Books that explore the history of racial discrimination in the United States have become bestsellers as many seek to educate themselves on existing systems of marginalisation and oppression.
The boost in sales comes in the wake of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25, which has sparked protests around the world.
Floyd, a black man, died in police custody after a white police officer suffocated him by pinning him under his knee.
Sadly, Floyd is far from being the first victim of racial discrimination and police brutality. And many are now turning to books to see how far-reaching and intricate these systems of discrimination are. Education is, after all, the first step towards building a more just and equitable society.
As of Thursday, June 4, 15 of the 20 books on Amazon’s bestseller list are about race and the history of racial injustice. We take a deeper look at nine of the best books on the topic.
‘So You Want to Talk About Race’
In this New York Times-bestseller, Ijeoma Oluo unpacks the complex reality of the racial landscape in the US in a clear and accessible manner. Oluo directly takes on issues such as white privilege, intersectionality, police brutality, the Black Lives Matter movement, and micro-aggressions.
‘How to Be an Antiracist’
A concept that transforms and revitalises conversations about race and racism, Antiracism can lead readers towards new ways of thinking about some of the most pressing issues of the day.
In How to be an Antiracist, author Ibram X. Kendi asks us to imagine what an antiracist world can look like, and we can each play a vital part in making it a reality.
The work takes on the topic from various facets of human society, blending together texts on ethics, law, history and science. How to be an Antiracist is an essential read for anyone who not only wants to develop an awareness of racism, but wants to help in building a better world.
‘The Colour of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America’
Richard Rothstein, a leading authority on housing policy, highlights the fact that US cities were segregated based on discriminatory patterns that continue to this day. The Colour of Law unpacks how this system of segregation began in the 1920s with explicit racial zoning, as millions of African-Americans moved from the south to the north.
The book explores how the American sub-urbanisation in the years after the World War 2 was spurred by federal subsidies for builders on the condition that no homes be sold to African-Americans. The Colour of Law also goes on to show how police and prosecutors cruelly continued these standards by bolstering violent resistance to black families in white neighbourhoods.
‘The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colourblindness’
The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws that enforced racial segregation in the Southern United States.
In this scathing critique of contemporary America, legal-scholar Michelle Alexander shows the racial caste system has not ended, but has only been redesigned.
Alexander elaborates how the criminal justice system operates as a modern apparatus of racial control, targeting black men and destroying communities of colour.
‘Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America’
Ibram X Kendi won the National Book Award for Nonfiction for this title, which explores how racist ideas were created and spread within US society.
The author of How to be an Antiracist chronicles the history of anti-Black ideas and narratives, showing how they served to change the course of US history.
‘Between the World and Me’
Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote this book as a letter to his teenage son, adopting the structure of James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time.
In Between the World and Me, Coates examines the feelings, symbolisms and realities associated with being black in the US.
Written with a poetic and sombre tone, Coates details his youth in Baltimore before exploring the ways in which institutions – such as schools, the police and even "the streets" – endanger and marginalise black men and women.
‘Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor’
When Layla Saad launched the Instagram challenge #meandwhitesupremacy, she never expected it to spread as widely as it did.
The challenge encouraged people to admit and share their racist behaviours, however severe or small.
Thousands took part in the challenge, and countless more downloaded the Me and White Supremacy Workbook.
Me and White Supremacy expands on the original workbook, adding historical and cultural contexts alongside personal anecdotes.
‘White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism’
This book by Robin DiAngelo is at the top of Amazon’s best seller list right now. The work aims to challenge racism by comprehending and unravelling what the author describes as white fragility, a reaction in which white people feel attacked and offended when the topic of racism comes up.
The book draws from DiAngelo’s experiences as a diversity and inclusion training facilitator.
‘We're Different, We're the Same’
Elmo, Big Bird and their friends at Sesame Street teach children (and adults) that no matter how different we look on the outside, everyone is the same on the inside.
The author, Bobbi Kates, focuses on things we all have in common while celebrating the things that make us different.
With charming illustrations, the book sends across a powerful and strong message, exploring how our differences make this world wonderful.