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What to read, listen to and watch to learn about institutional racism
As protesters take to the streets to speak out against police brutality and systemic racism long endured by black people in the United States, during a pandemic that disproportionately affects communities of color, the myriad consequences of institutional racism is a matter of national conversation and reflection.
In this moment, many non-black people are seeking to educate themselves about the experiences of black Americans and what actions everyone — but specifically, white Americans — can take to dismantle their own racial biases, as well as the larger discriminatory social, political and economic power structures that shape the nation.
Books, podcasts, films, articles and other resources can serve as a starting point for people who wish to become better allies in the fight for racial justice and equality by engaging with the work of black writers and scholars, learning about intersectional forms of oppression in the U.S. and actively educating their friends and family on these topics. Talking with some of the voices featured on the PBS NewsHour, as well as sharing some of our own recommendations, we’ve compiled a list of things for you to read, listen to and watch that might illuminate your understanding. This list is just a starting point.
- “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide” by Carol Anderson
- “Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon To White America” by Michael Eric Dyson
- “How To Be Anti-Racist” by Ibram Kendi
- “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngelo
- “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice that Shapes What We See, Think, and Do” by Jennifer L. Eberhardt
- “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo
- “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap” by Mehrsa Baradaran
- “The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism” by Edward Baptist
- “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story Of America’s Great Migration” by Isabel Wilkerson
- “Me And White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor” by Layla F. Saad
- “White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America” by Margaret A. Hagerman
- “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin
- “Toxic Communities: Environmental Racism, Industrial Pollution, and Residential Mobility” by Dorceta Taylor
- “Playing In The Dark: Whiteness And The Literary Imagination” By Toni Morrison
- “No, You Shut Up: Speaking Truth to Power and Reclaiming America” by Symone D. Sanders
- “Say It Louder! Black Voters, White Narratives, and Saving Our Democracy” by Tiffany Cross
- “Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People” by Ben Crump
- “Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements” by Charlene A. Carruthers
- “To The Mountaintop: My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement” by Charlayne Hunter-Gault
- “The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.” by Peniel E. Joseph
- “We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- “Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008” by Henry Louis Gates Jr.
- “Stony The Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, And The Rise Of Jim Crow” by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
- “Black on Both Sides: A Racial History of Trans Identity” by C. Riley Snorton
- “The Mis-Education of the Negro” by Carter G. Woodson
- “Come Hell Or High Water: Hurricane Katrina And The Color Of Disaster” by Michael Eric Dyson
- “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” by Patrisse Cullors and ashe bandele
- “Vernon Can Read!: A Memoir” by Vernon E. Jordan, Jr.
- “Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement” By John Lewis and Michael D’Orso
- “My Vanishing Country: A Memoir” by Bakari Sellers
- “In My Place” by Charlayne Hunter-Gault
- “How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir” by Saeed Jones
- “Angela Davis: An Autobiography” by Angela Davis
- “Black Indian: A Memoir” by Shonda Buchanan
- “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
- “Parable of the Sower” by Octavia Butler
- “Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi
- “Mama’s Girl” by Veronica Chambers
- “With the Fire on High” by Elizabeth Acevedo
Podcasts and films
Broken Justice is a PBS NewsHour original podcast series that looks at the impact that overworked and underfunded public defenders have on the American criminal justice system. It tells the story of Ricky Kidd, who was sentenced to life without parole for a double homicide he says he didn’t commit and argues his court-appointed lawyer is the reason for that conviction.
Code Switch is an NPR podcast created by “a multi-racial, multi-generational team of journalists” that covers “overlapping themes of race, ethnicity and culture, how they play out in our lives and communities, and how all of this is shifting.”
1619 is a podcast series from New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah Jones that connects “past and present” by examining “the long shadow of American slavery.”
Say It Loud is “a PBS Digital Studios series that celebrates Black culture, context, and history.”
“13th,” available both on Netflix and YouTube, is a documentary from director Ava DuVernay that looks at the U.S. prison system and “how the country’s history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America.”
More to read
- “America’s racial contract is showing” by Adam Serwer for The Atlantic
- “America wasn’t a democracy, until black Americans made it one” by Nikole Hannah-Jones for the New York Times
- “Black lives and the police” by Darryl Pinckney for The New York Review of Books
- “What it means to be anti-racist” by Anna North for Vox
Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Candice Norwood, Bakari Sellers and Tonya Alston contributed recommendations to this list.