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.
15 Books to Learn More About The Black Lives Matter Movement and Racism
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.
Recently, Eddo-Lodge has called for those who are buying her book to match however much they bought it for with a donation to the Minnesota Freedom Fund – a nonprofit organisation that pays criminal bails and immigration bonds for those who can't afford it. Or, in Eddo-Lodge's words, 'better yet, borrow a copy from a friend/your local library and donate the money you would have spent to the [Minnesota] Freedom Fund.'
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.
For other ways that you can help support justice for Black lives, see here.
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