For White Folks Who Want To Do Better: When Anti-Racism Isn’t Enough

I’m writing this after several months of requests from white friends, family, colleagues, and online pals on what to read in these times of high visibility of anti-Black state violence. I almost wrote “escalating” anti-Black violence, but this is a misrepresentation of the history of racist violence in the United States, despite the September 22, 2020 Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping, which claims:

[M]any people are pushing a different vision of America that is grounded in hierarchies based on collective social and political identities rather than in the inherent and equal dignity of every person as an individual. This ideology is rooted in the pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors; and that racial and sexual identities are more important than our common status as human beings and Americans.

Despite the historical revisionism occurring at the Federal level, it’s crucial that white allies, accomplices, and progressives practice self-education to develop a broad comprehension of the experience of Black Americans, from enslavement to contemporary ghettoization and white supremacist carceral logics. Upon reading the work of mostly Black scholars and writers, it’s evident that the claims in the above executive order are not just inaccurate, but part of a long-established pattern of white supremacist rhetorics including whitewashing, false objectivity, and systemic erasure of radical Black resistance.

Studying the history of oppression on the basis of race is fundamental to developing a thorough understanding of the roles of contemporary framings of white privilege, anti-racism, and allyship. The demands for white progressives to “do better” with regards to race have not emerged from a cultural vacuum, but Black activists have developed these concepts in their efforts to define racism and educate white people.

I am by far the first person to say any of this, and all of my growing racial consciousness has emerged from engaging with texts on the following list. Writing this is an attempt to signal-boost the work of Black scholars, especially trans and non-binary folks, women, sexual minorities, disabled people, and working-class and poor folks, and providing a growing resource for white people who want to do better.

This bibliography is by no means exhaustive. Instead, these are books and articles that have helped me gain a more thorough understanding of the systemic oppression of Black folks in the U.S.


Alexander, Michelle (she/her/hers). The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The New Press, 2010.

Bailey, Moya (she/her/hers). “Work In The Intersections: A Black Feminist Disability Framework.” Gender & Society, 33.1, February 2019.

Bailey, Moya (she/her/hers) & Trudy (she/her/hers). “On Misogynoir: Citation, Erasure, and Plagiarism.” Feminist Media Studies, 2018.

Baldwin, James (he/him/his). Notes of a Native Son. Beacon Press, 1955.

Baradaran, Mehrsa (she/her/hers). The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap. Harvard University Press, 2017.

Bobb, Venessa. “Black Girls and Autism.” Girls and Autism: Educational, Family and Personal Perspectives. Eds. Barry Carpenter, Francesca Happé and Jo Egerton. Routledge, 2019.

DuBois, W.E.B. (he/him/his). Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880. Oxford University Press, 2014.

Francois, Janine (she/her/hers). “Reparations for Black People Should Include Rest.” Vice, 8 Jan 2019.

Gumbs, Alexis Pauline (she/her/hers). Spill: Scenes from Black Feminist Fugitivity. Duke University Press, 2016.

—. M Archive: After the End of the World. Duke University Press, 2018.

—. Dub: Finding Ceremony. Duke University Press, 2020.

Hartman, Saidiya (she/her/hers). Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route. FSG, 2008.

—. Scenes of Subjection: Terror, Slavery, and Self-Making in Nineteenth-Century America. Oxford University Press, 1997.

—. Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Riotous Black Girls, Troublesome Women, and Queer Radicals. W. W. Norton & Company, January 14, 2020.

Hogarth, Rana A. (she/her/hers). Medicalizing Blackness: Making Racial Difference in the Atlantic World, 1780-1840. UNC Press, 2017.

Johnson, Cyrée Jarelle (he/him/his). “A Paradoxical History of Black Disease.” Disability Visibility Project. May 13, 2020. Web.

Jones, Ciarra (she/her/hers). “Grad School Is Trash for Students of Color and We Should Talk About That.” Medium. Nov. 8, 2017.

—. “The Race for Inclusivity: Race-based Conversations in Higher Education.” Huffington Post. January 19, 2016.

Jones-Rogers, Stephanie E (she/her/hers). They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South. Narrated by Allyson Johnson, Audible, 2019.

Kendall, Mikki (she/her/hers). Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot. Narrated by Mikki Kendall, Penguin Audio, 2020.

Lorde, Audre (she/her/hers). The Cancer Journals, Aunt Lute Books, 1980.

—. Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches. Ten Speed Press, 1984.

—. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Persephone Press, 1982.

Love, Bettina L (she/her/hers). “An Essay for Teachers Who Understand Racism Is Real.” Education Week, June 2020.

—. We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom. Narrated by Misty Monroe, Beacon Press, 2019.

Moore, Leroy F. (he/him/his). Black Disabled Ancestors. Poor Press, 2020.

Morris, Monique W (she/her/hers). Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools. The New Press, 2016.

Natapoff, Alexandra (she/her/hers). Punishment Without Crime: How Our Massive Misdemeanor System Traps the Innocent and Makes America More Unequal. Basic Books, 2018.

Nelson, Alondra (she/her/hers). Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight Against Medical Discrimination. University of Minnesota Press, 2013.

—. The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome. Beacon Press, 2016.

Noble, Safiya Umoja (she/her/hers). Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism. NYU Press, 2018.

Roberts, Dorothy (she/her/hers). Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century. The New Press, 2012.

Schalk, Sami (she/her/hers). “Coming to Claim Crip: Disidentification with/in Disability Studies.” Disability Studies Quarterly 33.2, 2013.

Shakur, Assata (she/her/hers). Assata: An Autobiography. Chicago Review Press, 1999.

Strings, Sabrina (she/her/hers). Fearing the Black Body: The Racial Origins of Fatphobia. NYU Press, 2019.

—. “It’s Not Obesity. It’s Slavery.” New York Times, May 25, 2020.

Taylor, Keeanga-Yamahtta (she/her/hers). From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. Haymarket Books, 2016.

—. How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective. Haymarket Books, 2017.

—. Race for Profit: How Banks and the Real Estate Industry Undermined Black Homeownership. University of North Carolina Press, 2019.

Washington, Harriet A. (she/her/hers). Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present. Doubleday, 2007.