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Books to Educate Yourself on Systemic Racism (And Then Do Something About It)

The last couple weeks have been pretty surreal. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder just down the street from our studio, we’ve seen a global shift towards better understanding systemic racism in our society. Many white people are finally asking, “How can I help?” For those who are confronting this issue for the first time, we want to share some resources.

You may recognize that we have a wealth of institutions that unfairly disadvantage people of color (policing, corrections, education, health care, housing, drug rehabilitation, etc), but that doesn’t mean you'll be able to just jump in and fix all the problems. Education is important, and that begins with knowing your history and gathering the right information.

Where to Start

Unsurprisingly, many of the best educators on racism come from the very same marginalized communities that have suffered the most pain. Activists have been working on these issues for decades and have tons of experience in dealing with racial injustice.

The reading list below is pulled directly from a Google Doc called Scaffolded Anti-Racist Resources. Check the link for more articles, podcasts, videos and to donate to the folks who put it together. It helpfully groups books based on the White Racial Identity Model, developed by psychologist Janet Helms, “to raise the awareness of white people about their role in creating and maintaining a racist society, and the need for them to act responsibly by dismantling systemic racism through a framework of power and privilege.”

The goal is to facilitate growth for white folks to become allies, and eventually accomplices for anti-racist work. These resources have been ordered in an attempt to make them more accessible.

1) CONTACT

Limited awareness of racial issues.

2) DISINTEGRATION

Increased awareness of racism. Dealing with guilt and shame.

3) REINTEGRATION

Fear and anger leading to regression on racial issues. Some people get stuck here.

4) PSEUDO-INDEPENDENCE

Starting to actually talk to people of color and collecting information about racism.

5) IMMERSION

Increased willingness to look at one’s own biases and to combat racism directly.

6) INDEPENDENCE

Finding a positive racial identity and committing to anti-racist work.

Where to Find These Books

Many of these books are incredibly popular right now and hard to find in stores. If you can, place an order with a Black-owned bookstore and/or your local bookshop. Check online with your library to see if any of these titles are available as audiobooks or ebooks. Ask your friends and family to see if they have a copy and if they want to have a discussion group.

What Comes Next?

History teaches us that change is possible. But remember, systemic racism will not disappear overnight! These are big issues and educating yourself is just the first step towards future action. Connect with local organizations, especially the ones that have been doing this work for a long time. With the right commitment, you can help make a difference towards improving this world for everyone.

Where to Donate Money

Extra Resources

What have you been reading?

Any obvious books we’ve left out? Let us know below in the comments along with any other lists of recommended reading you’ve found to be helpful.

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