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Recent events in the United States have spurred protests and calls for change around the world. Many of us are conscious of the absolute and urgent need, individually and collectively, to work toward anti-racism.

But what does that mean, exactly?

According to the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, anti-racism is the active process of identifying and working toward racial justice by changing systems, organizational structures, policies, practices, norms and attitudes. That suggests that being anti-racist is not just purging our own racist attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. It also means that we challenge and fight racism in all spheres of our lives.

To be better allies in the movement, it’s helpful to be informed, to study cogent perspectives, histories, discussions and debates, and to challenge our own positionality. To that end, CTA recommends several insightful books for your summer reading. You can find a more complete — and growing — list of reading, watching and listening resources at cta.org/blacklivesmatter. We welcome your comments and suggestions on works that add to our knowledge base and public conversation. Let us know at wearecta@cta.org.

“One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist.’ The claim of ‘not racist’ neutrality is a mask for racism.”

―Ibram X. Kendi, How To Be an Antiracist

Teaching for Black Lives

(Edited by Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian, Wayne Au; Rethinking Schools, 2018)

This teaching guide is a compilation of essays, teaching activities, role-playing, poems and artwork designed to illuminate the movement for Black student lives, the school-to-prison pipeline, Black history, gentrification, intersectional Black identities, and more.

 

How To Be an Antiracist

(Ibram X. Kendi, One World, 2019)

Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of anti-racist ideas, from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilities, that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their poisonous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.

 

Teaching To Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

(bell hooks, Routledge, 1994)

Teaching students to “transgress” against racial, sexual and class boundaries to achieve the gift of freedom is, for hooks, a teacher’s most important goal. She explores how to rethink teaching practices in our multicultural age, and how to deal with racism and sexism in the classroom.

 

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

(Michelle Alexander, The New Press, anniversary edition 2020)

Since first published in 2010, the book has spawned a generation of criminal justice reform activists and organizations motivated by Alexander’s argument that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”

 

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People To Talk About Racism

(Robin DiAngelo, Beacon Press, 2018)

White fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. DiAngelo examines how this serves to maintain racial inequality and prevent meaningful cross-racial dialogue, and looks at what we can do to engage constructively.

 

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

(Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Haymarket Books, 2016)

The author surveys the historical and contemporary ravages of racism and the persistence of structural inequality such as mass incarceration and Black unemployment, arguing that this new struggle against police violence holds the potential to reignite a broader push for Black liberation.

 

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?

(Edited by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, Alana Yu-lan Price; Haymarket Books, 2016)

This collection of reports and essays explores police violence against Black, brown, Indigenous and other marginalized communities, miscarriages of justice, and failures of token accountability and reform measures. It also explores alternatives for keeping communities safe.

 

So You Want To Talk About Race

(Ijeoma Oluo, Seal Press, 2019)

How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend? Oluo guides readers through subjects such as intersectionality, affirmative action and “model minorities” to help lead to honest conversations about race and racism.

 

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

(Austin Channing Brown, Convergent Books, 2018)

In a time when nearly all institutions, including schools, claim to value “diversity,” I’m Still Here is a powerful account of how and why our actions so often fall short of our  words. Brown’s stories bear witness to the complexity of America’s social fabric.

 

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race

(Jesmyn Ward, Scribner, 2016)

Ward gathers original thinkers and writers to speak on contemporary racism and race, including Carol Anderson, Jericho Brown and Edwidge Danticat. The book shines a light on the darkest corners of our history, wrestles with our current predicament, and imagines a better future.