Antiracist works to broaden your perspective
World-revered civil rights activist Angela Davis once said, “In a racist society, it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be antiracist.” We've been seeing that exact sentiment play out most recently with protests that sprang up worldwide over the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white police officer. Floyd's death touched off a movement that rivals even the storied protests of the civil rights movement and Vietnam War. Today's rallying cry—that Black Lives Matter—is by design meant to do more than absorb everyone under the same "All Lives Matter" mantel and to instead actively work on shining a light on those whose lives have historically been diminished and deemed as less important simply because of the color of their skin.
From a young age, children learn about slavery in school classrooms. But many curriculums stop short of giving young people a complete picture of the institutional racism American economy and culture was built on—let alone the vivid horrors of what slavery (and subsequent sharecropping, Jim Crow Laws, segregation, and so forth) was actually like for the people who lived through it. Over the decades and centuries, there have been various movements to abolish this institution, from the Civil War to the civil rights movement. However, we are still grappling as a country with issues of race. Without a structural understanding of what racism is, who it benefits, and how it plays a role in our lives, it would be impossible to make relevant changes for all people. Good intentions and goodwill fall short of exposing us to our blind spots and helping to actually deconstruct institutionalized racism in all its forms.
To that end, Stacker has compiled a list of antiracist works to not only broaden your perspective but to enrich the way you think about race. To create the list, we sought works that give conceptual and historical understandings of various forms of racism (i.e. interpersonal, medical, systemic, etc.). We also provided works such as memoirs and poetry which give insight to the lives of those impacted by racism. Our list of antiracist works includes films, books, digital classrooms, podcasts, and even poetry. The subjects of the works vary from LQBTQ+ films made in the 1960s to medical histories of racist experimentation. The work in this list was not only produced by Black Americans, but also white scholars, historians, and writers who have had to grapple with conclusions about their own perceived roles in the world. We further explore commentary from outside sources regarding how these works were received.
Many of the works in this list conclude that we do not live in a post-racial world—and many Americans who live with everyday reminders of their race would say the same. Keep reading to broaden your perspectives on racism.
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Book: ‘How to Be an Antiracist’
“‘How to Be an Antiracist” is a New York Times bestseller by acclaimed writer Ibram X. Kendi. Focusing on his own previously held racist beliefs combined with history, science, and law, Kendi writes a guide on modern race relations. In a conversation with the New York Times, Kendi said, “I did not realize that to say something is inferior about a racial group is to say a racist idea. I thought I was serving my people, when in fact I was serving up racist ideas about my people to my people.” The book pushes readers to look past intent and enhance their awareness in order to foster true equality.
Documentary: ‘The Rape of Recy Taylor’
This 2017 film tells the story of Recy Taylor, a Black woman who was kidnapped by six white men while on her way home from church and brutally raped. The remarkable young mother and wife sought justice despite the Jim Crow South era she was living in, which forced her to endure additional abuse. The film highlights the recent history of racism toward Black women and features scholarly commentary, as well as Taylor’s firsthand account.
Book: ‘White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism’
In the New York Times bestseller “White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism,” sociologist Robin DiAngelo describes the factors that restrict white people from having conversations about race, including their inhabiting a space that allows systemic, cultural, and social protection from racial stress. DiAngelo writes, “White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.” The book explores how cross-racial conversations are not bred from “good intentions” alone.
Book: ‘Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism’
How can numbers reinforce human emotions or prejudice? In “Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism” Safiya Umoja Noble proves how racism is embedded into search engines. She describes data discrimination as a social issue in need of attention. Referring to the proliferation of negative Black and Latino stereotypes, Noble said on the Slate podcast "If Then" that most of the affected communities could not compete with the big money of advertising companies, economically exacerbating the problem.
Documentary: ‘The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson’
Icon Marsha P. Johnson was a self-identified drag queen, gay rights activist, and AIDS activist. “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” celebrates her life and work and also investigates the suspicious circumstances of her death. The film pays fitting tribute to her work and vibrant character, winning the Kaleidoscope LGBT Festival Best Documentary Feature in the process, among other accolades.
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Book: ‘Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools’
At a time in history when black girls are becoming increasingly criminalized, “Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools” seeks to illuminate the way schools and institutions misunderstand and control Black girls. Author Monique Morris explained in the Atlantic that “Black girls describe being labeled and suspended for being ‘disruptive’ or ‘defiant’ if they ask questions or otherwise engage in activities that adults consider affronts to their authority.”
“Selma” depicts the true, historic events that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, notably African Americans organizing marches to nonviolently protest the unfair practices they faced when seeking to vote. The marches inevitably drew violence from white opposition, culminating in the notorious “Bloody Sunday” attack that was televised and spread throughout the U.S. and world.
Poetry: ‘We Inherit What the Fires Left: Poems’
William Evans’ “We Inherit What the Fires Left: Poems” explores the personal experience of a Black man raising his daughter in white spaces, detailing the generational trials and desires of Black suburban life. Evans is an award-winning poet and co-founder of the website Black Nerd Problems.
Book: ‘White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide’
In 2014, in the midst of heightened racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, and throughout the United States, historian Carol Anderson wrote in an Washington Post op-ed "It will be easy to think of it as yet one more episode of black rage ignited by yet another police killing of an unarmed African American male. But that has it precisely backward. What we’ve actually seen is the latest outbreak of white rage. Sure, it is cloaked in the niceties of law and order, but it is rage nonetheless.” Anderson expanded her ideas into the multiple-award-winning, New York Times bestseller “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide,” which outlines the history of white rage from the end of slavery to the modern day.
Film: ‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’
“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” is a film adaption of the #1 New York Times bestselling book about a Black woman who was exploited in her illness and long after her death. Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cancer, and when her doctors took her cells without consent and discovered that they could live and grow without end, millions of dollars were generated—unbeknownst to Lacks and her family.There is some controversy surrounding the film, as some of her relatives were in disagreement regarding the facts around various matters.
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