We are all processing the horrifying murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests in our own way, and there are many of us that can’t begin to comprehend how this is impacting Black communities across America. Many of us don’t understand the true history of racism in our country, we don’t understand terms such as “systemic racism” or “antiracist”, and we aren’t sure how to react when we hear phrases like “defund the police”.
Personally, I want to educate myself as much as possible before I start having conversations with folks about almost any topic, but certainly about topics that are as important as racism and police reform. As a group of individuals dedicated to learning, we wanted to share a list of books that will question our assumptions, make us a bit uncomfortable, and change how we think about our society.
As a company and a community, we do not have a single monolithic opinion. We are all individuals, and we encourage everyone to share their own personal experiences and beliefs. However, we also believe strongly that expressing your beliefs comes with the responsibility to educate yourself and be open to discussing and questioning those beliefs. We hope you’ll join us on this journey of self reflection and education. We must educate ourselves in order to change ourselves.
“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
On Racism, Antiracism, and the History of Racism in America
Stamped from the Beginning
From the publisher: “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. Stamped from the Beginning uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to offer a window into the contentious debates between assimilationists and segregationists and between racists and antiracists. From Puritan minister Cotton Mather to Thomas Jefferson, from fiery abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison to brilliant scholar W.E.B. Du Bois to legendary anti-prison activist Angela Davis, Kendi shows how and why some of our leading proslavery and pro-civil rights thinkers have challenged or helped cement racist ideas in America.”
How To Be An Antiracist
From the publisher: “In his memoir, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science–including the story of his own awakening to antiracism–bringing it all together in a cogent, accessible form. He begins by helping us rethink our most deeply held, if implicit, beliefs and our most intimate personal relationships (including beliefs about race and IQ and interracial social relations) and reexamines the policies and larger social arrangements we support. How to Be an Antiracist promises to become an essential book for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step of contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.”
So You Want to Talk About Race
From the publisher: “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.”
From the publisher: “White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. This book explicates the dynamics of White Fragility and how we might build our capacity in the on-going work towards racial justice.”
The Color of Law
From the publisher: “In The Color of Law, Richard Rothstein argues with exacting precision and fascinating insight how segregation in America—the incessant kind that continues to dog our major cities and has contributed to so much recent social strife—is the byproduct of explicit government policies at the local, state, and federal levels.”
On Police and Prison Reform
The New Jim Crow
From the publisher: “The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.”
The End of Policing
From the publisher: “This book attempts to spark public discussion by revealing the tainted origins of modern policing as a tool of social control. It shows how the expansion of police authority is inconsistent with community empowerment, social justice—even public safety. Drawing on groundbreaking research from across the world, and covering virtually every area in the increasingly broad range of police work, Alex Vitale demonstrates how law enforcement has come to exacerbate the very problems it is supposed to solve.”
Locking Up Our Own
From the publisher: “Forman shows us that the first substantial cohort of black mayors, judges, and police chiefs took office amid a surge in crime and drug addiction. In response, these officials embraced tough-on-crime measures that would have unforeseen but devastating consequences for residents of poor black neighborhoods. A former public defender in Washington, D.C., Forman tells riveting stories of politicians, community activists, police officers, defendants, and crime victims trapped in terrible dilemmas.”
From the publisher: “A blistering indictment of the private prison system, and the powerful forces that drive it, American Prison is a necessary human document about the true face of justice in America.”
We hope you find this list helpful. There are a ton of important books on these two topics, and this list is just a small sampling of what is available. If you have any recommendations for books that we should investigate and add to this list, please let us know!