I have a long history of being a racist. Not in the white robe/Nazi sense…but in the “I don’t see color” sense. I don’t think any of it was intentional, but that didn’t make it less harmful. For awhile now I’ve been trying to educate myself to become less racist. I often like to define a long timeline to that journey because I want a gold-star given to me to ease my guilt as a white person, but that’s not the way any of this works. So, I’m just going to get to the point. These are things that have made me feel really uncomfortable as a white person learning about racism, and so – you know – maybe you want to read/watch/listen to them too. Be wary of any educational material that doesn’t make you uncomfortable. Learn to embrace the discomfort. It means you are learning something.
And if you want to learn more beyond my experience – I’ve linked to plenty of articles throughout this post that will give you more offerings. Also – here’s a good document someone made for anti-racism resources. I plan on working my way through some of those lists and updated this page when I find new things to recommend.
I know there are plenty more pieces that have really shaped my growth but it’s harder to find/link to those because there’s not easily searchable titles in my brain. If I think of/remember more I’ll come back and add them here.
- Letter from a Birmingham Jail – Specifically read MLK’s warning about the “White Moderate.” This is probably the thing that has made me the most uncomfortable over the years, because I was trying to be that person without realizing how destructive it was.
- Peggy McIntosh Invisible Knapsack – To me this is the shortest thing to ingest that will pack the biggest punch for white people. I’ve printed this up several times to put in my bullet journal.
- The 1619 Project from the New York Times – This one got a lot of attention this year because it frames a new look for the “beginning” of our country apart from 1775 and it will make you VERY uncomfortable but it is VERY important.
- Everything Nikole Hannah-Jones has ever done. From her work on the 1619 Project to her coverage of school segregation. She also is great on Twitter and often links to other articles/histories/journalists to follow/read.
I’m going to start with the easier things because I personally struggle with heavy non-fiction books. Here are some of my Go-To movie recommendations for understanding the need for criminal justice reform in our country. Note: Be wary of movies that feel progressive around race but…if you look closely…might be lacking something. They’re probably great movies, and they may even enlighten you in some way, but they do not make you uncomfortable. If you are not uncomfortable, then you might be watching something that has been softened, or sugar-coated for your consumption. A good example is the movie Hidden Figures which made up the Kevin Costner character entirely. The movie is great, don’t get me wrong, but the “white savior” character is common to make us white people feel better when watching a movie about racism. Again…this is my list but if you want more, I’ve bookmarked this article for my own personal edification: “10 Must Watch Black History Documentaries.”
- I am Not Your Negro (Free with Amazon Prime: https://www.amazon.com/I-Am-Not-Your-Negro/dp/B01MR52U7T)
- 13th (Free on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krfcq5pF8u8)
- When They See Us (Free with Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/watch/80200549?source=35)
- The Bail Trap (Free from Brave New Films: https://www.bravenewfilms.org/the_bail_trap)
- True Justice – Bryan Stevenson’s Fight For Equality (Free on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfZPl4CFEUc)
Podcasts are my favorite way to learn new things because I can listen to them while I’m mowing the grass or washing dishes or waiting for my Mom at Dialysis. There are TONS of good podcasts about race and criminal justice reform, these are just the ones I’ve listened to. If you want others here’s an article 9 Podcasts that Don’t Whitewash Race
- Code Switch – It’s a bit of a “daily news” style podcast but it very much centers current events around the experiences of people of color.
- 1619 – It was just a small reporting segment (5 episodes) of the longer production from the New York Times.
- In The Dark – Season 2: This is coverage of the Curtis Flowers murder case which is still active.
- Pod Save The People – Another weekly/current events podcasts written with the angle of how stories affect Black Americans
- What A Day – This one is not specifically about race but it’s hosted by Akilah Hughes who often addresses issues of race in the current events in a very necessary/honest way.
I didn’t really know how to categorize this but I have a few curated Twitter lists that have really helped me keep up with news and essays and commentary around race in America. I have one called “Important Voices” which you can follow here if you want. But the list has voices that cover all sorts of topics besides race so I’m going to single out some here. Some of these people are journalists, some are activists who use Twitter well, some are writers/authors of some sort. I know Twitter is a hard tool to navigate but if you curate it well, it can be an excellent resource.
- Sherrilyn Ifill @Sifill_LDF
- Johnetta Elzie @Nettaaaaaaaa
- Clint Smith @ClintSmithIII
- Brittany Packnett Cunningham @MsPackyetti
- Ashley C. Ford @iSmashFizzle
- Bree Newsome Bass @BreeNewsome
- Yamiche Alcindor @Yamiche
- Chenjerai Kumanyika @catchatweetdown
- Akilah Hughes @AkilahObviously
- Jamil Smith @JamilSmith
- Deray @Deray
- Franklin Leanard @FranklinLeonard
- Jason Reynolds @JasonReynolds83
- Wesley Lowery @WesleyLowery
- Kelly Hurst @mochamomma
- Roxane Gay @Rgay
- Baratunde @baratunde
YA/Young Reader Fiction
Y’all know my favorite genre of fiction books is YA/Young Reader so of course I’m going to have a bunch of those to recommend. But if you want more that expand even beyond issues of race, this is a good list from the Seattle Library: Social Justice Books For Teens. (Note, I’m linking using Bookshop.org because it’s a good replacement for Amazon that supports all local book stores.)
- The Hate U Give
- If You Come Softly
- Piecing Me Together
- All American Boys
- Track Series (4 books)
- Just everything by Jason Reynolds who happens to be our country’s National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature
Adult Non-Fiction About Race
This is my hardest area because there’s just SO MUCH OUT THERE. When I’m researching I often go to this list because it’s very comprehensive. But here’s the thing, I have a lot of the books on that list, have photographed me buying them or checking them out at the library, but I haven’t finished even half of what I’ve tried. I really struggle with non-fiction books, which is why I saved this for last. I’m kinda embarrassed about how many books I’ve started and not finished. SO GO TO THAT OTHER LIST! Okay…now that the disclaimer is out of the way: Here is the list of books that has helped me that I’ve actually read. Now, I’ve not given up on the ones I’ve started…I’ve challenged myself to revisit them during this time.
General Topics I Am Embarrassed My 12 Years Of EarlyEducation Did Not Cover
This is just Shit You Should Google. Things I’ve stumbled upon in my adulthood that I totally missed out on in my years in a classroom. I am rightfully embarrassed about those things. And god…this list is honestly SO VERY LONG but these are the biggies. (For the record, I didn’t learn anything about this stuff in college classes either, but I don’t think I took any American History classes so I’m giving them a pass.)
- Freedom Riders
- Ida B. Wells
- Lynching (I knew what it was, but until I visited The National Memorial For Peace And Justice I had not really learned about it.)
- The FBI and their files on Martin Luther King Jr.
I’ll come back and try to add more to this as I remember other things and/or discover new things. Feel free to tell me your things too, but if it’s a non-fiction book know that I probably bought it, posted a picture of it on instagram to make myself look good, and then put it down after 10 pages.