black feminist intellectuals such as Angela Davis, Audre Lorde and Alice Walker. In “Black Feminist Thought,” Collins uses an intersectional perspective to describe the distinct oppression that black women face in America. This book is useful for those who want to facilitate meaningful discussions around topics of racism and sexism, and how they intersect, which are still very prominent issues around the country.
“I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou
“I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” follows the inspiring story of Maya Angelou, from age 3 to age 16. After talking with writer James Baldwin, and cartoonist Jules Feiffer, she decided to voice her own personal struggles with racism and childhood trauma. From a young age she faces oppression and sexual harassment, however, she perseveres and learns to speak out against injustice. Despite everything that a corrupted society threw at her, she embraced her African American identity and became empowered through her love for literature.
“Freedom is a Constant Struggle” by Angela Davis
Author and activist Angela Davis, compiled many old interviews, speeches and essays on oppression into one book — “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle.” In this educational novel, she analyzes the commonalities between liberation movements of the past and then connects them to modern-day struggles. Covering the long history of our corrupt society, Davis shows us that we need to keep learning and challenging ourselves to continue fighting for freedom.
“Beloved” by Toni Morrison
“Beloved” is a beautifully written novel following the life of a woman named Sethe, an ex-slave. Based on the true story of Margaret Garner, the storyline looks at the harmful history of slavery, dating back to 1856. Margaret escaped from a plantation in Kentucky, and when faced with recapture, she killed her youngest daughter in hopes of preventing future suffering. As the story progresses, we learn more of her story through flashbacks, while the main character Sethe struggles to face her trauma when faced with the ghost of her deceased daughter. This novel is vulnerable and raw, revealing the horrific realities of slavery that must be told.