Antiracist Reading

 

How to be an Antiracist

Ibram X. Kendi

In this rousing and deeply empathetic book, Ibram X. Kendi, founding director of the Antiracism Research and Policy Center, shows that when it comes to racism, neutrality is not an option: until we become part of the solution, we can only be part of the problem.


Using his extraordinary gifts as a teacher and story-teller, Kendi helps us recognize that everyone is, at times, complicit in racism whether they realize it or not, and by describing with moving humility his own journey from racism to antiracism, he shows us how instead to be a force for good. Along the way, Kendi punctures all the myths and taboos that so often cloud our understanding, from arguments about what race is and whether racial differences exist to the complications that arise when race intersects with ethnicity, class, gender and sexuality.


In the process he demolishes the myth of the post-racial society and builds from the ground up a vital new understanding of racism - what it is, where it is hidden, how to identify it and what to do about it.

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So You Want to Talk About Race

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.

The New Jim Crow

Michelle Alexander

In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community--and all of us--to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.

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The Fire Next Time

James Baldwin

'We, the black and the white, deeply need each other here if we are really to become a nation'

James Baldwin's impassioned plea to 'end the racial nightmare' in America was a bestseller when it appeared in 1963, galvanising a nation and giving voice to the emerging civil rights movement. Told in the form of two intensely personal 'letters', The Fire Next Time is at once a powerful evocation of Baldwin's early life in Harlem and an excoriating condemnation of the terrible legacy of racial injustice.

Abolition Democracy

Angela Davis

Revelations about U.S policies and practices of torture and abuse have captured headlines ever since the breaking of the Abu Ghraib prison story in April 2004. Since then, a debate has raged regarding what is and what is not acceptable behavior for the world’s leading democracy. It is within this context that Angela Davis, one of America’s most remarkable political figures, gave a series of interviews to discuss resistance and law, institutional sexual coercion, politics and prison. Davis talks about her own incarceration, as well as her experiences as "enemy of the state," and about having been put on the FBI’s "most wanted" list. She talks about the crucial role that international activism played in her case and the case of many other political prisoners.


Throughout these interviews, Davis returns to her critique of a democracy that has been compromised by its racist origins and institutions. Discussing the most recent disclosures about the disavowed "chain of command," and the formal reports by the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch denouncing U.S. violation of human rights and the laws of war in Guantánamo, Afghanistan and Iraq, Davis focuses on the underpinnings of prison regimes in the United States.

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Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California

Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Since 1980, the number of people in U.S. prisons has increased more than 450%. Despite a crime rate that has been falling steadily for decades, California has led the way in this explosion, with what a state analyst called “the biggest prison building project in the history of the world.” Golden Gulag provides the first detailed explanation for that buildup by looking at how political and economic forces, ranging from global to local, conjoined to produce the prison boom.

In an informed and impassioned account, Ruth Wilson Gilmore examines this issue through statewide, rural, and urban perspectives to explain how the expansion developed from surpluses of finance capital, labor, land, and state capacity. Detailing crises that hit California’s economy with particular ferocity, she argues that defeats of radical struggles, weakening of labor, and shifting patterns of capital investment have been key conditions for prison growth. The results―a vast and expensive prison system, a huge number of incarcerated young people of color, and the increase in punitive justice such as the “three strikes” law―pose profound and troubling questions for the future of California, the United States, and the world. Golden Gulag provides a rich context for this complex dilemma, and at the same time challenges many cherished assumptions about who benefits and who suffers from the state’s commitment to prison expansion.

 

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

Keeagna-Yamahtta Taylor

The eruption of mass protests in the wake of the police murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City have challenged the impunity with which officers of the law carry out violence against Black people and punctured the illusion of a postracial America. The Black Lives Matter movement has awakened a new generation of activists.

In this stirring and insightful analysis, activist and scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor surveys the historical and contemporary ravages of racism and persistence of structural inequality such as mass incarceration and Black unemployment. In this context, she argues that this new struggle against police violence holds the potential to reignite a broader push for Black liberation.

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They Can't Kill Us All

Wesley Lowery

In an effort to grasp the magnitude of the repose to Michael Brown's death and understand the scale of the problem police violence represents, Lowery speaks to Brown's family and the families of other victims other victims' families as well as local activists. By posing the question, "What does the loss of any one life mean to the rest of the nation?" Lowery examines the cumulative effect of decades of racially biased policing in segregated neighborhoods with failing schools, crumbling infrastructure and too few jobs.

Studded with moments of joy, and tragedy, They Can't Kill Us All offers a historically informed look at the standoff between the police and those they are sworn to protect, showing that civil unrest is just one tool of resistance in the broader struggle for justice. As Lowery brings vividly to life, the protests against police killings are also about the black community's long history on the receiving end of perceived and actual acts of injustice and discrimination.

They Can't Kill Us All grapples with a persistent if also largely unexamined aspect of the otherwise transformative presidency of Barack Obama: the failure to deliver tangible security and opportunity to those Americans most in need of both.

Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

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Just Mercy

Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

The Warmth of Other Suns

Isabel Wilkerson

From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves. With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, and Robert Foster.

Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.

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Stamped From the Beginning

Ibram X. Kendi

Some Americans insist that we're living in a post-racial society. But racist thought is not just alive and well in America--it is more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues, racist ideas have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit.

In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. He uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to drive this history: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis.

As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation's racial inequities.

In shedding light on this history, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose racist thinking. In the process, he gives us reason to hope.

 

Freedom is a Constant Struggle: Ferguson, Palestine, and the Foundations of a Movement

Angela Davis

Activist and scholar Angela Y. Davis has been a tireless fighter against oppression for decades. Now, the iconic author of Women, Race, and Class offers her latest insights into the struggles against state violence and oppression throughout history and around the world.
 
Reflecting on the importance of black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism, Davis discusses the legacies of previous liberation struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movement. She highlights connections and analyzes today’s struggles against state terror, from Ferguson to Palestine.
 
Facing a world of outrageous injustice, Davis challenges us to imagine and build a movement for human liberation. And in doing so, she reminds us that “freedom is a constant struggle.”

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The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America

Khalil Gibran Muhammad

How did we come to think of race as synonymous with crime? A brilliant and deeply disturbing biography of the idea of black criminality in the making of modern urban America, The Condemnation of Blackness reveals the influence this pernicious myth, rooted in crime statistics, has had on our society and our sense of self. Black crime statistics have shaped debates about everything from public education to policing to presidential elections, fueling racism and justifying inequality. How was this statistical link between blackness and criminality initially forged? Why was the same link not made for whites? In the age of Black Lives Matter and Donald Trump, under the shadow of Ferguson and Baltimore, no questions could be more urgent.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

Zora Neala Hurston

With haunting sympathy and piercing immediacy, Their Eyes Were Watching God tells the story of Janie Crawford’s evolving selfhood through three marriages. Light-skinned, long-haired, dreamy as a child, Janie grows up expecting better treatment than she gets until she meets Tea Cake, a younger man who engages her heart and spirit in equal measure and gives her the chance to enjoy life without being a man’s mule or adornment. Though Jaine’s story does not end happily, it does draw to a satisfying conclusion. Janie is one black woman who doesn’t have to live lost in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, instead Janie proclaims that she has done “two things everbody’s got tuh do fuh theyselves. They got tuh go tuh God, and they got tuh find out about livin’ fuh theyselves.”

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Dying of Whiteness

Jonathan M. Metzl

In the era of Donald Trump, many lower- and middle-class white Americans are drawn to politicians who pledge to make their lives great again. But as Dying of Whiteness shows, the policies that result actually place white Americans at ever-greater risk of sickness and death.

Physician Jonathan M. Metzl's quest to understand the health implications of "backlash governance" leads him across America's heartland.Interviewing a range of everyday Americans, he examines how racial resentment has fueled progun laws in Missouri, resistance to the Affordable Care Act in Tennessee, and cuts to schools and social services in Kansas. And he shows these policies' costs: increasing deaths by gun suicide, falling life expectancies, and rising dropout rates. White Americans, Metzl argues, must reject the racial hierarchies that promise to aid them but in fact lead our nation to demise.

Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour

Peniel E. Joseph

With the rallying cry of "Black Power!" in 1966, a group of black activists, including Stokely Carmichael and Huey P. Newton, turned their backs on Martin Luther King's pacifism and, building on Malcolm X's legacy, pioneered a radical new approach to the fight for equality. Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour is a history of the Black Power movement, that storied group of men and women who would become American icons of the struggle for racial equality.

Peniel E. Joseph traces the history of the men and women of the movement—many of them famous or infamous, others forgotten. Waiting 'Til the Midnight Hour begins in Harlem in the 1950s, where, despite the Cold War's hostile climate, black writers, artists, and activists built a new urban militancy that was the movement's earliest incarnation. In a series of character-driven chapters, we witness the rise of Black Power groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panthers, and with them, on both coasts of the country, a fundamental change in the way Americans understood the unfinished business of racial equality and integration.

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Fatal Invention

Dorothy Roberts

Though the Human Genome Project proved that human beings are not naturally divided by race, the emerging fields of personalized medicine, reproductive technologies, genetic genealogy, and DNA databanks are attempting to resuscitate race as a biological category written in our genes.
 
This groundbreaking book by legal scholar and social critic Dorothy Roberts examines how the myth of race as a biological concept—revived by purportedly cutting-edge science, race-specific drugs, genetic testing, and DNA databases—continues to undermine a just society and promote inequality in a supposedly “post-racial” era.