Books to Help With Race Conversations

July 28, 2020


Cassandra Campbell

Feeling ill equipped to venture into any sort of race conversation? Books are the best place to start! You don't want to burden your friends with a million questions. They are trying to find their own path to having an open race conversation. Educating yourself before those conversations will give you perspectives and compassion that otherwise would have alluded you. Here are some great books to help with race conversations you are bound to have in the future.

How the Word is Passed

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America is a trip through the states and our difficult past. Visiting landmarks and popular tourist destinations, author Clint Smith helps us see these spots with a full view of all the history that made it what it was. This is a field trip in a book. Even though we are adults, we can keep learning and re-visiting parts of our past.

Photo by <a href=httpsunsplashcommatias northutm source=unsplashutm medium=referralutm content=creditCopyText>Matias North<a>

Slavery in the past

Let's dig right in and start with the “s” word. It's easy to think about slavery as a sad chapter in the history of this country. And that's it – just a chapter. You learned about it in passing in school, and closed that history book, and assumed that's all slavery is -a thing of the past. But it's so very much more than that.

Slavery in the present

We, as a community, need to realize why there is so much hurt, sadness, anger, and frustration in the African American community. They have truly been oppressed for centuries. Saying “Get over it. You were never a slave. That was a thing of the past” only helps to create a bigger divide. Education, empathy, and active anti-racism are the vehicles that will propel us into a better future for every member of our community.

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria

This phenomenal book by Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD, is a great manual to understanding race relations in our society today. She is sensitive to all her readers and the different backgrounds and perspectives they are reading her book from.

“It is important to understand that the system of advantage is perpetuated when we do not acknowledge its existence.”

Beverly Tatum, PhD

What's your role?

The point of this book is not to shame everyone into action. She wants us all to understand our own thoughts and biases. It's not enough to be neutral on racism. We have to be Anti-racist. Tatum gives this great example of a child asking his mother about a person of a different color, and the mother tries to silence her child, instead of conversing, and educating her child. Many of us are ‘color silent' not ‘color blind'.

Photo and featured image by <a href=httpsunsplashcomskmuse utm source=unsplashutm medium=referralutm content=creditCopyText>Suad Kamardeen<a>

We must recognize when we are a part of a dominant group, and how we can stand up for those who are not. For example – white heterosexual men are in the highest dominant group. Which also makes them perfect candidates for supporting, helping, encouraging those who are not part of that group. “In a situation of unequal power, a subordinate group has to focus on survival. It becomes very important for the subordinates to become highly attuned to the dominants as a way of protecting themselves from them.” We will all find ourselves in a subordinate group at some point. We have to truly treat others the way we would like to be treated.

The Half Has Never Been Told

The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the making of American Capitalism. This incredible book is by Edward E. Baptist, a professor at Cornell University. It is a beast of a book, but well worth the read. Because it forces you to know the names and stories of the slaves you were the hands, feet, and heart of the development of the US economy.

It matters to matter

A great quote from the book, ‘The Half has Never Been Told': ” What mattered was to matter – to count, to be essential in the life of another person.” (p. 283) For those who are still unsure of the heart behind ‘Black Lives Matter' – you have to realize that Black lives don't matter as much as many other lives here in this country. We at Showit stand in strong opposition to allowing our Black brothers and sisters feel like they don't matter. We see you friends. Your lives truly matter.

An African American and Latinx History of the United States 

Wondering where the cross streets are between Black and Brown Americans. Here's one book to start with: An African American and Latinx History of the United States While many history books we received in school were written from a solely white american perspective, this books changes the narrative you are use to. Spanning over 200 years, the authors shift the viewpoint of historical events to one more aligned with holistic overview.

Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning

Race is a conversation we need to have for all nationalities. Cathy Park Hong wrote Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning with that very topic in mind. “Minor feelings occur when American optimism is forced upon you, which contradicts your own racialized reality, thereby creating a static of cognitive dissonance. You are told, ‘Things are so much better,' while you think, Things are the same.” Minor Feelings is a way to see the world from an Asian woman's perspective in a way you could never glean from one conversation on race or a hundred.

Photo by <a href=httpsunsplashcommargabagusutm source=unsplashutm medium=referralutm content=creditCopyText>Marga Santoso<a>

If you want a hundred more conversations from Asian Americans, there are so many out there you might be missing. Here is a great list from the folks at Penguin Books. And there is always a magical internet search, too!

Indigenous People Books

As you know, there are far too many books to name. One group of people that has not gotten the attention they should are the Indigenous people. There are so many lessons in life, history, and science we can learn from them. While the books about race conversations in relation to Indigenous people is still growing, there are so many to learn more about life from their eyes. Here is one list that covers so many topics and viewpoints from Indigenous authors.

If books aren't your thing…

If books aren't your thing, there are tons of resources for you, too! Start small with this short film series the New York Times did in a few years ago. They spoke with people in different demographics and careers about race. They have everything from conversations with a Native American on race to conversations about race with a white guy. It's a great place to start, end, or add to your roldex of race education.

Prefer the movie form? We have got something for you, too! For a great resource for understanding what modern day slavery looks like, please check out Thirteenth. It's a very informative documentary about mass incarceration, and the very serious, and very real plight of those in the Black, and Latin X communities.

Maybe social media is more of your jam…that's okay, too! There are tons of people using platforms to inform and empower. One Korean mom has been swiping the interwebs with her funny videos, but had everyone's attention when she switched the conversation to race with her 5 and 7 year old children. You can catch the less than 2 minute video here on her Instagram.

Books or no books, just keep learning. The more you seek and search for understanding, the more compassionate you make our world. What's better than having a conversation about race? Having a conversation about race with compassion and understanding.

Let's keep learning and growing!

To find more resources and conversations on race, check out our article about resources for conversations in a family setting. Oh, and we have an ever growing Pinterest board, as well! We are always wanting to grow our resources of community conversations about being anti-racist allies. We are thankful for our CEO, Todd Watson, who bravely gave this talk on racism at United in 2019. He has also chosen to recognize Juneteenth as a paid company holiday. We at Showit, are dedicated to creating a community where all of our members feel seen, heard, valued. If you have suggestions, we would love for you to share them in the comment. We are also always interested in what you are reading and learning and would love to chat about when you DM us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Tik Tok.

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Casandra is a born and bred East Coaster who finds herself braving the heat of the Valley of the Sun with her husband and three cute kids all for the love of Showit.