Books to deepen your understanding of racism in America


After so many police killings of Black men and women, George Floyd’s murder seems to be the one that has finally registered with a critical mass of white and corporate America. And the coronavirus was the tipping point. Many Black leaders and activists have rightfully linked the epidemic of racism that perpetuates police violence and countless other dehumanizing acts, to the reason why the pandemic has disproportionately harmed Black and Brown communities. This connection could not be clearer, because Covid-19 has also had a humanizing effect. With the world on pause, there’s been more time to be introspective. With mass unemployment and a silent killer lurking, more people have feared for their lives, loved ones and livelihoods on a daily basis for the first time. We’re also glued more to TV, the news and social media than ever before. All of these things helped make space for a new awakening.

It’s tragic that it took so long to create such a groundswell of support for the basic truth that Black Lives Matter. But now that we’ve reached this new collective consciousness, many of us are wondering how to best channel it before it evaporates. A speaker at a recent rally said it perfectly: The multitude of protests around the country is not a testament that things will finally change. It’s just a testament to the need for change.

There are so many things we can do to make sure this doesn’t become a fleeting moment. We can support chokehold bills that have been stalled at the city and national level since Eric Garner’s murder. Vote in local races the way Obama is instructing us to. Donate to family victims and bail funds. We can also read, watch and listen to Black scholars, historians, writers, and artists to educate ourselves on what it means to be truly antiracist. 

Brooklyn Public Library has created Black Lives Matter reading lists for adults, teens and kids, including picture books. Many of the titles on the lists, like How to be an Antiracist, have sold out on Amazon, yet another indication of this new reckoning. If you do purchase one of these books, do it through so you can support an independent bookseller, or better yet, buy one from a Black-owned bookstore, as part of the BuyBlack30 challenge that encourages everyone to shop Black-owned businesses for a month. Just as crucial to reading these books, though, is having honest discussions about them. You can do it with your family or school or work. Or, we can do it on this platform. I’ve begun reading Stamped from the Beginning, The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi. If you’d like to join me and discuss the book—likely with a guest moderator—sign up here

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