Academic Musings, Race & Ethnicity

20 Things You Need to Read Before You Talk to Me About Race

Inside of the classroom, my goal is to create a safe space for my students to learn about and explore the uncomfortable and challenging topics of inequality, race and racism. Outside of the classroom, my goal is mostly to maintain my sanity through practices of self-care and spirituality, nurture my creative expression, drink good wine and engage in compassionate action in my relationships and communities.

While my role as an educator and researcher involves teaching and writing on race and social theory, in my civilian life as a writer and regular gal, I have no obligation whatsoever to engage people on issues of race. To the contrary, I have the right to set my own rules of engagement, establish my boundaries and clarify what is and is not acceptable for me. This is especially so given that “talking about race” (and more specifically, anti-blackness and white supremacy) is not merely some sport or hobby for most people of color. It’s a painful topic that speaks to relations of power that all too often result in unarmed black men, women and children being killed by “officers of the peace”, the everyday reality of racial bias and discrimination and the fact that blacks only have access to a tiny fraction of the wealth possessed by our white neighbors, friends and co-workers. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

read_a_book

New Blacks aside, I feel like the average person of color with any degree of awareness already has a PhD in race just from surviving in a racist society. But wide swaths of the population 1) do not experience racial oppression 2) have not reflected on the topic seriously and/or 3) routinely devalue the perspectives and knowledge of people of color.

It’s become abundantly clear to me as my followers on social media and the blog have multiplied into the thousands that I am not interested in talking to just any-ol-body about race or other axes of oppression. Even beyond the racist ideology, abuse and bullying that anti-racists (and especially anti-racist POC and WOC) encounter online, the reality is that even well-meaning anonymous internet people make the mistake of believing they are entitled to “talk about race” without first educating themselves on the topic. Thus, for the sake of my own self-care, I make no apologies for the fact that the only public conversation about racial issues I’m willing to have on social media is one that is explicitly anti-racist and rather advanced in terms of the level of knowledge and awareness that I expect from my interlocutors.

Continuing a theme in my recent writings on the harm of racial ignorance, you can find below some resources for those wishing to have a more informed conversation about race:

Non-Exhaustive-List of Reading You Should* Explore** Before Talking To Me About Race***

1. Sister Outsider – Audre Lorde

2. Possessive Investment in Whiteness – George Lipsitz

3. The Racial Contract – Charles Mills 

4. Together We Are One: Honoring Our Diversity, Celebrating Our Connection – Thich Nhat Hanh

5. When Affirmative Action Was White – Ira Katznelson

6. White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack – Peggy McIntosh

7. Black Feminist Knowledge – Patricia Hill Collins

8. Good White People – Shannon Sullivan

9. Writing Beyond Race – bell hooks

10. The History of White People – Nell Irvin Painter

11. The Nature of Race – Ann Morning

12. Killing the Black Body – Dorothy Roberts

13. Ain’t No Makin’ It: Aspirations and Achievement in a Low Income Neighborhood – Jay Macleod

14. Making Race and Nation – Anthony Marx

15. Critical Race Theory: The Key Writings That Formed the Movement – Kimberlé Crenshaw, Ed.

16. A Red Record – Ida B. Wells

17. Self-Taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom – Heather Williams

18. The Ethnic Project: Turning Racial Fictions into Ethnic Factions – Vilna Bashi Treitler

19. Conquest: Sexual Violence And American Indian Genocide – Andrea Smith

20. White Supremacy and Racism in the Post-Civil Rights Era – Eduardo Bonilla-Silva

*Note that this is really entry-level stuff here. The list doesn’t even begin to really address global race relations, queer studies or the really hard-hitting stuff on intersectionality, work in the humanities and so on. 

**I am aware that being able to buy books is a luxury. This is why I advocate for using libraries and inter-library loan wherever possible.

***Yes, I also know that having time to read books is also a privilege. That said, so is “talking about race” with people of color. If you have time to do that, you have time to read a book.

Blessings and Namasté.

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14 thoughts on “20 Things You Need to Read Before You Talk to Me About Race”

    1. Thank you for speaking to the reality of disability. It’s important and I don’t want to minimize that. I hope you aren’t suggesting that having a reading disability makes it okay to harass POC about race. To the best of one’s ability, it is advisable for people to recognize that they are not entitled to talk about race and racism with POC, particularly uninvited, without making any effort to study the subject. We all need to make an effort to educate ourselves rather than assuming it’s okay to approach people who experience a certain kind of oppression with uninformed opinions and queries.

    2. This is an old post, but it’s being referenced frequently in our current climate and a viral link brought me here.

      As someone with ADHD and mild dyslexia, I feel the need to note that audio books are available for these titles, and the majority of people with ADHD and dyslexia are quite capable of reading even if it takes extra effort.

  1. Your posting was extremely insightful, timely, and just genuinely powerful! Thanks!

    The McIntosh article, although seminal at in the 1990’s, is pretty problematic – it superficially examines privilege without an in depth critical analysis of power, privilege and agency.

    I recommend looking up these two more recent resources that I feel greatly inform discussions about race, privilege and whiteness:
    1. Lensmire, T. J., McManimon, S. K., Docker Tierney, J., Lee-Nichols, M. E., Casey, Z. A., and Davis, B. M. (2013). McIntosh as synecdoche: How teacher education’s focus on white privilege undermines antiracism. Harvard Educational Review, 83(3), 410 – 431.

    2. DiAngelo, R. (2011). White fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3), 54-70.

  2. Jah love sister.. Give thanks and praises for this list of recommended readings on Race (101). Interestingly, the works on the list that I have read are written by black women but I have some knowledge of the other works and I will certainly make time to read them soon. I am interested in Critical Philosophy of Race and the list that you provide, will be helpful to me. I hope and pray that you can give us a new list for advanced and/or intermediate readers on the subject of critical race theory. Blessed love.

  3. These are great resources and I’ve been making my through the list slowly. I was wondering if you knew of more advanced readings on race/culture and white supremacy that intersect with global, queer and/or disability studies? Essentially a part 2 of the list here. You have no obligation to provide one of course but if you have some ideas already, I would greatly appreciate (and many others I am sure)! Thank you for all the work you do, I can honestly say it has given me words I’ve always searched for and made me understand things that I felt but couldn’t explain. Best, Sim

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