This has been… a very long week. It has been kind of a rollercoaster of emotions, and I’m still sorting through them. I’m sure I’m not alone in the huge sense of relief in seeing George Floyd’s murderer convicted. That felt absolutely huge. For about an hour. Because then I remembered how much work we have left to do.
As a white person, I felt like I had to sit back and listen in that moment. Because I recognize that while I should be supportive, it is not my voice that matters. To me, hearing “guilty” felt like justice. But in listening to black Americans, I realized they are absolutely right in saying that it isn’t. It doesn’t fix anything. It just means that racists are being held more accountable. And while that’s a step in the right direction, it’s not enough. We shouldn’t have been collectively holding our breaths to see if the jury would return a guilty verdict for someone who was literally caught on video committing murder.
I won’t say too much more on that topic, because, again, my voice is not the one that matters here. But I urge you all to listen to black voices right now, on social media, on the news, and in books. Which is what I’m here to talk about today.
I’ve shared a lot about my journey to use books to become a better person (check out my post on how to use books to stop being an asshole). And I can definitely say it’s working. But I also know it’s going to be something I will be working on for the rest of my life, because I can always do better. I am learning and growing a lot through books. I’m trying to read about one a month this year (not going super well, but I’m working on it), and it’s a decision I’m really happy with.
So far this year, I have read How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi and Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall, both of which I learned a lot from. (Though my all-time go-to brilliant recommendation is Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning – so definitely add that to your reading list.) Today, though, I thought I’d share the top five anti-racism nonfiction books on my reading list for the year. Spoiler: about half of these are for upcoming reading experiments, so I know I’ll put extra pressure on myself to actually read them soon.
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do by Jennifer L. Eberhardt
Part of my personal journey to “become a better human” has meant that I have been trying to pay a lot of attention to biases. Mostly my own, but also on a larger scale since that also has a big impact on a lot of people. This was highly recommended by Kayla from Books and Lala (who, if you hadn’t guessed, is a huge inspiration for a lot of my posts). Basically, I want to do better about both reexamining my own biases and spotting them in society in general. Because, bringing biases into the light does a fairly good job of making them go away (because people realize they kind of suck and hopefully try to do better).
I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
I don’t know much about this one, but it’s one of the ones I will be reading for a reading experiment later this year (shhhh, it’s a secret). But it does seem like a good book. I’ve heard good things and seen this on quite a few anti-racist reading lists. Really, I think this is just a good addition to the subsection of my reading that is exposing myself to more voices directly impacted by racism. I think that’s a really effective way at developing empathy and understanding, but also generally not being a sucky person.
Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper
After reading Hood Feminism earlier this year, I just really want to delve more into black feminism. And yes, it’s different than the white variety. Before I went into that book, I didn’t quite understand why or how, but I learned so much about how women of color deal with issues very different than anything I’ve had to deal with as a woman. It’s just an example of one of (I’m sure) many things that didn’t occur to me because of my own privilege. I’m working to become more aware of it, and doing better. That said, I want to work on being both a better anti-racist and feminist, and I’m excited to read more from black feminist voices.
Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson
Contrary to the belief of way too many white people, racism is both real and not a new thing. I may or may not be reading this for an upcoming post (it’s months away), but I definitely would have wanted to read it anyway. Because understanding history is just something that works really well for my brain. Also, I have a degree in history and I just really love it. And one thing reading Stamped from the Beginning taught me is that my formal education wasn’t the most inclusive, and it’s something I want to fix.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Basically, this reminds me of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, which brought up the very important point (which I hadn’t considered before) that people of color are absolutely not responsible for educating white people about racism. Like, of course not, duh. I just had never thought about it. I am 100% responsible for education myself – hence this reading list – and I have heard brilliant things about this one. I also picked up the audiobook at some point apparently, so I have no excuse to not read this one.
Like I said (in my super long intro), I would ideally like to read more books to help educate myself this year, but these are the five at the top of my list. If I don’t get to all of these in 2021, you have my full permission to come back here and make me feel bad about it.
But really, I just want to share how valuable educating myself on issues related to racism has been in my life over the past few years. It’s something I have really taken pleasure in doing, and also something that has really changed me for the better. So I want to keep doing it, and I really encourage you to try it, too. Trust me, you will not regret it.
Note: I know most (if not all) of these are books dealing with racism specifically against black people, and while that is definitely an important topic to read about, I do want to make an effort to educate myself about how racism impacts other minority groups (especially asian and indigenous people) as well. So if you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments below!