Educating Ourselves on Racial Inequality: A List of Resources
With the current climate of race and inequality in our nation, following the outrage over George Floyd’s horrific death, our duty as Americans to educate ourselves on these issues is imperative now more than ever. As such, we’ve compiled a list of suggested reads, podcasts and interviews based on recommendations from sites such as Business Insider, who spoke with “Black professors and scholars at institutions across the country to find out which books they recommend;” and Forbes’ writer, Kyle Westaway, who spent most of 2019 educating himself through reading on the subject of racism in America. Also included on the list are picks that have topped the bestseller’s lists recently, or those our writers deemed powerful and enlightening.
So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo
Widespread reporting on aspects of white supremacy–from police brutality to the mass incarceration of Black Americans–has put a media spotlight on racism in our society. Still, it is a difficult subject to talk about. How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair–and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend?
In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, by Robin DiAngelo
In this “vital, necessary, and beautiful book” (Michael Eric Dyson), antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’ (Claudia Rankine). Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see Black, White, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides. These topics have only become more urgent as the national conversation about race is increasingly acrimonious. This fully revised edition is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the dynamics of race in America.
The Omni Americans: Some Alternatives to the Folklore of White Supremacy, by Albert Murray (first published in 1970. Fiftieth anniversary edition published in February, 2020)
“The United States is in actuality not a nation of black people and white people. It is a nation of multicolored people… Any fool can see that the white people are not really white, and that black people are not black. They are all interrelated one way or another.” These words, written by Albert Murray at the height of the Black Power movement, cut against the grain of their moment, and announced the arrival of a major new force in American letters. In his 1970 classic The Omni-Americans, Murray took aim at protest writers and social scientists who accentuated the “pathology” of race in American life. Against narratives of marginalization and victimhood, Murray argued that black art and culture, particularly jazz and blues, stand at the very headwaters of the American mainstream, and that much of what is best in American art embodies the “blues-hero tradition”–a heritage of grace, wit, and inspired improvisation in the face of adversity. Reviewing The Omni-Americans in 1970, Walker Percy called it “the most important book on black-white relationships… indeed on American culture… published in this generation.” As Henry Louis Gates, Jr. makes clear in his introduction, Murray’s singular poetic voice, impassioned argumentation, and pluralistic vision have only become more urgently needed today.
Denmark Vesey’s Garden: Slavery and Memory in the Cradle of the Confederacy, by Ethan Kytle and Blain Roberts
Hailed by the New York Times as a “fascinating and important new historical study that examines… the place where the ways slavery is remembered mattered most,” Denmark Vesey’s Garden “maps competing memories of slavery from abolition to the very recent struggle to rename or remove Confederate symbols across the country” (The New Republic). This timely book reveals the deep roots of present-day controversies and traces them to the capital of slavery in the United States: Charleston, South Carolina, where almost half of the slaves brought to the United States stepped onto our shores, where the first shot at Fort Sumter began the Civil War, and where Dylann Roof murdered nine people at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, which was co-founded by Denmark Vesey, a black revolutionary who plotted a massive slave insurrection in 1822.
Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America’s Urban Heartland, by Walter Thompson-Hernandez
“Thompson-Hernández’s portrayal of Compton’s black cowboys broadens our perception of Compton’s young black residents, and connects the Compton Cowboys to the historical legacy of African Americans in the west. An eye-opening, moving book.”— Margot Lee Shetterly, New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Figures
A rising New York Times reporter tells the compelling story of The Compton Cowboys, a group of African-American men and women who defy stereotypes and continue the proud, centuries-old tradition of black cowboys in the heart of one of America’s most notorious cities.
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah
In this award-winning Audible Studios production, Trevor Noah tells his wild coming-of-age tale during the twilight of apartheid in South Africa. It’s a story that begins with his mother throwing him from a moving van to save him from a potentially fatal dispute with gangsters, then follows the budding comedian’s path to self-discovery through episodes both poignant and comical. Noah’s virtuoso embodiment of all the characters from his childhood, and his ability to perform accents and dialects effortlessly in English, Xhosa, and Zulu, garnered the Audie Award for Best Male Narrator in 2018. Nevertheless, Noah’s devoted and uncompromising mother—as voiced by her son—steals the show.
Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly
Before John Glenn orbited the Earth or Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, a group of dedicated female mathematicians known as “human computers” used pencils, slide rules, and adding machines to calculate the numbers that would launch rockets and astronauts into space.
Recommended Short Stories:
“The Lottery“, by Shirley Jackson, first published in The New Yorker (June 19, 1948)