In today's current political and cultural climate, it's crucial that everyday Americans engage in important conversations about race, bias, discrimination, and privilege. For people of color, these conversations are nothing new; they are a requirement in communities where experiences of racism, bias, and bigotry are a part of everyday life. But for many white people who have never been burdened by a system built specifically to keep us down, these conversations can seem confusing, uncomfortable, and awkward, which is what makes them even more necessary. If you're not sure how to talk about issues of race in America, try picking up one of the many incredible books about race instead of asking people of color to explain it to you.
If you really want to be a better ally, if you really want to be on the front lines in the war against racism and discrimination in the United States, you have to take the initiative to educate yourself. It isn't up to people of color to inform or reform white people, as "White people, stop asking us to education about racism," a collective piece from an African American voice on Medium, so clearly explains: "Don’t ask us to provide the information for you. Instead, participate in your own education. We’ve already given you enough of our free labor. Don’t ask us for anymore."
If you're trying to unlearn the American biases designed to keep people of color down, here are 10 books about race in America you can start with:
'When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir' by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
If you really want to understand the Black Lives Matter movement and the people who put their lives on the line fighting for its behalf, When They Call You a Terrorist is a must-read. Written by artist, activist, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors and journalist and author Asha Bandele, this powerful and breathtaking memoir reveals what it is like to be black in today's violently racially charged America.
'Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower' by Brittney Cooper
In her searing and courageous new book, Cosmopolitan columnist and Rutgers University professor Brittney Cooper dismantles the misguided notion that black women's anger is a weakness. Rather, the author draws from history, pop culture, and her personal experiences from childhood and adulthood to position "eloquent rage" as a source of power that grants black women from Serena Williams to Michelle Obama the strength to not only survive but thrive in America.
'An African American and Latinx History of the United States' by Paul Ortiz
If you want to understand the racial landscape of modern-day America, you first have to understand the nation's past, and Paul Ortiz's new bottom-up history book is the perfect place to start. Spanning more than 200 years, this alternative narrative offers a definitive and intersectional look at the country's development through the eyes of the African American and Latinx communities that helped it flourish, often to their own detriment.
'The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority' by Ellen D. Wu
For decades, Asian Americans have been perceived as the "model minority," but for a long time, the country feared the threat of their "yellow terror." How did this particular minority group's stereotype transform so radically, and in what way does the new perception of Asian Americans cause harm? Ellen D. Wu's tracks this metamorphosis and all of its racial implications in The Color of Success, an eye-opening book that will make you confront what you think you know about America's history with otherness.
'Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race' by Debby Irving
Honest to the point of cringe-worthiness, Waking Up White dives head-first into the uncomfortable world of racial privilege. In it, author Debby Irving opens up about her experiences living as a white woman and coming to terms with the fact she exists in a world that rewards her for her skin color and punished others for theirs. If you're still waiting for your "aha" moment, this could be the key.
'This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror' by Moustafa Bayoumi
In this eye-opening book about fear, racism, paranoia, and surveillance, Moustafa Bayoumi offers an unflinching look the culture of the War on Terror as experienced by Muslim Americans. A powerful blend of personal experience and academic research, this engaging collection of writing is an important and timely addition to the world of Muslim studies.
'The Hidden Rules of Race: Barriers to an Inclusive Economy' by Andrea Flynn, Susuan R. Holmberg, Dorian T. Warren, and Felicia J. Wong
When we talk about race and inequality in this country, it's typically in social terms, but the United State's economy is one of the biggest barriers to an equal and inclusive nation where black and white families are granted the same opportunities. At least, that is what The Hidden Rules of Race strives to prove by offering up concrete examples of the many ways in which unspoken rules of race and economics perpetuate inequality.
'Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race' by Beverly Daniel Tatum
So you want to have a conversation about race, but you aren't sure where to start? Consider Beverly Daniel Tatum's classic Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? your crash course in the psychology of racism. Straightforward and accessible, this fully revised and updated book is the perfect entry point into all of those complicated, uncomfortable, but vital discussions about race in America.
'Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism' by Safiya Umoja Noble
In today's modern world, racism and bigotry have taken on brand new and still largely unexplored forms that thrive in our internet culture. In Algorithms of Oppression, professor of communication Safiya Umoja Noble investigates the many ways in which search engines like Google perpetuate and promote damaging biases that privilege white people and discriminate against people of color, especially women of color.
This article was originally published on