A Running List of Books About Race That White People Should Read

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

I understand that the color of my skin provides privilege. But—this privilege doesn’t give me, or any White person, a hall pass to remain complacent.

Our solidarity is crucial in dismantling racism.

Show up. Learn. Educate.

If there’s a protest happening in your area, join. There is strength in numbers.

The fight against racism doesn’t end when the posters are put down, though. The conversation needs to be continuous.

Continue learning. Don’t turn a blind eye to the news. Listen to what the people are saying. Research. Read about it every day.

Use your voice to educate others. Share books, articles, and social media posts. Empower people to gain a deeper understanding of racism and White supremacy.

I do acknowledge being White gives me the privilege to learn about racism rather than experience it. But again, this privilege is not a hall pass to remain silent.

The more people woke to the different facets of racial injustices, the sooner we’ll find peace.

I’ve compiled a list of books (both fiction and nonfiction) everyone, especially White people, should read to understand the history of racism, systemic oppression, racial identity, the prevalence of White privilege, and more.

I’d like to keep this a running list, so if you’ve read something not on here, drop a comment and I’ll add it.

Nonfiction:

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo: This New York Times bestseller offers a hard-hitting but user-friendly examination of race in America. Oluo guides readers through various subjects including intersectionality, affirmative action, and “model minorities.”

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander: Alexander argues we have not ended racial caste in America, but have merely redesigned it. The New Jim Crow assesses how the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward: A memoir where Ward shares how she lost five men in her life to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the bad luck that often follows people who live in poverty, especially Black men.

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine: A book-length poem that Rankine has called an attempt to “pull the lyric back into its realities.”

There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyoncé by Morgan Parker: A collection of poems that speak to the complexities of Black American womanhood.

You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have To Explain by Phoebe Robinson:

“You Can’t Touch My Hair is the book we need right now. Robinson makes us think about race and feminism in new ways, thanks to her whip-smart comedy and expert use of a pop culture reference.” — Jill Soloway, creator of Transparent

Even This Page Is White by Vivek Shraya: A collection of poetry that challenges skin, bringing to light the face of everyday racism.

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson:

“Raised in South Carolina and New York, I always felt halfway home in each place. In these poems, I share what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and my growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement” — Jacqueline Woodson

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein: Rothstein argues how segregation in America is the byproduct of explicit government policies at the local, state, and federal levels.

Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together In The Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum: Tatum, a psychology scholar, questions whether self-segregation of White, Black, and Latino youth is a problem to address or a coping strategy.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo and Michael Eric Dyson:

“The value in ‘White Fragility’ lies in its methodical, irrefutable exposure of racism in thought and action, and its call for humility and vigilance. Combatting one’s inner voices of racial prejudice, sneaky and, at times, irresistibly persuasive, is a life’s work.” — Katy Waldman, writer at The New Yorker

Walking With The Wind: A Memoir Of The Movement by John Lewis and Mike D’Orso: Told by John Lewis, this memoir is a first-hand account of the fight for civil rights as he traces his role in the pivotal Selma marches, Bloody Sunday, and the Freedom Rides.

Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals: An autobiography by one of the Civil Rights Movement’s most powerful figures, Melba Beals. She shares her account of the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957.

How It Feels To Be Colored Me by Zora Neale Hurston: An essay published in 1928 where Hurston details living life as a Black woman in the early 20th century.

How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi: This memoir intertwines topics of ethics, history, law, and science with Kendi’s own awakening to antiracism.

An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago by Alex Kotlowitz: Kotlowitz has written about Chicago for most of his career. This book examines the brutal, blood-soaked streets of Chicago and looks into the lives of those impacted by violence.

Fiction:

The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison: Morrison’s first novel, set in Ohio, shares the story of a young Black girl who prays for blue eyes so she can feel as beautiful and beloved as the blonde, blue-eyed children in America.

Beloved by Toni Morrison: Morrison follows the story of a woman born into slavery and how even 18 years after escaping it, she is still not free.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: This classic dates all the way back to 1937 and is regarded as one of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature. This piece follows a Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: A historical fiction book new to shelves with already rave reviews…

“Bennett’s tone and style recalls James Baldwin and Jacqueline Woodson, but it’s especially reminiscent of Toni Morrison’s 1970 debut novel, The Bluest Eye.” — Kiley Reid, Wall Street Journal

“A page-turner.” — O, The Oprah Magazine

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd: Set in 1803, The Invention of Wings follows the story of an urban slave in the early nineteenth century. The main character, Hatty Grimke, struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression but is bound by the oppressions of slavery.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd: Set in 1964, follows the story of a young White girl discovering the mystery of her past while finding refuge with an eccentric trio of Black beekeeping sisters.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: A masterpiece casually depicting how White people often overcompensate, masking their true racism. Reid tells the story about race and privilege, following a young Black babysitter, her well-intentioned employer, and a surprising connection.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead: Based on the real story of a warped reform school in Florida that operated for more than 100 years…Whitehead tells the story of a boy sentenced to juvenile reformatory but found himself trapped in a grotesque chamber of horrors.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead: Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction The Underground Railroad tells the story of Cora, a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia and her journey in escaping the horrors of bondage—creating a powerful meditation on America’s history.

Former television news reporter now working for a weather intelligence start up in Boston. Lover of dogs, books, and people.

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