By Toni Brannagan
Let’s be real, reading a book isn’t going to dismantle white supremacy. There are many immediate actions to be taken right now. But throughout history, education has always served as a powerful tool.
Here’s the thing: Even if you think you’re educated on the subject — confronting racism requires ongoing work. One way to do that is by uplifting the voices who have been doing this work for years. Independently educating yourself also prepares you for carrying on more productive discourse on tough subjects like race and white supremacy in real life.
Following are some valuable recs for every education level: I’m going to take a wild guess that this isn’t the first reading list that has come your way this week — you’ll likely recognize some of the books on here, and that’s what makes them important! So even if they’re sold out right now, add them to your reading list, and explore the additional links we’re providing for essays, articles, and documentaries that are available for (mostly) free, immediate consumption on the internet.
(And don’t forget to support Black-owned bookstores when you can!)
for historical context: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
A book that can only be described as groundbreaking, The New Jim Crow connects the historical ties between the injustices of post-Reconstruction America and the modern day judicial system, in a society led by people that insists racism is over.
Right now, you can watch 13th, a documentary from Ava Duvernay on Netflix about how even though slavery in the US was allegedly abolished by the 13th amendment, its roots are still present in the prison system.
to strengthen your allyship: How To Be An Antiracist by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi
What it says on the tin — this book follows Dr. Kendi’s personal journey with anti-racism, and then offers guidance for anyone who has thought along the lines of “What am I supposed to be doing right now?”
Right now, you can read Dr. Kendi’s recent piece in The Atlantic, “Who Gets to be Afraid in America?,” about Ahmaud Arbery’s murder, and America’s need to interrogate its historical fear of Black men.
for more productive conversations: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
People are uncomfortable talking about race for many reasons, and Ijeoma Oluo addresses many of them in this book — from addressing racism from coworkers to letting people know that no, it’s not okay to touch a Black woman’s hair (and maybe don’t ask, either).
For an abridged primer to improve your conversation tactics right now, check out the Center For Social Inclusion’s Talking About Race Toolkit.
for an intersectional perspective: Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
In any conversation about white supremacy, we must not forget Black trans women, who are disproportionately the most marginalized in our society, and also vastly underrepresented voices in storytelling. Drawing inspiration from other powerful Black voices like Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, and Zora Neale Hurston, Janet Mock’s memoir addresses existing as a Black trans woman in America.
You can also celebrate queer Black stories by renting or buying Paris is Burning, the iconic documentary that explores ball culture in the ‘80s.
to understand defensive feelings: White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
White people often have trouble confronting racism when it involves confronting their own whiteness, and even the unintentional damage that whiteness can cause. If you're a white person and that sentence made you uncomfortable, I feel like you know where I’m going here, there’s a reason everyone’s talking about this book right now.
You may have already noticed that trying to get a copy of this book right now is like trying to find a Nintendo Switch. Right now, you can read “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh, an essay you probably remember from Sociology 101, but is always worth revisiting.
for learning at every age: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
It’s never too late (or too early) for white folks and NBPoC to engage with the US’s history of police violence. This celebrated YA novel follows Starr Carter, a 16-year-old who witnesses the death of a friend at the hands of the police, and the resulting trial — a story that’s fictional, but rings very true.
The movie is *never* a replacement for the book, but you can also rent or buy the film adaptation of The Hate U Give online.
In terms of what else you can do right now: call your reps, donate what you can, and please take care of yourselves and each other. This list hopefully offers you a place to start, but is by no means comprehensive — please continue to do your own research, and share other resources that have helped you on your anti-racism journey with us in the comments.