By Violetta Reum
The last couple weeks have been incredibly difficult for our country. As protesters rise up and demand that Black lives be protected in America and for police brutality to end, white people have been waking up.
For the first time ever probably, I have seen a lot of responses from my fellow white people. More than ever, people are talking about the issue of race in our country and waking up to the fact that racism still exists and has saturated our culture, systems, laws, and governments. It seems like for the first time, we are talking about white privilege and anti-racism openly.
It has been uncomfortable, eye-opening, frustrating, liberating and messy. And honestly, I am still processing how to speak to my white people.
I want to encourage but I am also very tempted to be cynical.
I want to have productive conversations but I am also quick to feel self-righteous.
I want to be an ally and take the responsibility of educating white people about anti-racism but also I am overwhelmed by how much work I have left to do myself.
So, meanwhile, maybe I can just provide some helpful resources for my white people.
This is a list of books I have read in the last 10 years or so that I remember being very impactful for me. This list is not complete and these are maybe not even the best books out there, but these are just the ones that impacted me personally.
With a genuine prayer, I hope they will impact you too and open your eyes and mind to new levels of understanding, empathy and activism.
Though some of us are just starting to talk about race and explore topics like anti-racism, guess what, people of color have been talking about this for hundreds of years. This is not a new territory. This is not a new or trendy genre. You’re just new to this space.
So come in, let your guard down, ask questions, wrestle with yourself and learn something.
The books are in the order from “easiest to digest” to “hardest to swallow.” I’ve ordered the books from least challenging and “offensive” to the most challenging, raw stories where deepest work is needed.
This is intentional because white fragility is real. It was for me (and if I’m not careful, it still is) and it was helpful to step into this conversation slowly, without shutting down and abandoning the lifelong journey of unlearning and learning.
1. Being White – Paula Harris and Doug Schaupp
This book is the easiest to digest, I think. The main purpose is to realize that multiethnic environments are important and what your role is as a white person. I read this in college and found some of it helpful.
2. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
Probably all of us read it in high school and for a good reason. I suggest you reread it again, with new eyes and an open mind. As I reread the book a few years ago, I was surprised by it’s depth that I didn’t remember when I was reading it at 16.
3. The Help – Kathryn Stockett
This story takes us deep into the lives of Black women who worked in white households and raised their white children. I challenge you to feel uncomfortable just like the author did when she realized her own white privilege and her participation in a profoundly unjust system.
4. Born a Crime – Trevor Noah
While also very funny and entertaining, the profound truth in this book should not be missed. As he writes from a South African perspective, I think his story carries a lot of universal truth about prejudice and systematic racism.
5. Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult
Written from a point of view of three different but related characters, this book shines a light on so many areas; racism, the justice system, white privilege, white extremists, prejudice, etc.
6. Raising White Kids (in a Racially Unjust America) – Jennifer Harvey
This is a definite must read for white parents, no matter the age of a child. It gives direction and even example conversation. I had a profound realization while reading this book that we have allowed our white children to be absolutely uneducated and unprepared for a multiethnic world. Non-white parents are forced to have converstations about race with their kids all the time, from a very young age, and when we send our white kids into the world without any knowledge, understanding or skills, we are setting them up for failure as friends, students and activists.
7. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? – Beverly Daniel Tatum, PhD
This book is full of facts, statistics and personal stories meant to educate and open your eyes to the realities of African- Americans and encourages conversations about race. When I read this book in college, the impact of the statistics and the history behind racism shook me to my core and propelled me to go deeper in my understanding of race and racism in America.
8. Just Mercy – Bryan Stevenson
A book written by a Black lawyer who works specifically with inmates on death row, highlights the ridiculous and appalling reality of systemic racism in the American prison system. It’s a must read and the movie is a must watch.
9. The Underground Railroad – Colson Whitehead
This extremely powerful and emotional story of a runaway slave is a must read. The author does not shy away from writing about the horrific and brutal treatment of Black people.
10. Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi
This book did an incredible job highlighting the Black experience, from being ripped away from their ancestors in Africa to the present day. The generational pain and perseverance was eye-opening and heart-shifting for me.
11. Between the World and Me – Ta-Nehisi Coates
This book is hard to describe as it is extremely painful and emotional. Prepare for your heart to break, your stomach to turn in repentance and your eyes to cry many tears.
12. Me and White Supremacy – Layla F. Saad
I put this book last and at the most difficult level because now you are done just reading the stories of Black people. You are done being entertained by compelling characters and vivid imagery. Now it’s time to do the work yourself. Ask yourself the hard questions and come face-to-face with your own racism and prejudice, and own the harm you have done. This is where actual work starts. The other books only prepared you for this moment.
Author: Violetta Reum
Violetta has always had a passion and calling to see people pursue God with their entire lives, find their calling and identity in Jesus, and seek deep healing from past trauma and abuse. She enjoys spending time with her husband and son and discovering all of the coffee shops and hole-in-the-wall restaurants.