One of the biggest components necessary to effect change is empathy. Empathy — the ability to understand or share someone’s feelings — isn’t lacking among white people . . . they just commonly “understand” other white people. As such they’ll sympathize or understand racist behavior by a white person, but have a hard time directing those emotions to a minority victim.
Year round should be a time to read and learn about the experiences of others, because it helps with compassion and empathy. It will also help you identify certain remarks or defenses you, as a white person, have used and help you to understand our reactions. If you’re serious about becoming an ally, it’s time you learned more about our experiences in the US.
Black women’s voices are typically not amplified and their creations are often co-opted by white people — especially white women — who are then given the credit. See Tarana Burke’s #METOO movement and how she is conspicuously absent from the women on the Times “Person of the Year” cover. A cover which credits those women as “the voices that launched a movement” sans the actual creator of the hashtag that began a movement long before celebrity white women were all aboard.
In the US, movements for marginalized people are all too often overrun by white people, who then take over the movement and drown out the voices of those marginalized people fighting to be heard.
So in an effort to bridge distance and bring understanding, what better method than to recommend some Black women writers? What better way to hear what we’ve gone through and what we are hoping for than from mouths of the women themselves without whitewashing?
Below is a list of recommendations of books and a hashtag or two for white people to look at to learn. This list isn’t just limited to white people of course. It’s a great opportunity to not only learn from us, undiluted, but also show your support by purchasing these books or donating to movements. Other minorities including Black people who want to have their experiences validated, connect and learn about certain issues should read these as well.
Books On Racism
“So You Want Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo is an amazing book for people of all backgrounds who want to understand not only how and when to broach the topic of race with white people. But it also has a list that white people can look at regarding when something is or is not about race.
Throughout the story she also disperses experiences from her life as a child, to working amongst white people, to having a heart to heart with her white mother about race.
Everyone can read this and have a better understanding of themselves and the tactics that white people use to avoid responsibility for their actions or words. Our experiences against racism, or being “labeled” based on our skin color and hair are tales many minorities share and it helps us realize we are not alone, nor are we crazy or making an issue out of nothing, as women are often told.
“How to Be Less Stupid About Race” by Crystal M. Fleming is the next step in books about identifying and dealing with racism. Studying and learning (through Critical Race Theory) about racism, not in single instances, but as an American system is essential to fully understand what this fight entails.
We are fighting against something that is the bedrock of the United States and we’ve got a ways to go.
She won’t hold your hand much as you go through the book, but you should be past the need to be coddled anyway. And, she freely admits, almost all of us are or have been stupid when it comes to race (myself included).
Most of her personal experiences, which are also dispersed throughout the book, are from her adulthood as she comes to that realization. She talks about the failings not only from the right — which, for many of us are glaringly obvious — but also the subtler, more nuanced racism on the left that people still try to avoid seeing and, thankfully, no one is safe from her critique.
“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander is the next level for comprehending the scope of racism in the United States. This books primary focus is understanding the racism involved in the lopsided enforcement of laws.
It shows a clear line between the freeing of Black people, to Black people being rounded up on minor charges to the creation of “the war on drugs” to the three strikes law.
It talks about cops and precincts being incentivized to target minorities, the criminal justice systems harsher sentencing for minorities and the abject failure — or victory if you want to maintain white privilege — of the Supreme Court to prevent racial profiling.
This book is dense and painful, but no less important. And, if you care about equality, it will keep you up at night wondering not only how this happened, but how you never heard about half of this transpiring.
“Critical Race Theory” by Kimberle Crenshaw is recommended by Crystal M. Fleming so it is included it here. It focuses on race playing a role in the courts and legal system and the impact on communities as well.
It brings home the fact that racism is not an outlier in this society, our government and courts but is, currently, an immutable force in this society, our government and courts.
The Black Experience
“The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” by Issa Rae is a wonderful book showcasing the diversity of Black people.
Oftentimes, we are viewed as one-dimensional and interchangeable and this book adorably shows that is not true. There’s even a guide for “Connecting with Other Blacks” to help the awkward Black girl in conversation.
Honest, hilarious and, at times, embarrassingly awkward, this book is ideal for girls who aren’t hip growing up, who don’t fit the “stereotype” through character or appearance.
“Citizen: An American Lyric” by Claudia Rankine is the racial Black experience through poetic style. It’s snapshots of personal racial experiences that weigh us down and connects us in what it means to live Black in the US.
It gives you pictures of those painful moments when racism catches you off guard and, in order avoid a scene and be the “angry Black woman” you are forced to internalize that rage and pain.
Highly recommended, particularly if you are a fan of poetic styles.
“Well-Read Black Girl” by Glory Edim is a collection of Black female authors, actors, scholars, activists who talk about the importance of seeing our stories, told by us, in literature.
Some were fortunate enough to read stories with Black female leads at an early age, others didn’t get to until they were much older, but the effect was nonetheless magical and inspiring.
There are also recommended lists scattered throughout of books written by Black females so, if you’re an avid reader in need of more, this book and lists will keep you busy.
#VoteLikeBlackWomen is the pulse of the democratic movement. White people should not be telling us what we need, but rather listening to us talk about what we want. Black women who vote largely vote democratic and continuing to ignore our concerns is going to be detrimental for future elections as we are done being told to wait.
Check out this hashtag to find out what they are talking about, which candidates they are leaning toward, and what their priorities are because, when you actually listen and aid one of the most disregarded groups, that is how you bring change about. Not by speaking for them, but by standing with them.
#causeascene is a hashtag created by Kim Crayton that not only focuses on minorities, particularly Black women in tech, but it also emphasizes the need to speak up against companies that are falling short of being truly diverse. Particularly when it is the companies fault that they lack diversity.
She doesn’t mince words and points out that lack of an inclusive environment leads to a lack of diversity and it’s up to all of us to say we are no longer willing to tolerate the same scripted excuses on why a company loves diversity, yet consistently fails to reflect that in their hiring practices, work environment and their upper management.
It’s time they do something about it. In her words, we ‘re “Not Asking Permission!” We are “Giving Notice!”