Are you interested in learning more about racism, but unsure of where to start? Or maybe you already are familiar with white privilege and want to become actively anti-racist? Anti-racism books are one of the best ways to educate ourselves! America, in particular, has a long history and culture that's deeply intertwined with racism.
Anti-racism books will explain the who, what, and why regarding racial oppression, but they also tell us (particularly white people) how to support and work towards racial justice. We especially love How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram Kendi, a New York Times Bestseller that clearly explains how to tackle racial prejudice in our society and within ourselves. So check out our top ten list to get started on your anti-racism studies, and read our buying guide to learn how to find even more essential books.
White people, especially in America, benefit from being white. This is often referred to as "white privilege." Many of the books in our top ten list explain how deeply-rooted racism is in American history.
While it’s not our “fault” that we were born white or that our ancestors may have committed atrocities, it is a fact that we receive benefits others do not due to these factors.
Often, the first question people have when talking about white privilege is "what about racism towards white people?" This brings us to an important distinction: racism versus prejudice.
Prejudice doesn't have any significant power. While anyone can be prejudiced towards someone based on their race, this prejudice doesn't have any significant real-world implications. Prejudice is usually a belief based on preconceived ideas or stereotypes.
Joking about a person of color's race with your friends reinforces deep cultural ideas that can have real-world consequences. Jokes about a racial minority being lazy can influence someone's ability to get hired at a job or receive proper medical care.
Racism involves power; meaning, it causes actual damage. This can be individual, such as a hate crime, or it can be structural, like laws that target minorities.
Racism operates on many different levels that often intersect, ranging from a "joke" perpetuating dangerous stereotypes to large-scale policies, like the very legal practice of slavery in American history.
As you’ll learn in our recommended books, white people don’t face the barriers to living well or being successful that people of color do, especially Black people; not to mention that racial minorities experience higher rates of violence, incarceration, and even death.
Racism comes in many forms. Some of them are outright and easy to identify while others are quieter and harder to note. As white people, it’s easy for us to speak out against something like hate speech, but things like microaggressions or institutionalized racist practices may go unnoticed.
Many of us already know that racism is bad, but unfortunately, that’s not quite enough. Simply knowing that something is unethical doesn’t address the issue. Since racism--particularly against Black people--is such a powerful and self-perpetuating system, we have to actively work against it.
This is why people prefer the term “anti-racist,” as it implies action rather than the more passive “ally” or “supporter.”
Being anti-racist is also a way to show empathy and caring. It can be uncomfortable, and enduring discomfort shows that you’re willing to do the hard work. After all, equality means that people with more privileges have to give up some of those “perks” and open their eyes to a lot of pain and unfairness.
All of this being said, being anti-racist is a lifelong journey. No one expects you to know everything and behave perfectly! Taking ownership of your identity and working to dismantle racism is the most important thing.
It might get tiring, but the fact that it’s optional is a privilege. People of color don’t have to option to stop thinking about race. White people have had the luxury of not having to endure centuries of hardship and pain, so it’s about time that we took responsibility!
It may feel uncomfortable to talk about race, but your silence or inaction may be interpreted as support or permission for others to continue racist behavior or beliefs. Taking the time to educate yourself and speak to other white people is one of the most important things you can do!
All of the books on our top ten list come highly recommend by anti-racist activists and readers alike. You can’t go wrong starting with any of these titles, and we encourage you to read many!
We've also included links to purchase these books from Black-owned bookstores in addition to Amazon.
|Focus||Structural racism, personal narrative|
|Formats available||eBook, audiobook, hardcover, CD|
|Audience||Adults, older teens|
|Formats available||eBook, audiobook, hardcover, paperback|
|Audience||Adults, older teens|
|Focus||Social situations, language|
|Formats available||eBook, audiobook, paperback, CD|
|Focus||Anti-racism, practical steps|
|Formats available||eBook, paperback|
|Formats available||eBook, audiobook, paperback|
|Focus||Mass incarceration, structural racism, history|
|Formats available||eBook, audiobook, paperback, MP3 CD|
|Audience||Adults, older teens|
|Formats available||eBook, audiobook, hardcover, paperback|
|Focus||History, structural racism|
|Formats available||eBook, audiobook, paperback, hardcover, MP3 CD|
|Formats available||eBook, audiobook, hardcover|
|Audience||Kids, ages 6 to 9|
|Formats available||eBook, hardcover, board book|
Ibram X. Kendi
Ibram X. Kendi
Tiffany Jewell, Aurelia Durand
Beverly Daniel Tatum
Jennifer L. Eberhardt, PhD
Mahogany L. Browne, Theodore Taylor III
How to Be an Antiracist
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America
So You Want to Talk About Race
This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation
A Timely Must-Read That Uses Memoir to Illustrate Structural Racism
A Thorough Analysis of Racism That Connects History and Modern America
A Practical Starting Guide Geared Towards All Races
An Accessible Guide on Anti-Racism for All Ages
An Exploration of Racial Identity and Communication
Learn How Our Legal System Discriminates Against Black People
Discover the Why and How of Hidden Racial Biases
Learn About the Damage of White Anger and Entitlement Throughout American History
Teach Kids About Segregation With a True-Life Story
Empower Little Ones to Change the World
|Focus||Structural racism, personal narrative||American history||Social situations, language||Anti-racism, practical steps||Psychology, communication||Mass incarceration, structural racism, history||Stereotypes, biases||History, structural racism||History, segregation||Empowerment|
|Formats available||eBook, audiobook, hardcover, CD||eBook, audiobook, hardcover, paperback||eBook, audiobook, paperback, CD||eBook, paperback||eBook, audiobook, paperback||eBook, audiobook, paperback, MP3 CD||eBook, audiobook, hardcover, paperback||eBook, audiobook, paperback, hardcover, MP3 CD||eBook, audiobook, hardcover||eBook, hardcover, board book|
|Audience||Adults, older teens||Adults, older teens||Adults, teens||Adults, teens||Adults, teens||Adults, older teens||Adults, teens||Adults||Kids, ages 6 to 9||Babies, toddlers|
There are so many excellent anti-racism books out there, but it can be difficult to know where to start! Check out our buying guide for tips on how to choose a book that will resonate with you. Plus, we have information on how to get the most out of your book.
Anti-racism books all deal with unpacking racial oppression, but some of them do have a specific focus.
If you’re new to the subject, consider a more general or FAQ-style book that will answer some of the questions that those new to racial justice often have. These books are also great if you are unsure of how to talk to other people about race, especially with kids or loved ones. This includes both talking to people of color and white people!
We also recommend reading about the history of racism in America. There’s a wealth of information that goes back centuries, especially with the history of slavery. It’s not as far removed from our current culture as you think, and it has heavily influenced modern society.
If you’re interested in psychology, some books explore how we develop biases. These books also explain the mental stress of living as a racial minority and the concept of generational trauma.
These kinds of books can also be helpful if you are a boss or manager, as they can help illustrate troubling workplace dynamics or subconcious hiring practices.
Finally, think about exploring specific topics. If you’re a feminist, why not learn more about the unique issues facing women of color, like the high maternal mortality rates of Black mothers? If you’re more into politics, there are tons of books on how laws and policies have supported racist actions or beliefs.
It can also be helpful to explore your own identities. If you are LGBTQ, consider learning more about how different races experience being LGBTQ. Or, if you are passionate about economic disparity, look into how wealth and business intersect with race.
Becoming anti-racist takes some self-awareness! Are you comfortable with a direct tone, or do you know that you’re still feeling a little uncertain about white privilege? Try reading the description and checking some reviews to see if you’d like the tone.
The style may also be something to consider. Do you prefer people-driven stories or fact-heavy anthologies? While both styles are essential on the journey to anti-racism, there’s no shame in starting with something that grabs your attention!
While most anti-racism books are thought to be non-fiction, fiction novels can also be useful to read. Many of us don’t realize that white people create a lot of the books, movies, and TV shows we engage with. Reading fiction by people of color can also help us understand others' experiences and open our minds to new ideas.
There is a wealth of anti-racism books and resources available. While we may most often see books geared towards adults, there are just as many books for teens, kids, and even toddlers.
While talking to kids about race can be anxiety-inducing, it’s an important ongoing conversation. Black parents have to talk to their kids about race at a very young age to help keep them safe, so raising kiddos that have a healthy awareness of racial issues is the least we can do!
Many of these books address common concerns you may have as a parent, relative, or teacher. A picture book about racial oppression will likely have a guide for parents that you can read ahead of time. They anticipate questions kids will ask and give you guidance on how to answer them.
Anti-racist kids’ books all keep in mind that kids need a different approach than adults, but some are more intense than others. If your little one isn’t ready to learn about violence yet, make sure to flip through the book or check reviews ahead of time.
This may be a no-brainer, but make sure to buy books from authors of color when you can. There are plenty of interesting books on race by white authors as well, and these books aren’t “bad.” In fact, many of them are considered essential reading!
Just make sure to also seek out authors of color. If you’re only reading white authors, even if it’s about race, you’re still getting a limited perspective.
This isn’t just limited to specifically anti-racist books. People of color also create works filled with joy, humor, and creativity! Supporting all types of media created by people of color helps to diversify our entertainment culture, which is an anti-racist act within itself. It also shows that there’s a demand for more diverse content and content creators.
Anti-racism often intersects with other social issues, like anti-sexism or anti-ableism ideas. So, seek out a diverse range of authors! Not only is it interesting to learn about people who have different identities, but it also helps you form a more complex and nuanced understanding of social issues.
Plus, not all people of color have the same experience! Sometimes we can unconsciously view a racial minority as a unit instead of a group of unique individuals with their own ideas, hopes, and experiences. So read that anthology by a Black lesbian or that novel by a Latino man. Why not?
Reading anti-racism books offers us opportunities for education, growth, and empathy. However, there are ways you can engage with your book to get even more out of the experience!
You’ll likely run into things that may stick out as you read. Perhaps it’s a sentence that feels powerful or an idea that doesn’t sit quite right. Taking notes will help you organize your thoughts and engage more fully in the text. After all, we are studying!
Plus, you'll likely encounter people, terms, and events you'll want to look into later. Taking notes can help you find areas that you may need to supplement. We don't learn about many of these things in our education as kids! If you find yourself making lots of notes about political figures or legal cases, maybe your next book could be focused on history.
There are a ton of articles and videos available online about anti-racism. If a book introduces something you want to learn more about, go for it! You can even contact local resources, such as a library or anti-racism group for recommendations. Online panels and Q&A sessions are also available.
Following anti-racism social media accounts like Black Lives Matter is also an excellent way to learn more. While most of these resources are free, consider donating a few bucks if you can. People of color often make these resources, and it’s hard work.
Reading an anti-racism book can be challenging, so why not read it with other people? Talking to others about what you’re reading can help you process information.
Just be mindful of the racial dynamics and defer to any people of color who may be present. It’s usually not a great idea to use a Black friend or coworker as a sounding board for your thoughts.
If you're struggling, reach out to other people who share your race. They will likely have had the same questions you do! Just make sure that you don't blindly accept their opinions. You should be learning together, so make sure to base your conversations and information on reliable sources.
This is also a good idea if you want to share what you're learning. It's understandable to want to ask everyone "Did you know??" when you're learning so much essential information, but people of color already do know!
This can also be helpful if you are a person of color who's learning about another minority's experience. It's a complicated issue, so reaching out to others can help you navigate your questions or feelings.
Anti-racism books are a way to avoid burdening people of color in your life. They’re already dealing with racism, and you’re likely not the first person to treat them like a spokesperson for their race!
Use your best judgment and be honest. If you approach someone you know that is a person of color and ask to talk, be respectful of their boundaries. If they say no, leave it be. Reading these books is going to bring up a lot of feelings, which is perfectly normal.
However, if you feel sad or want to apologize for racist behavior, remember that it’s not about you. Insisting on expressing your horror about a racist event or your commitment to being anti-racist is usually just about making you feel less guilty, even if you have good intentions.
If you have a lot of feelings, there are plenty of healthy ways to process them. You can try journaling, talking to a friend, joining an anti-racist group, or even talking to a therapist. Keep in mind that you may make blunders or say something "wrong." That's ok! Own it, learn from it, and move forward.
Finally, consider paying people for their time and work. If an activist is willing to talk to you about racial issues, offer to pay them or buy dinner. If someone is uncomfortable with receiving money, consider an anonymous donation. Teaching others about race is work, and too often this emotional labor goes unpaid and unappreciated.
Many racial activists have Venmo accounts that you can donate to. You can also set up monthly recurring donations to charities and social justice groups. This is a great way to show your support, especially if you are in favor of large, structural change. Lobbying for new bills or paying for lawyers is expensive!
If you want more ways to support people of color, why not check out some other products created by racial minorities? These brands and books often get overlooked! Check out our article on POC-owned beauty brands and book recommendations that include authors of color as well!
Reading anti-racism books is a great way to better both yourself and society. Not only will you learn and grow, but you'll also learn how to support and honor people of color! Many of us care deeply about social injustice, and thoughtfully reading anti-racist books is a concrete way to engage with the topic.
Just remember to choose a book that suits your experience level with racial issues, and make sure to support authors of color too. No matter what anti-racism book you choose, you're sure to learn a lot about yourself and the world around you. Keep it up!
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