Reading list to begin understanding Systemic Racism in the US

Based on conversations surrounding the #BlackLivesMatter movement, death of unarmed Black individuals by Police, and media coverage of protest and riots, I think we should address the idea of being Black in the United States (as a side note, if reading this blog by a White Man is the first time you have considered that there are differences, you are part of the problem, like it or not). I bring this list to your attention to remind folks that it is more important for you to take time and educate yourself before assuming you know anything, let alone everything. There is a great example that you would not assume you, if you have never taken a class in astrophysics let’s say, would know more about astrophysics than a trained astrophysicist. That said, we assume all the time (White people I mean) that we know more about being Black (or any person of color) in the US than the individuals who live those experiences. While the following list is far from exhaustive, it is a great starting point to offer you insight (not expertise) in the subject before you dive into the discussion.

So let’s start with educating yourself. There are a number of great sources of reading and materials out there. Start as simply with some of the classics such as the Autobiography of Martin Luther King Jr, the Autobiography of Malcom X, or the writings of James Baldwin (who had some powerful words of his own).

Of course these are what some may consider the more tame perspectives (yes, even Malcom). Consider then Stanley Tookie Williams, a co-founder of the Crips and a 4 time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end gang violence. His work recognizes the position he had in the US as a Black man. Maybe Iceberg Slim is a better read, discussing the pimp life in the US.

Perhaps you need a more White perspective on what it means to be Black in the US (which in and of itself says something and is a very racist perspective). Then read John Howard Griffin’s work about his experience darkening his skin to be a Black man in the South.

Maybe these perspectives are just from the US (though James Baldwin lived abroad for much of his later life). Then consider how Nelson Mandela viewed the US reaction to apartheid.

That said, perhaps you need more recent examples since all of the pieces written in the media aren’t enough. Well look at the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates and his powerful narrative in the form of a letter to his son about being Black in America. Coates also provides a great reading list to follow up on.

Go on to consider the sermon from John Metta in his piece, ‘I, Racist‘ or other modern writings from around the internet. And do consider multiple perspectives such as that portrayed by Ben Carson (but keep in mind that many seem to disagree with him).

Want actual research? Read just about anything by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva or Joe Feagin.

All in all, read. Look at who those you read talk about and read that. Whatever you do, read and listen. Educate yourself in order to understand. White America fails to take time to listen to anyone, boiling down other perspectives and summing communities of color to their lowest common denominator. This fails to allow individuals to stand before and with us, and with one another. This fails to create a society where we can all fight for change because we assume folks do not deserve equity.

Your lack of education does not give your personal experience more weight than years of history and research.

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About rigsurfer

A Brother of Delta Upsilon International Fraternity, Inc., Joined in Fall 2010. Completed a B.A. in English at North Carolina State University in 2013 and received a M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration at Texas Tech University in 2015. Passionate about Leadership and Diversity as well as Ducks, Scooby Doo, and reading.
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5 Responses to Reading list to begin understanding Systemic Racism in the US

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