Since the death of George Floyd and the antiracism protests that have galvanized the U.S. and the world, there has been a surge in sales of books on antiracism, the history of racism in America, and the struggles of Black people against social and economic barriers.
While different readers highlight different sentences in their Kindle books, some words resonate strongly among many readers.
Here are 12 books that shine a light on racism, along with their frequently highlighted passages.
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
“Whiteness is an advantage and privilege because you have made it so, not because the universe demands it.”
As part of his call for change, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson asks white Americans to open their eyes to the benefits they receive—and the benefits that are denied to people of color—as well as the enduring pain and prejudice that white blindness supports.
“White supremacy is a system you have been born into. Whether or not you have known it, it is a system that has granted you unearned privileges, protection, and power. It is also a system that has been designed to keep you asleep and unaware of what having that privilege, protection, and power has meant for people who do not look like you.”
Layla Saad sets up her book as a 28-day workshop to help readers understand their biases, recognize institutionalized racism, and then do the work in dismantling the system of white supremacy.
“Already, the American mind was accomplishing that indispensable intellectual activity of someone consumed with racist ideas: individualizing White negativity and generalizing Black negativity. Negative behavior by any Black person became proof of what was wrong with Black people, while negative behavior by any White person only proved what was wrong with that person.”
Professor of history Ibram X. Kendi won the National Book Award in 2016 for his recounting of the long legacy of racism in America, and how it continues to be perpetuated today. This year Stamped from the Beginning was “remixed” by popular children’s author Jason Reynolds and Kendi into the teen-oriented book Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You.
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
“Whiteness rests upon a foundational premise: the definition of whites as the norm or standard for human, and people of color as a deviation from that norm.”
Antiracism educator Robin DiAngelo delves deeply into the structures of racism, the defensiveness white people feel over being complicit with racism, and the ways white fragility encourages white people to continue to keep structural racism in place.
Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
“We don’t live in a meritocracy, and to pretend that simple hard work will elevate all to success is an exercise in wilful ignorance.”
Journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge talks about why she finds it frustrating and useless to talk about race with white people who don’t recognize structural racism as real—especially when the power to change racist power structures lies in their hands.
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
“Racist ideas make people of color think less of themselves, which makes them more vulnerable to racist ideas. Racist ideas make White people think more of themselves, which further attracts them to racist ideas.”
Normally we’d shy away from listing two books by the same author, but Ibram X. Kendi is one of the go-to experts for readers seeking information about racism and antiracism. His 2019 book How to Be an Antiracist explores not just his own evolving thoughts on racism, but how to be antiracist and change the beliefs and the systems that form the backbone of racism.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
“Often, being a person of color in a white-dominated society is like being in an abusive relationship with the world. Every day is a new little hurt, a new little dehumanization.”
Conversations about race can be fraught. Ijeoma Oluo helps readers navigate conversations by encouraging them to recognize their own defensiveness, to be willing to be uncomfortable and make missteps, and to refuse to be sidetracked from the bigger goal of recognizing and destroying the structures that strengthen racism.
Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper
“Black women turn to sass when rage is too risky—because we have jobs to keep, families to feed, and bills to pay.”
Brittany Cooper’s pithy and powerful words spotlight how the world is built for white people (and, really, white men) to thrive in. Humor and anger go hand-in-hand in Cooper’s fight song for Black women.
I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness by Austin Channing Brown
“When you believe niceness disproves the presence of racism, it’s easy to start believing bigotry is rare, and that the label racist should be applied only to mean-spirited, intentional acts of discrimination. The problem with this framework—besides being a gross misunderstanding of how racism operates in systems and structures enabled by nice people—is that it obligates me to be nice in return, rather than truthful. I am expected to come closer to the racists. Be nicer to them. Coddle them.”
Austin Channing Brown shares her experiences as a Black woman navigating mostly white workplaces that profess to have the best intentions but often turn the onus back on her both to fit in and to represent all Black people, while giving her white coworkers a lot of leash to express their bigotry.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“The point of this language of ‘intention’ and ‘personal responsibility’ is broad exoneration. Mistakes were made. Bodies were broken. People were enslaved. We meant well. We tried our best. ‘Good intention’ is a hall pass through history, a sleeping pill that ensures the Dream.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates mixes moments of his life with his epiphanies into why racism continues. In his book, crafted as a letter to his son, he speaks bluntly about how racism inflicts pain on Black bodies both physically and in the fear he carries every day that his son will be hurt or killed.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
“The notion that if you’ve ever committed a crime you’re permanently disposable is the very idea that has rationalized mass incarceration in the United States.”
Civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander pulls back the curtain on the institutionalized racism in the criminal justice system that has led to the continued deprivation of rights of Black citizens. Recent events continue to spotlight how broken the policing and justice system still is and how much more work needs to be done.
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein
“We have created a caste system in this country, with African Americans kept exploited and geographically separate by racially explicit government policies. Although most of these policies are now off the books, they have never been remedied and their effects endure.”
Richard Rothstein’s book highlights the explicitly race-based policies of local, state, and federal governments that were designed to keep Black people from living in middle-class neighborhoods with good schools and near good jobs, perpetuating segregation. Rothstein argues that because segregation was inflicted and enforced by government policies, the government has a constitutional obligation to remedy it.
If you want to share a memorable quote from your Kindle book, you can. Go to your Kindle iOS app, highlight the text, choose from font and background options, and share it via social media or text. Use the hashtag #kindlequotes to see what others are sharing on social media. Learn more at www.amazon.com/kindlequotes.
These sentences are among the most highlighted in Kindle books on racism, antiracism, and the challenges Black people face in a white-centered world.