Want to be an ally to the Black community? It starts with education.
The death of African-American man George Floyd, after he was arrested by police in Minnesota, enraged and devastated the world. As the footage of Floyd telling the police officer kneeling on his neck that he couldn’t breathe circulated online, many were left thinking about the racism which still plagues us as well as what they can do to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
There has been a surge in conversation online, with people talking about organisations to donate to, protests to attend and policy making bodies to petition. As well as this, it’s being widely acknowledged that for white people, it’s important to learn from the Black community as a starting point; to listen to their experiences and to take notes on how to be an ally, before going forward and taking action.
If you’re here to educate yourself about racism, white privilege and how we can all join together to support the Black Lives Matter movement, the below books are well worth reading.
- Black, Listed: Black British Culture Explored
Told through a list of words that are often used to describe the Black British experience (e.g. urban, woke, immigrant, fam), Boakye investigates the ways in which Black communities and individuals have been represented, oppressed, mimicked, celebrated and othered. Insightful and funny, combining history with personal musings and pop-culture references.
- Red at the Bone: Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020
In this short yet sweeping narrative, we meet a well-off Black family in New York who are descended from survivors of the Tulsa race riots. As a teenage pregnancy ripples through the generations, it’s a story of family and legacy, and how difficult it can be to overcome the past.
- An American Marriage: WINNER OF THE WOMEN’S PRIZE FOR FICTION, 2019
Newlyweds Celestial and Roy seem to be living the American dream – until Roy is arrested for a sexual assault that Celestial knows he didn’t commit. While he’s imprisoned, Celestial seeks comfort in her best friend, Andre, which causes problems when Roy’s conviction is overturned and he expects to resume his love story with Celestial. Barack Obama called it a ‘moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple’ and we couldn’t agree more.
- I Am Not Your Baby Mother
Brathwaite has been on a mission to make the image of motherhood more diverse since she started blogging in 2016. Her new book is an urgent part-memoir, part-manifesto, exploring what it’s really like to be a Black British mother – and all the unconscious bias, prejudice, and micro-aggressions she faces along the way.
- Queenie: Longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2020
Meet Queenie: a young Black woman living in London, who is struggling while she’s on a ‘break’ from her long-term boyfriend, Tom. But alongside all the usual millennial problems, Queenie is also having to contend with micro-aggressions and covert racism at every turn. From the men who fetishise her body, to the women who intrusively touch her hair, it’s a revealing portrait of what it means to be a Black woman.
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings (Virago Modern Classics)
Angelou’s memoir is a modern classic, exploring her upbringing as a Black woman in America’s deep south in the 1930s. It’s a personal and moving insight into recent historical racism, which also illuminates hope for the future.
- Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World
Saad is a hugely prominent voice on Instagram, and her book is widely considered the go-to workbook to guide you through recognising your own privilege and combatting racism. Both informative and practical, it’s essential reading for anyone looking to become a truly anti-racist ally.
- Don’t Touch My Hair
Whether straightened or stigmatised, appropriated or considered inappropriate, Black hair is never just ‘hair’. In this eye-opening and important collection of essays, Dabiri explores why Black hair matters, ranging from pre-colonial Africa, to cultural appropriation, to today’s natural hair movement.
- The Vanishing Half: from the New York Times bestselling author of The Mothers
Named as one of Oprah’s most anticipated books of 2020, The Vanishing Half follows the identical Vignes twin sisters, who choose to live in very different words – one Black, and one white. Weaving together multiple strands of generations of this family, from the Deep South of California from the 1950s and 1990s, this emotional family story is also a timely exploration of American history.
- Girl, Woman, Other
In her Booker Prize-winning novel, Evaristo explores the inter-connecting stories of 12 characters, most of whom are Black British women. The book explores their challenges, their triumphs, their relationships and the racism they face throughout their lives.
- Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging
In Brit(ish), Hirsch speaks from her perspective as a Black British woman to highlight the racism which plagues our society, with its roots in the country’s imperial past. As much as the book is educational, it’s an impassioned call for change and something we can learn from and act on as white allies to the Black Lives Matter movement.
- The Good Immigrant
This collection of essays brings together 21 unique BAME voices who each share their own stories and collectively examine what constitutes as a “good” immigrant in the eyes of British society, The book explores why immigrants come to the UK, why they stay and what it means to be ‘other’ in a country that continually shows hostility to immigrants.
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race: The Sunday Times Bestseller
When she blogged about being unprepared to have conversations about race with white people who refuse to recognise systemic racism and their inherent white privilege, Reni Eddo-Lodge caught the world’s attention as a voice to be listened to. In the book that followed that post, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race, she explores everything from the erasure of Black history to the link between class and race, and provides an important educational tool for white allies.
- The New Jim Crow
A disproportionate percentage of the US prison population is comprised of African-American men, and in this book Alexander explains how different legal factors have combined to mean that African-Americans are more likely to be targeted by police, and to receive long jail sentences. Named after the laws that enforced racial segregation in the southern US until the 1960s, The New Jim Crow expertly outlines the anti-Black racial bias of the country’s legal system.
- Sister Outsider (Penguin Modern Classics)
In this collection of fifteen essays and speeches dating from 1976 to 1984, legendary writer, civil rights activists and feminist, Audre Lorde, lays out her compelling take on what it means to be a Black lesbian woman, in a classic work of intersectional feminism. Lorde draws on her own experience of oppression, from racism to sexism and classism, to highlight the issues of her time. Her work is still just as vital today for those who want to learn from her in order to fight for change.
- So You Want to Talk About Race
Oluo’s book can be use as a toolkit for white people who want to support the Black Lives Matter movement, but need to do some learning first. She answers tricky questions and explains important concepts that you’ll need to know about, from privilege to intersectionality and micro-aggressions.
- The Fire Next Time – Penguin Modern Classics (Paperback)
First published in 1963, James Baldwin’s impassioned plea to ‘end the racial nightmare’ in America was a bestseller and became essential reading during the emerging civil rights movement. In the book, Baldwin explores his early life in Harlem and condemns the terrible legacy of racial injustice. All these years later, it’s clear there is still an abundance of work to be done in the fight for equality, and so the book is as important as ever for white allies to read and learn from.
(Shared article- Good Housekeeping)