“By not running from the books that pain us, we can allow them to transform us. I ran from antiracist books most of my life. But now I can’t stop running after them — scrutinizing myself and my society, and in the process changing both.”

Since penning 2016’s National Book Award winner Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America, author and historian Ibram X. Kendi has emerged as a defining voice in the deconstruction of anti-Black racism in America. His 2019 bestseller, How to Be an Antiracist, offers a groundbreaking approach to recognizing and challenging racial inequality in our societies and ourselves – encouraging readers to go beyond awareness and take an active role in the fight for racial justice.

At a time of mass protest and civil unrest in America and the world over, self-reflection and education have never been more important. In an antiracist reading list for The New York Times, Kendi included essential works that delve into the political, social, and economic policies that informed the culture of white supremacy and systemic racism we’re up against today.

From Audre Lorde and Toni Morrison to Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, read on for a list of Ibram X. Kendi’s antiracist book recommendations. Complement with the reading lists of historic freedom fighters Angela Davis, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.


“‘No book destabilized my fraught notions of racial distinction and hierarchy — the belief that each race had different genes, diseases and natural abilities — more than this vigorous critique of the ‘biopolitics of race.’ Roberts, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, shows unequivocally that all people are indeed created equal, despite political and economic special interests that keep trying to persuade us otherwise.” -IXK
“Some of the same forces have led Americans to believe that the recent success of black immigrants from the Caribbean proves either that racism does not exist or that the gap between African-Americans and other groups in income and wealth is their own fault. But Model’s meticulous study, emphasizing the self-selecting nature of the West Indians who emigrate to the United States, argues otherwise, showing me, a native of racially diverse New York City, how such notions — the foundation of ethnic racism — are unsupported by the facts.” -IXK
“‘Black’ and ‘criminal’ are as wedded in America as ‘star’ and ‘spangled.’ Muhammad’s book traces these ideas to the late 19th century, when racist policies led to the disproportionate arrest and incarceration of blacks, igniting urban whites’ fears and bequeathing tenaciously racist stereotypes.” -IXK
“Of course, the black body exists within a wider black culture — one Hurston portrayed with grace and insight in this seminal novel. She defies racist Americans who would standardize the cultures of white people or sanitize, eroticize, erase or assimilate those of blacks.” -IXK
“‘We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame,’ Hughes wrote nearly 100 years ago. ‘We know we are beautiful. And ugly too.’ We are all imperfectly human, and these imperfections are also markers of human equality.” -IXK
“Beautiful and hard-working black people come in all shades. If dark people have less it is not because they are less, a moral eloquently conveyed in these two classic novels, stirring explorations of colorism.” -IXK
“Malcolm X began by adoring whiteness, grew to hate white people and, ultimately, despised the false concept of white superiority — a killer of people of color. And not only them: low- and middle-income white people too, as Metzl’s timely book shows, with its look at Trump-era policies that have unraveled the Affordable Care Act and contributed to rising gun suicide rates and lowered life expectancies.” -IXK
“Just as Metzl explains how seemingly pro-white policies are killing whites, Forman explains how blacks themselves abetted the mass incarceration of other blacks, beginning in the 1970s. Amid rising crime rates, black mayors, judges, prosecutors and police chiefs embraced tough-on-crime policies that they promoted as pro-black with tragic consequences for black America.” -IXK
“Black America has been economically devastated by what Robinson calls racial capitalism. He chastises white Marxists (and black capitalists) for failing to acknowledge capitalism’s racial character, and for embracing as sufficient an interpretation of history founded on a European vision of class struggle.” -IXK
“As racial capitalism deprives black communities of resources, assimilationists ignore or gentrify these same spaces in the name of ‘development’ and ‘integration.’ To be antiracist is not only to promote equity among racial groups, but also among their spaces, something the black power movement of the 1960s and 1970s understood well, as Joseph’s chronicle makes clear.” -IXK
“I began my career studying, and too often admiring, activists who demanded black (male) power over black communities, including over black women, whom they placed on pedestals and under their feet. Black feminist literature, including these anthologies, helps us recognize black women ‘as human, levelly human,’ as the Combahee River Collective demanded to be seen in 1977.” -IXK
“I grew up in a Christian household thinking there was something abnormal and immoral about queer blacks. My racialized transphobia made Mock’s memoir an agonizing read — just as my racialized homophobia made Lorde’s essays and speeches a challenge. But pain often precedes healing.” -IXK

(via The New York Times)

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Ibram X. Kendi's Antiracist Reading List

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