June 12, 2020
Recommended Reading On Race, Racism And Antiracism
“We need to reprogram ourselves to look at the world from a different perspective.”
Derrick Young, co-owner of Mahogany Books in Anacostia, says that in recent weeks he’s seen a surge in new customers. His bookstore specializes in literature by, for and about people of the African diaspora. He and Hannah Oliver Depp, owner of Loyalty Bookstores in Petworth and Silver Spring, say that many new orders are coming from white customers looking to educate themselves. They joined the Kojo Nnamdi Show to share their recommendations for literature that explores our country’s long history of racism and looks at what means to be black in America.
Below, we’ve collected their recommendations as well as some of what we heard from our listeners. Consider this list, which is by no means comprehensive, a jumping-off point.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
“This is NOT a history book. This is a book about the here and now. A book to help us better understand why we are where we are. A book about race.” Stamped, a remix of Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning, is perfect for young people, showing how insidious racism is in our society and how readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their day-to-day lives.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
In a letter to his adolescent son, Coates explores what it’s like to live every day as a black man, alternating between personal and historical narrative. Toni Morrison called it “required reading.”
How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
“The basic struggle we’re all in, the struggle to be fully human and to see that others are fully human.” Both a memoir and an instructional manual, Kendi’s book blends his own personal story of awakening to antiracism with history, law, science and ethics.
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Topping many best seller lists is DiAngelo’s work confronting why it’s so hard for white people to talk about racism and how that unwillingness to engage can perpetuate racial inequalities.
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
“We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” Since its 2010 publication, Alexander’s work on mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness has been cited in major court cases, prompted the creation of the Marshall Project and inspired generations of criminal justice reform advocates.
Are Prisons Obsolete? by Angela Y. Davis
Oliver Depp recommends Davis’ work as both foundational and necessary. “She’s been fighting this fight her whole life to make prisons obsolete and defund the police.”
Thick by Tressie McMillan Cottom
In this essay collection, McMillan Cottom pulls from her own life experiences as she analyzes whiteness, black misogyny, beauty and status-signaling as a means of survival.
Magical Negro by Morgan Parker
Parker’s collection, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Poetry award, explores black womanhood in America today.
White Tears/Brown Scars by Ruby Hamad
Hamad’s work shows how white feminism has been used as a tool for white supremacy, from the era of slavery to the present day.
Driving While Black by Gretchen Sorin
In this historical account, Sorin analyzes how the automobile dramatically reshaped the lives of African Americans.
They Were Her Property: White Women as Slaveowners in the American South by Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers
What role did white women play in American slavery? Jones-Rogers draws on sources in women’s history, African American history and the history of the South to create a picture of white women as economic actors, engaging in and benefiting from the buying and selling of black bodies.
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
Rothstein takes a deep-dive into the history of redlining in America and how federal, state and local governments reinforced racial segregation in nearly every metropolis in the nation.
The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
The Pulitzer Prize-winning Wilkerson chronicles the migration of black citizens of the South who fled to northern and western cities between 1915 and 1970.
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad and Robin DiAngelo
This book challenges readers to unpack their own biases and examining what allyship really looks like.
An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz
This work, spanning two centuries, offers a reteaching of history with a focus on the shared struggled for African American and Latinx civil rights.
Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon and What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker by Damon Young
These two works come highly recommended by Young. The Mahogany Books owner talked about the effect of pervasive negative stereotypes of black men in our culture. “We assign these traits to black men so we can be demonized and undervalued. What these two books do is to talk about what it’s like to live with those stereotypes from birth. These authors strip away those stereotypes.”
Shattered Bonds: The Color of Child Welfare by Dorothy Roberts
Roberts, a law professor, writes about the disproportionate representation of black children in our country’s foster care system and its wide-ranging effects on the black community.
We want to hear from you! Share your recommended reading in the comments.