There are LOTS of books being recommended for learning how to be an antiracist ally. Here is my short list of antiracist reading.
Books on antiracism and the Black experience in America are in high demand in the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. This is a great sign. People are responding to the eye-opening and gut-wrenching reality of the systemic racism our modern culture is built upon.
People want change. They want changes to the system, the status quo. And people are recognizing that in order to truly change the system, they must fully understand how the system was built and how they themselves play a role.
What is Anti-Racism?
Maybe the term ‘anti-racism’ is new for you. If so, you may believe you are already an anti-racist.
Maybe you believe that if you’re not outwardly in favor of racism, you’re already anti-racist. But that’s not quite correct.
Rather than being passively in disfavor of racism, anti-racists are actively working to expose and dismantle racism that is deeply ingrained in our societal foundation.
A Place for Fiction Books on Antiracism
I specifically focused on nonfiction books for this list because I was looking for books that a group could read together to start or continue concrete work toward being antiracist allies.
But that doesn’t mean I have anything against fiction books as a tool for the same efforts.
Reading fiction is a fantastic way to learn. Studies have shown that reading fiction increases empathy, inclusiveness, and open-mindedness. These are essential traits for combating racism!
I encourage you to add a mix of fiction, memoir, and personal development nonfiction to your personal reading list as just one piece of your work to be part of the dismantling of systemic racism.
How I Picked the Books on This List
Reading and working through these books with a group is a fantastic way to expand your thinking. Not only will you do your own inner work, but you also get to learn about the experiences and thoughts of others. You gain new perspective on what racism is, how you participate racism, and how you can help combat racism.
I’ve read through summaries and reviews and I’ve narrowed down my own list of antiracism reading material for a book club. I picked books that I felt would facilitate discussion in a group as well as meaningful self reflection.
The Short List: Non-Fiction Anti-Racism Books to Read with Your Book Club
Bookshop.org is an online bookseller that supports local independent bookstores. At the writing of this post, they have raised over $4 million for local bookshops! I’ve included affiliate links to their site for the books featured in this post.
Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor
Author: Layla F. Saad
Layla Saad’s best-selling book, Me and White Supremacy, grew out of an Instagram challenge she created by the same name. This workbook-style book gives historical and cultural context to the 28 day challenge, encouraging readers to explore and own up to their ingrained racists behaviors in order to combat racism and become a good ancestor.
More info –>
Why I Picked It:
Me and White Supremacy began as an Instagram challenge designed to guide participants through their own exploration of ingrained racist beliefs and behaviors. This is also the first book I chose to read for my own inner-work because it seemed like a very concrete and tangible way to begin recognizing needs for change.
The journal prompts make for terrific group discussion points. Just be sure to create a protected safe space for participants during the conversation because these prompts require some very challenging reflection.
Author: Robin DiAngelo
Robin DiAngelo’s New York Times best-seller, White Fragility illustrates the phenomenon of white fragility – the defensive response by white people when challenged with topics of racism – how white fragility develops, how it perpetuates racism, and more constructive means of engagement.
Why I Picked It:
White Fragility was recommended by a few of my most trusted bookish friends. This book explores the white perspective of racism in a way that challenges white people’s response. That feels like an important part of growing as a society.
I thought this book would be a good book club pick because reviews indicate the book offers practical tools and solutions to undo white fragility. Building a stamina for racial conversations is key for white people to become part of the solution to systemic racism.
So You Want to Talk About Race
Author: Ijeoma Oluo
Ijeoma Oluo’s best-selling book examines the multifaceted reality of racism today. White privilege, intersectionality, affirmative action, “model minorities, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter movement are some of the topics explored.
Why I Picked It:
I’ve seen this book being talked about for a while – before the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement following George Floyd’s murder. And I’ve seen nothing but positive feedback and a significant majority of reviews are five-star.
Since the name of this book expresses a focus on having conversations about race, I thought it would be ideal for a book club to read and discuss. Reviewers share that So You Want to Talk About Race provides language and insight to help people of all races and backgrounds talk about race more effectively in order to help dismantle the racial divide.
Why I Picked It:
How To Be An Antiracist is another book I keep seeing recommended by book reviewers and bloggers over and over again. I appreciate the inclusion of history, law, and science in Kendi’s writing. As a fact- and data-oriented person, (Enneagram 5 / INTJ), this type of information helps me wrap my brain around a topic.
Reviews indicate the book shares a multi-faceted look at racism to bring a deeper perspective to the work of being an antiracist. The combination of facts and personal experience makes this book particularly intriguing to me.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
Author: Reni Eddo-Lodge
In her best-selling book, journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge challenges the way race and racism are discussed by white people, who are ignorant to it’s true continued effects.
Why I Picked It:
In Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge calls attention to the intentional erasure of Black history to perpetuate white supremacy, exposes the implications of white-washed feminism, and examines the connection between race and class.
Two things caught my attention about this book. First, and most obvious, the title. If I am to grow as an antiracist person, I want to know how BIPOC perceive white people in the conversation of racism.
The second thing that caught my attention is that the summary of this book indicates white-washed feminism is addressed. That’s another topic I am interested in learning more about, and this book looks like it could help me with that.
How to Argue with a Racist
Author: Adam Rutherford
How to Argue With a Racist takes a decidedly scientific approach to examining race and how genetics are used to argue for/against racist ideologies. Pseudoscientific explanations that have been used to describe differences among humans various races are challenged and dissolved.
Why I Picked It:
Adam Rutherford attacks the long-held scientific arguments for racial differentiation that infiltrate our societal perceptions on politics, migration, education, sports, and intelligence.
How to Argue With a Racist is particularly interesting to me because I live in a very red state and interact with overt and covert racism on a daily basis. And people who participate in covert racism tend to use the defenses addressed in this book. I would love to be able to engage with these people from a place of scientific fact.
I also found this to be a good choice for a book club because it challenges deep-rooted beliefs that many people may not even realize they hold. These topics could spark a great conversation as a group is working to learn more about racism in order to combat it.
Listening and learning are a huge part of the journey to being an effective ally. But doing so with actual people is difficult during these times of public health uncertainty. And books are a great way to listen and learn while under quarantine and social distancing orders.
Please don’t let your work stop there. Research opportunities for getting involved locally. Talk to your inner circle, especially your immediate family members. And don’t forget to vote!
Continued Reading: 10 Ways to Support Black Authors