An Incomplete Anti-Racist Reading List
“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist” – Angela Davis
Juneteenth is now a federal holiday in celebration of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, but also in response to the social change that swept the country last summer. The murder of George Floyd sparked nationwide protests built on the infrastructure of the Black Lives Matter movement. Juneteenth as a holiday is the half-hearted attempt of white progressives to give back to their constituents of color. While every step forward is worth celebrating, they are also worth examining further.
What will be the most important aspect of Juneteenth as a federal holiday will be its development as a day meant to honor the People of Color who did the most work to earn their freedom; not just in 1863, but throughout America’s history. Those who continue to fight for equal rights and sacrifice their livelihood to do so deserve to be listed alongside (if not in front of) Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln has his own statue; it’s time to make sure we give agency to the men, women, and children that pushed society forward.
Angela Davis issued the quote for our current age, “In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist. We must be anti-racist.” Making Juneteenth a national holiday toes that line, and history will be able to determine on which side it eventually falls. Becoming an anti-racist takes effort. It must be an intentional process. Calling out friends and family for their microaggressions and the hateful language they represent is a first step. Participating in protests. Being an active ally. This cannot be a passive stance to take.
I don’t need to write more on this subject, mainly because better writers have already covered anti-racism greater than I ever could. So instead, a few of my colleagues and I have put together an anti-racist reading list. We all have read books that we attribute to developing our world view and preventing us from falling into the racist norms of our society. This list is not intended to be a complete anthology of texts. Our intention is to occasionally add/edit it. When we do, we’ll be sure to bring it back to the top of our page so our viewers can get a refresh.
I do ask, if you choose to purchase these books, please don’t go through Amazon. Your local library probably has them all in stock as would an independent bookstore in your neighborhood.
This section focuses on books that study and detail institutional racism. Slavery has known many different forms. Each time one gets outlawed, a new system finds a way to become the standard.
How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America – Clint Smith
Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II – Douglas Blackmon
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – Michelle Alexander
CIVIL RIGHTS LEADERS
This section is probably self explanatory and currently features leaders during the 60s and 70s. Honestly, it would be impossible to list every book worth reading here so we thought 6 was a good round number. These writers don’t pull any punches. The books aren’t meant to ease you into the subject.
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass – Frederick Douglass
The Fire Next Time – James Baldwin
Coming of Age in Mississippi – Anne Moody
Autobiography of Malcom X – Malcolm X
Revolutionary Suicide – Huey P Newton
Angela Davis: An Autobiography – Angela Davis
UNDERSTANDING WHITE HATE AND VIOLENCE
Our final category focuses on the white community in particular. White Rage gives a detailed look on the history of white violence in the US and how it consistently sets racial standards and yet gets hidden from history. Ordinary Men depicts a Nazi batallion of average joe’s and may help you answer the question, “how do normal people become so good at killing.” Finally, if you are having trouble getting through to someone, Tim Wise may help you with some rhetoric that may convince them to rethink their microaggressive behavior.
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide – Carol Anderson
Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland – Christopher Browning
White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son – Tim Wise.