A huge part of the Black Lives Matter movement is centred on education: it calls for people of all races, ages and genders to educate themselves on Black history and how racism manifests itself in society. Although the organisation started in the US, inequality is sadly very much a global problem and exists here in the UK too.
If you want to help the cause, become a better ally, better understand the experiences of Black people and proactively make a change within society, but aren't sure how to go about it, diversifying your bookshelf is a great place to start.
Not only will you be doing the excellent work of educating yourself (thus not needing to ask a Black person to take time out of their day to explain what terms like 'white privilege' mean), but you'll also be supporting non-white writers.
Here's a list of highly recommended books to get started on, some of which delve into the complexities of racism and experiences of people of colour via easy-to-read fiction, others are on the heavier side. If you can, please consider ordering any of the below books that interest you from your local independent (or a Black-owned) book store – it's more important than ever to support small businesses. For other ways that you can help support Black Lives Matter, see here.
Slay In Your Lane by Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinené
Incredibly well-researched, this book is packed to the rafters with helpful statistics on systemic racism, spanning Black relationships to what it's like being a Black woman with health concerns, while remaining simple to understand. If you're looking for an insight into what life is like for Black women today, this is a great choice.
Biased: The New Science of Race and Inequality by Dr Jennifer Eberhardt
Dr Eberhardt, a Stanford University professor, outlines how unconscious bias (having judgemental or stereotypical views that you may not even be aware of) is something present in *all* of us – and why it's nothing to be embarrassed about, but does need to be addressed. This book actively encourages people to do some inward self-reflection and explains how to overcome these unknowingly held prejudices. A non-preachy, non-shaming read.
When They Call You A Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
Co-authored by one of the Black Lives Matter founders, this best-selling book draws upon personal experience and offers an intelligent, thought-provoking review of humanity, culture and race. The title reflects the fact that Black Lives Matter has been condemned by some as a terrorist organisation and picks apart exactly why that couldn't be further from the truth.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
Queenie follows a young Jamaican-British woman trying to balance the worlds of romance, working life and family, with politics and personal growth. From one of Britain's most celebrated authors today, the story of Queenie will make you laugh, cry, and learn about Black British culture in a way that is rarely represented in mainstream fiction.
More Than Enough by Elaine Welteroth
You may recognise Welteroth from her role as a judge on Project Runway, or as the former editor of Teen Vogue (she has been widely credited for infusing the title with social consciousness). Her debut book has been described as "part-memoir, part-manifesto" and shares her journey of climbing the ranks of journalism, fashion and life, while often being the only Black woman in the room. A joy to read and learn from.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
A book born out of a viral blog post of the same name, Eddo-Lodge (an award-winning journalist) offers a valuable insight into racism in Britain today – her work is educational while remaining accessible. Despite being published three years ago, Eddo-Lodge's book continues to rack up sales to such an extent that she recently tweeted asking if people could match the amount they paid for a copy (or instead borrow the book from a friend or library) and donate to a racial justice organisation too.
Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch
Hirsch, a mixed race author (Black and white), discusses the experience of growing up in a predominantly white area – where people regularly ask "where she's from" – and the impact it had on her identity. Beautifully written.
I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite
From the founder of Make Motherhood Diverse comes a book detailing the steps that need to be taken in order to do exactly that. A prolific presence on social media, Brathwaite's debut reflects her online content, which strives for Black mothers to be included the mix – whether it's in adverts for maternity clothes or conversations at the school gates. Candid and funny.
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad
This book is split into a 28-day programme, encouraging the reader to take just a few minutes a day to read about and reflect on race issues. Saad breaks down white privilege, white fragility and white supremacy and explains how they can all manifest in daily life. Actress Anne Hathaway said of Saad, "She is no-joke changing the world and, for what it's worth, the way I live my life."
How To Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
Taking the premise that it's not enough to be neutral in situations of injustice and to simply know that racism is wrong, Kendi calls upon readers to be actively anti-racist and proactive, while detailing how to do so.
Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid
A fiction offering, Reid's masterful storytelling centres on a Black nanny who is accused of kidnapping the white child she looks after during a trip to the supermarket – the event is caught on camera leading to an explosive chain of events. Observations on liberal racism and privilege are well made throughout.
Don't Touch My Hair by Emma Dabiri
A powerful read on the importance of hair in Black culture, putting everything from non-white celebrities who wear braids, to the way hair styles helped to free enslaved Africans under a microscope. Hair is so much more than "just hair" – and here's the proof.
Natives by Akala
A history of racism in Great Britain, that also explains how different races came to be in the UK in the first place. Akala, a BAFTA and MOBO award-winner, gives a comprehensive overview of why things are the way they are in the UK, including personal experiences, such as the day he realised his mother is white. Check out Akala's YouTube videos too, he's an incredible rapper, poet and cultural commentator.
Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall
A deep dive into white feminism (meaning, feminism that doesn't take into account or lift up women of colour along the way) and its failings, which although written by a US-based author is still highly relevant to UK readers. Given that the format is a collection of essays, it's easily digestible (even if the material is heavy at times). Also looks at the hyper-sexualisation of Black women, pop culture and mental health.
The Clapback: Your Guide To Calling Out Racist Stereotypes by Elijah Lawal
Humorously busting myths such as "All Black people love fried chicken, right?" and breaking down why it's very much not cool to ask someone "Yeah, but where are you from originally?", Lawal uses straight facts and his razor-sharp wit to create an eminently readable overview of racist stereotypes.
So, You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
If you're looking to get more clued up about the situation in America, Oluo's book focusses on the US's racial landscape and tackles issues like privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement and the N word. The book has been described as perfectly bridging the gap between Black, brown and white readers who have questions surrounding with race complexities.
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
This unique book follows twelve characters on their journeys of self-discovery, stretching from Cornwall to Newcastle. As all of their stories intertwine, the reader is taken on an exploration of what it means to be Black and British through various lenses – ranging from a city slicker banker to a lesbian theatre pro, to a non-binary individual.
Black, Listed: Black British Culture Explored by Jeffrey Boakye
Drawing on his own experiences and mixing them with what's going on in the wider landscape, Boakye successfully manages to educate through humour and insightful observations as he investigates all the ways in which Black people (and communities) have been oppressed, mimicked and celebrated. His measured, easy-to-read writing style makes this one tough to put down once started.
Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
A moving collection of prose, poetry and vignettes, Rankine uses her book as an opportunity to study racial inequality within a "post-racist" Western society. She does this by putting everyday examples of prejudice under a microscope, as well acts of discrimination and violence – both physical and emotional – in an almost documentary-style manner. An incredible blend of styles that will leave you pondering.
White Fragility: Why It's So Hard For White People To Talk About Race by Robin DiAngelo
For those who've already read up a lot on the subject, or experienced racism firsthand, this book might not feel all that revelatory. However, it's certainly still well deserving of its praise and best-selling accolade – it explains many of the ways white people enjoy and uphold white supremacy and privilege in the world, and is the perfect springboard for sparking interesting and important conversations.
The Space Between Black and White by Esuantsiwa Jane Goldsmith
Detailing Goldsmith’s life story, from growing up as the only mixed-race child in her area to becoming the Queen Mother of her father’s village in Ghana, this is a fairly chunky book boasting over 500 pages – but don't let that put you off. Goldsmith’s relentless pursuit of more makes the story feel both inspiring and, at times, heartbreaking. She discusses everything from mental health, to her physical experiences and emotions, all while clearly articulating what it feels like to be mixed-race. A joy to read and recommend.
For other ways that you can help support justice for Black lives, see here.
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