The Best Books About Race And Inequality

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Est. Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Truth-be-told, the last couple of months has caused many to question the state of the world, or more specifically, the state of the US. It has left most of us pondering the age-old question – “How can we eliminate our stained legacy of discrimination, systemic and societal racism, police brutality, white supremacy, and inequality, so everyone, regardless of race and ethnicity, can experience the “American Dream?”

The good news is, people of all races and ethnicities, faiths, ages, genders, and socio-economic and educational backgrounds are now demanding justice and atonement for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Elijah McClain and countless other African-Americans who were senselessly killed.

These individuals want to make a difference in this world – a positive change that evens the playing field for everyone.

Some have been social activists for a while, while others, particularly young adults, are just now beginning their “fight for social justice” and “equality for all.” Although many teens and young adults want to take a stand, some may not know how to properly show their support for the Black community.

What is the first step?

Well, the best way to become a true ally for African-Americans is to learn about Black people – i.e. culture, origins, experiences in America, foods, music, accomplishments, contributions, political affiliations (and why they choose them), adversities, history with the police, likes and dislikes, religious beliefs, etc.

Essentially, “Who are African-Americans and why do they think and feel the way they do?”

Once you have a clearer perspective on African-Americans, you can begin your quest to become an ally. How? Well, there are plenty of ways you can lend your support to the Black community, such as donating to bail funds, voting, peacefully protesting by marching, chanting, or sitting or lying down, voicing your dissent, carrying poster boards, etc.

You can also support them by acknowledging that “privilege,” discrimination, and racism exist, earnestly discussing these issues with them, and/or bombarding your elected government officials with emails, social media posts, messages, and phone calls. Reading books about race in order to educate yourself, check your privilege, and support Black authors is another way you can support the Black community.

African-American literature

Understand that African-Americans have been writing about inequality and racism since before Black Lives Matter. Thus, this fight is not new. It just feels new because this is the first time some people are really starting to see and feel the pain of African-Americans in this country.

Even when discussing these topics was considered “taboo” and potentially dangerous, emboldened Black writers voiced their dissent through elegantly-written prose, designed to make non-minorities “wake-up.” Did it work? Yes, for some but not enough to make a long-lasting change in the lives of Black people. So, here we are in 2020 and Black people are still fighting to be heard.

More and more Black writers have begun to share their experiences with the world in books about race. And, more and more Black and White historians have begun to divulge the real history of what happened in this country. This is helping non-minorities better understand where the angst and anger are coming from. It is also helping non-minorities become more empathetic towards the plight of African-Americans.

For those who truly want to become allies to the Black community, there are tons of educational and entertaining books written about Black people, for non-Black people, and by Black people that you can use to enhance your understanding of this population. Some of these books about race transport you back to a time when Black people had no rights. They provide you with a small glimpse of what it probably felt like to “have nothing” and to be “no one.”

Once you grasp this concept, you’re better equipped to be a true ally of Black Americans.

Although it is impossible to truly understand the feeling of being enslaved, researching African-Americans is an important first step in closing this racial divide. If you can understand this, you can make a real difference in this country. You can also make a difference by purchasing books from Black-owned bookstores, and by recognizing your own biases and prejudices. 

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To deny that the US is not mired in an ugly and painful history would be…a lie. Slavery and racism are as much a part of this country’s history as the arrival of the Pilgrims and the reverence of our Founding Fathers. You can’t have one without the other.

Unfortunately, topics like inequality and oppression have become “hush-hush” in many circles. Over time, other topics have also been added to this “taboo list,” such as racism, “privilege,” and police brutality. To discuss these topics in “polite society” has long been considered a “no-no.”

But, a few months ago that all changed.

What changed?

Americans woke up.

More specifically, they removed the rose-colored glasses they had been wearing for centuries – glasses that blinded them to what was really happening to African-Americans in this country. Americans of all races and ethnicities witnessed the murders of Black Americans, young and old, and male and female. While some of these individuals had criminal pasts, others were children or had “clean records.” All died at the hands (or knees) of cops. However, none of them deserved to die.

These deaths boggled the mind and hurt the heart, regardless of one’s race and ethnicity.

People began to imagine how it would feel if the lifeless person on the ground was their child, husband, wife, mother, father, sibling, partner, or friend. They began to put themselves in the shoes of African-Americans – and things started to happen. The voices of the voiceless were finally starting to be heard.

Non-minorities wanted to learn more about Black Americans and highly sensitive topics became the center of conversations. People began protesting and marching, calling their state representatives, signing up to vote, voicing their dissent, and standing up for what is right and fair.

It became a movement. Civil Rights discussions were revived with the added caveats of police brutality and systemic racism. 

Questioning history

Because of this renewed interest in social justice, Americans have started to question the validity of “textbook” interpretations of Black history. These individuals want to know the truth – not what is has been tweaked or sugar-coated. These individuals want to learn, to understand.

However, it can be challenging to explore Black History and the “Black Experience” in totality, because no one truly knows the horrors enslaved people experienced during that time. Yet by reading various interpretations and narratives we can better understand the true origin of the angst, anger, and apathy that many Black people feel. We can empathize with a population that has never really known equality.

Books about race written by African-Americans are “nuggets of gold” because they provide others with new and different perspectives. Well-written literature and books about race can change hearts and minds. They can teach you how to empathize and understand concepts that are not a part of your everyday experiences. Books about race — even fictional books — can teach you things you didn’t know and help you explore human and social issues through a new lens.

Racism still exists. African-Americans are still being murdered. But, things can change. How? Through education.

Reading books on, about, and by African-Americans can help put an end to racism, inequality, and police brutality.

Thus, listed below are six of the best books about race. Everyone should read these books about race and inequality. Becoming educated on these important issues is the best way to improve race relations in this country. 

Actionable Steps


The End of Policing

The goal of this book about race is to trigger important and thought-provoking conversations on over-policing and police brutality in Black communities. It focuses on the discord between the police and African-Americans beginning with its origin and continuing to the present-day. It explores the concept of policing as an unfair system of “population control.”
Alex S. Vitale, the author, combines research with meticulous social commentary to highlight why police reform is essential for healing. Vitale discusses how current policing methods such as training and diversification are ineffective and how a different approach (i.e. reducing the size of the police force and limiting the power and control of cops) is needed to reduce or eliminate the discord between African-Americans and police. Lastly, Vitale offers a variety of actions that can mend the hurt and help make Black communities safer.


So You Want to Talk About Race

“So You Want to Talk About Race” is an actionable guide that addresses a variety of racial topics such as the “n-word,” stereotypes and labels, variances between races, systemic racism, “privilege,” and police brutality.
The goal of the book is to unite all Americans with a common goal – understanding racial issues better and “evening the playing field” for everyone. Ijeoma Oluo, the author, relies on a straightforward but daring (and sometimes humorous) dialogue (examples and personal narratives) to trigger in-depth self-reflection. He also encourages a more open and honest discussion on race.


Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence

“Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence” uses various methods such as research, realistic examples, vignettes, and thoughtful discussions to explore why it is so hard to openly and honestly talk about race.

Derald Wing Sue, the author, encourages readers to look at race from a different perspective and commit to a deeper level of self-reflection when it comes to racial biases and prejudices. He also challenges readers to identify ways in which they have been silent and therefore complicit on topics of race.
Sue suggests that the only way to effect change in the US is to become vulnerable and courageous. In other words, openly and honestly communicate – even if it’s difficult. Think outside-of-the-box and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. This book offers realistic suggestions on how to effectively facilitate racial discussions with friends, family, and others. 


The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

“The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” begins in 1915 and concludes in 1970. It follows the journeys of three African-Americans who fled the South in search of more opportunities and better lives. Isabel Wilkerson, the author, not only masters the history of that time period but also accurately captures the emotions associated with leaving everything you’ve ever known and starting anew with nothing.
Through her characters, Wilkerson vividly describes the struggle of African-Americans following the end of slavery into the present-day. This book personifies history using three characters to convey the hopes and dreams that most African-Americans still have today – a century later.


The Racial Healing Handbook

“The Racial Healing Handbook” is an interactive workbook that focuses on the belief that society will only heal from racism if both minorities and non-minorities openly acknowledge the hurt, pain, shame, guilt, embarrassment, and anxiety that has occurred in the US through the centuries.
Anneliese A. Singh, the author, believes it is the only way to trigger true racial healing. According to Singh all races must come together and openly and honestly discuss race in America. She also asserts that the only way the damage will be mended is if we “reprogram ourselves when it comes to racism” by taking actions to better understand each other and bridge racial divides.
This book delves into racial topics from a variety of angles such as history, romantic relationships and friendships, career opportunities, self-esteem, and personal experiences. Thus, the goal of this book is to help you identify signs of racism, better understand and acknowledge your own “privilege, and provide suggestions on how you can actively work to become a true ally to the Black community.  


The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” aptly explores the noticeable parallels between Jim Crow Laws, openly racist legislation commonly embraced during Post-Reconstruction in America, and the repressive and unfair penal system of today. It also offers suggestions on how the criminal and prison system can be reformed so everyone is treated fairly.
Michelle Alexander, the author, highlights how the racial caste system continues in America and how instead of eliminating it during the 1960s, it was simply redesigned to fit the current time – through the concept of “colorblindness.”
According to Alexander, the only way to improve race relations is to talk about race regularly. She also suggests that there will continue to be social unrest until there is a complete overhaul of the prison system and policing in the Black community.

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About the Author

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
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