Many of us find it difficult to act or speak out, out of fear of doing or saying something ignorant. But all action, including inaction, can lead to unintended consequences. To bridge the gap between the two, we’ve collected a baker’s dozen of recommended reads from various genres to help us all understand the current state of affairs and be more informed allies and citizens of the world. Thank you to all of those who provided recommendations and for the conversations that came about through making this list. Many of these books are available as e-books through NYU libraries website, however we highly recommend buying these books to support these incredible authors.
- ‘We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom’ by Bettina L. Love
Schools shape the adults we grow up to be. Growing up in Florida, I could name more Confederate Generals than I could name Black Civil Rights Leaders. It wasn’t until I discovered the work of George Washington Carver that I realized there was more to Black History than slavery and abolition. Bettina Love argues that educators must teach students about racial violence, oppression, and how to make sustainable change in their communities. The legacies of the past must be dismantled, and this is no small task. Teachers, parents, and community leaders must approach education “with the imagination, determination, boldness, and urgency of an abolitionist.”
- ‘Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race‘ by Beverly Daniel Tatum
This book focuses on self-segregation and racial identity. Published back in 2003, it’s haunting to see how societal pressures to feel at home in one’s own skin and own body, continue to manifest themselves today.
Toni Morrison’s second novel, Sula follows the divergent paths of two childhood friends who grow into enemies as the pressures of the world and community encroach. Set in the years after WWI, the novel focuses on the relationship between maturity and the conflict between social acceptance and acceptance of self.
This was one of the first books I read when I moved to New York. Set in Harlem and Greenwich Village in the late 1950s, Baldwin was far ahead of his time writing about the intersectionality of race and sexual orientation. Now, more than ever, it’s important to understand that these lines don’t start and stop but create a network of connection and identity.
- ‘’When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir‘ by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
Patrisse Khan-Cullors is one of the three founding members of the Black Lives Matter movement. She recounts her, as well as Alicia Garza’s, and Opal Tometi’s experiences following the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s shooter, and the early days of founding Black Lives Matter.
Cooper follows the notion “if you can’t say something nice, say something clever but devastating” to a tee. She beautifully illustrates the struggles and microaggressions faced in the day-to-day life of a black woman and keeps the reader honest and accountable throughout.
Oluo focuses on the conversational aspect of racial discourse: how do we talk to our friends, family members, and employers about such nuanced and touchy subjects? The National Book Review says: “Oluo gives us–both white people and people of color–that language to engage in clear, constructive, and confident dialogue with each other about how to deal with racial prejudices and biases.”
Spanning more than two hundred years, An African American and Latinx History of the United States is a revolutionary, politically charged narrative history, arguing that the “Global South” was crucial to the development of America as we know it. Scholar and activist Paul Ortiz challenges the notion of westward progress as exalted by widely taught formulations like “manifest destiny” and “Jacksonian democracy,” and shows how placing African American, Latinx, and Indigenous voices unapologetically front and center transforms US history into one of the working class organizing against imperialism. – Google Books
- ‘The Hidden Rules of Race: Barriers to an Inclusive Economy‘ by Andrea Flynn, Susan R. Holmberg, Dorian T. Warren, and Felicia J. Won’t
Urban systems are developed to spur economic development and allocate resources into pools or funds chosen to benefit the community. But what happens when the people developing these systems don’t have everyone’s best interest in mind? What happens when these systems continue to run for decades after the death of its racist (or ignorant) founders? How do you deconstruct these systems? Let’s give it a try.
By far my favorite title of any book on this list, Morgan wrote this book on the life of a Black Woman in 2000, and I’m told nearly every detail still holds true today. Morgan makes room for humor within these difficult conversations, and serves up “space and language to center their pleasures alongside their politics.”
Machine learning and AI are becoming more embedded into our daily lives. We assumed by taking the human factor out of these algorithms we can evolve past the world of racism and sexism. Unfortunately, we already messed that up. AI is based on founding principles and is influenced by input data. What happens to a “pure” system created out of subconsciously biased code and access to the internet? Racist Robots. Great read. Published by NYU Press!
Wu explores the disparities of racial reform among ethnicities and the contradictions of national belonging in the civil rights era and today. The conversation is never about just one race, but the interconnectivity of all of us in today’s society. As a supplement, we also highly recommend everyone read Hugh Mo, MBA’s op-ed on this subject.
No one likes to be called racist, biased, or ignorant. We have visceral reactions to these things. However, it’s our inability to participate in these conversations that stunts our emotional growth and causes stagnations in the overall movement for these causes. It’s why Malcolm X said that “The White liberal is the worst enemy to America, and the worst enemy to the black man.” We get you are “not like them,” that’s not the point, we want you to be better than your current self, because that is growth, and that is how change happens.