Unless you have been living under a rock or have chosen to ignore the world you live in, you know that there has been a recent surge in conversations about race, injustice and police brutality, specifically in the United States. The murder of George Floyd in Minnesota and many other Black people across the country for centuries can no longer be ignored or pushed under the rug.
I, like many others, have decided to speak out against racial injustice and begin doing antiracism work and educating myself about the Black experience. Myself and others have remained silent and on the sidelines for too long. I used to close my eyes to brutality and hate, knowing that my voice would not matter. I’m done with that. It’s time to do the work and stand, as many are saying, on the right side of history.
I have been consuming literature, documentaries and movies about being antiracist and about the Black experience for the last month or so and I want to share my recommendations with you.
Let me first define antiracist and racist, according to Ibram X. Kendi, author of several books including “How to Be an Antiracist”.
Antiracist: One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.
(Wikipedia defines antiracism as “beliefs, actions, movements, and policies adopted or developed to oppose racism.”)
Racist: One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.
I started off my antiracist journey with reading these three books, which are widely recommended across the internet. You probably already know that everyone is suggesting them. But, as a white person, I want to tell you to read them and then tell you why you should read them. It is not the Black person’s responsibility to explain these things to you or me. I will tell you what about these books that I enjoyed and found most impactful.
Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
This book includes 28 days of learning and reflection on our conscious and unconscious racist behaviors and biases. Saad goes through each section and explains the history behind the bias and examples of the biases. The chapters range from discussions on white exceptionalism to optical allyship to the topic of anti-Blackness, among many other issues. Each chapter ends with several journal prompts, which I highly recommend doing.
This book made me acknowledge my biases and racist behavior in a way that I have never done before. I uncovered things that I did not know existed in myself or in others. I am glad I started my journey with this book because it was a metaphorical slap in the face and allowed me to start my antiracism work with everything laid out on the table. There was absolutely no way for me to claim a higher ground once I was forced to reflect on my beliefs.
Read this one first, if you are just starting out, and then read it again and again.
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
I read this one initially because I was invited to a book club where this was the book of the summer. But, I am so glad I did read this one. I want to say right off the bat, she is the only white author I will be recommending today.
DiAngelo is an author, educator and facilitator of diversity and racism conversations. She writes candidly about her work as a diversity facilitator for large corporations and businesses, which I found very impactful. She defines, discusses and unpacks the idea of white fragility, which she uses “to describe the disbelieving defensiveness that white people exhibit when their ideas about race and racism are challenged—and particularly when they feel implicated in white supremacy.” While Saad makes the reader reflect on different racist ideals and biases, DiAngelo tells stories of when she came face-to-face with those racist ideals and biases in her professional and personal life.
She makes you come to terms with the idea that all white people benefit from white privilege and white supremacy whether we claim to be racist or not, and no matter what hardships we have been through in our lives.
Her writing style and voice were my favorite out of these three books and I think this book is a good way to ease into the topics of racism and antiracism.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
I also began reading this book initially because it was a part of a book club that I am in.
Kendi tells the story of antiracism and racism in his own life, while also giving a history of racism in the United States. He goes through different kinds of racism, which include gender racism, queer racism and color racism, among others. I learned things from this book that I never learned in school and continued to confront my own biases towards BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color).
This book helped me dive into the educational side of my journey, which includes my desire and need to learn more about the Black experience and about Black history. He makes it known that antiracism work is a lifelong quest, journey and challenge. We have to work on it forever and for always.
I also watched and recommend these two documentaries and miniseries, which can all be found on Netflix.
13th is a shocking documentary that discusses the 13th amendment to the U.S. Constitution that states “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”
This documentary argues that the United States continues to enslave Black people through the prison system, which is a clear loophole in the Constitution. Guests in this documentary continuously confront the the fact that incarcerated individuals are a vast majority Black. The information presented in his documentary is shocking and hard to swallow, but is also vitally important for us to understand and to fight against.
When They See Us is a miniseries about the Central Park Five, who were five young men of color (four Black, one Latinx) who were wrongfully convicted and held in jail with little to no evidence against them. They were convicted of raping a white woman in Central Park, New York, even though none of them were seen with the woman. Police officers were able to get the young men to dishonestly tattle on each other, even though they did not know each other.
The miniseries tells the story of their arrest, imprisonment and their freedom after years of abuse in prison.
This story is heartbreaking and true. Everyone should watch this and fear for Black men in the United States who are simply at the wrong place at the wrong time and end up in the hands of law enforcement.
Time: The Kalief Browder Story is the story of Kalief Browder, a young man who gets held in prison with no conviction for several years before he is released. Kalief is accused of stealing a backpack and is never convicted, but remains in prison where he is severely abused by guards and prisoners.
Upon his release, the world does not welcome Kalief back in. This is the story of Kalief and his mom, who fought against injustice. This documentary is another example of the harsh mistreatment and abuse of Black people.
Lastly, I want to recommend two books and two movies that I have read and watched in order to understand and learn more about the Black experience and Black history.
This is the story of three Black women who worked at NASA in the mid-1900s and were essential to the United States’ presence in space and on the moon. This is the story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson and their experiences working at NASA where the workforce was primarily white and primarily men.
I was lucky enough to meet the author and hear her speak at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C. in 2018 and I highly recommend reading this book and, of course, watching the movie starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spenser and Janelle Monae.
Moonlight (currently on Netflix)
This award-winning film is the story of Chiron; we see three parts of his life in Florida, as a young boy, a teenager and a man. Watch as Chiron navigates life as a gay, Black man who is largely left to grow up on his own and take care of himself.
American Son (currently on Netflix)
This film, starring the wonderful, Kerry Washington, tells the story of a mother and father who are waiting to hear the fate of their missing son in the confines of a police station. You are privy to the experience of a bi-racial couple who is interacting with police officers who are withholding information and asking inappropriate questions about their family and the criminal history of their bi-racial son.
This film is a step in the right direction to even having a glimpse of an understanding on what it is like to live in the United States as a Black person.
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Do I need to explain this one? Oh, sure.
Former First Lady, Dr. Michelle Obama takes you on a journey through her life as a young girl in Chicago up to her life as the first Black First Lady of the United States. She shares her experiences navigating Ivy League Schools and the corporate world as a Black woman and she tells stories of how she had to confront stereotypes about Black women head on throughout her life.
I recommend listening to this book because you get to hear Michelle talk and that’s a gift.
There are so many other resources that I have consumed and plan to consume, but these have been my favorite and the most impactful so far and I hope it has helped you on your antiracism journey. This is just the beginning for me.
If you are looking for ways to support Black people and the fight against racial injustice, supporting these authors, actors/actresses and filmmakers is a good place to start. I would also recommend supporting Black-owned businesses and supporting causes like Black Lives Matter, the NAACP and the ACLU.
Please send me any resources you recommend, including podcasts, which I haven’t delved into yet. And let me know how you liked the resources that I have suggested.
Some other books I want to read include: