These 7 Books on White Privilege Will Help You Better Understand Race In America
With protests against police brutality and the wrongful death of George Floyd ramping up around the country, racial injustice is at the front of our minds. And if you’re a white person, there’s never been a better time to get educated about your role in our society. The best way to do that? Educate yourself about what white privilege is and learn how you can start to acknowledge yours, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Just a heads up: This learning process shouldn’t involve asking people of color to inform you. It’s on you to do the research and bring yourself up to speed. Here, seven books on white privilege that will help you better understand race in America.
1. Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor
Back in 2018, author Layla F. Saad started a month-long Instagram challenge called #meandwhitesupremacy. In it, she asked people to acknowledge the ways they were complicit in the oppression of black, indigenous and people of color through carefully crafted journaling prompts. The challenge became so popular that it inspired this book. Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor provides readers with 28 days worth of information, resources and challenges to help them understand how they participate in white supremacy and how they can start dismantling it.
2. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Race
You’ve probably seen this cover all over your Instagram feed for the past few days, and for good reason. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Race is chock full information on how white fragility (AKA white discomfort and defensiveness around racial inequality) develops and serves to protect racial injustice in the long run. According to readers, it will help you understand your own internalized racism and how to overcome your defensiveness to bring about change.
3. Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race
Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race shares author Debby Irving’s personal experience as a white person trying to understand racism and racial tensions. She covers topics like bias, stereotypes and how she came to learn that her well-intentioned beliefs about colorblindness and “helping people of color” were actually perpetuating harmful ideals about race. One readers describes it as an “excellent account of the many ways white privilege is manifested every day, in every way imagined, without people being consciously aware of it.”
4. Such a Fun Age
Prefer to read fiction? Check out this novel by Kiley Reid. It tells the story of Alix Chamberlain, a white woman, and Emira Tucker, her black babysitter who gets racially profiled at a grocery store while watching Alix’s daughter one night. As the story unfolds, questions around race, white privilege and tokenism emerge as the two women grapple with their identities and their relationship to one another.
5. White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son
In this part-memoir, part-essay collection, prominent antiracist writer Tim Wise uses personal anecdotes to examine how the deck is stacked in white people’s favor, and argues that it’s in everyone’s best interest to help change that. One reader explains, “This book is a good reference point in helping white people become more comfortable talking about race and acknowledging the privileges afforded to them based on their race.”
6. How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide
In How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide, Crystal M. Fleming, an associate professor of sociology and Africana studies at Stony Brook University critiques our national conversation about race and the way that it’s represented in classrooms, pop culture, media and politics. Reviewers note that it’s a quick, engaging book that you won’t want to put down.
7. White Privilege: The Myth of a Post-Racial Society
In this book, Kalwant Bhopal, a professor of education and social justice and director of the Centre for Research in Race & Education at the University of Birmingham, uses social science research as well as political and economic analysis to point out the structural advantages of being white. She addresses racial injustice in the US as well as the UK, showcasing how people of color are positioned as outsiders in both societies.