Today, as I watched Donald Trump be sworn in as the President, I felt an ache inside of me grow — it threatened to envelope my heart. And then someone shared this beautiful video of John Lewis receiving a National Book award and the tears poured down my face as I heard him say, his own voice catching, that a teacher one told him, “Read, my child. Read.”
In that moment, I thought, “I am gonna be okay. We are gonna be okay.” I have spent my whole life fighting the very things that held me down with books and Lewis’s words reminded me that my battle doesn’t have to end today.
We are a country torn apart. I was texting some friends later in the day and one friend pointed out that people didn’t suddenly become racist because Trump became the President; they simply of the freedom now to voice their racist beliefs without restraint. Do I believe we’re better off than 50 years ago?
I don’t know.
But no matter what, there’s work to be done. And as I have always done, my solace in learning how to fight injustice comes from other people’s words. The words of others have always inspired me and pushed me past my comfort zone. The next four years will be no different.
I asked people on social media today to share with me their recommendations for books that will help me grow. I’m sharing that list with you below. Most of these books I have not yet read, so I can’t vouch for them, but I have respect for those sharing. The people commenting represent a truly diverse representation of my friends: liberal, conservative, moderate; religious and not religious; parents and childless. Please join me in reading them, working through our biases, and learning to love people for every part of who they are.
I hope this list makes you uncomfortable.
I hope it is hard for you to read and watch these things.
I hope this list makes you put all of your beliefs on the table.
I hope it makes you sort through them, seeing what you’ve never seen before.
I hope the same things for myself.
I don’t want to remain unchanged. I don’t want to pretend this isn’t a problem. I want to safe, comfortable, white world shaken up so I might not just know better, but be and do better.
If there are books that you want to recommend, I’d love to hear your recommendations in the comments. I also welcome other forms of media for growing in my understand of racial (in)equality! (Books are listed alphabetically by title — no order reason for their order!) This list certainly isn’t comprehensive. I’ve bolded books I’ve read.
A Call to Conscience by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (a complication of his speeches)
America’s Original Sin by Jim Wallis
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley***
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Black Boy by Richard Wright
Bloodlines by John Piper
The Color of Water by James McBride
Colorblind by Tim Wise
Ghettoside by Jill Leovy
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
March trilogy by John Lewis
Negroland by Margo Jefferson
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Race Matters by Cornel West
Racist America by Joe Feagin
Roots by Alex Haley
The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals
White Like Me by Tim Wise
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
Why We Can’t Wait by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Yellow by Frank Wu
*** I want to point out that I do not advocate for violence. However, I think hearing about what made Malcolm X do the things he did is relevant and important as we engage in this conversation.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Home Going by Yaa Gyasi
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
Native Son by Richard Wright
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
The Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
Be the Bridge
I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about those who’ve participated in Be the Bridge groups! I heard LaTasha Morrison speak at the IF:Gathering last year and she really made my heart beat faster at the thought of racial reconciliation.
13th (link to trailer on YouTube; available exclusively on Netflix)
This documentary is about the 13th amendment. I started watching it and it’s really thought-provoking.
“Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
We all have heard Dr. King’s “I have A Dream” speech. But until this year — yes, 2017 — I’d never read this letter. Whoa. It’s lengthy but good. So good. Read it. Print it. Take notes. (If you’d rather listen, you can do so here.)
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Big thank yous go out to my friends on social media: Bethany Beams (Bethany’s list is long and I didn’t include every book from in here so I recommend checking it out!), Rachel Mueller Hill, Kodi DeBevlle, Diana Cherry, Jaclyn Snyder, Lindsay Neveu Hufford, Rachael Jordan, Kristen Bulgrien, Corie Gibbs, Tanya Stanley, Karen Rodrigues, Claire Thompson Mummert, Karin Harrington, Jessica Wolfe, Bryan Carver, Tenease Ramirez, Liz Grant, and Tasha K. I’m excited to dive in to your suggestions!