Four books that changed my view on race in America

After this weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, I vow to peacefully confront racism from white people I love, instead of just ignoring it, and I vow to keep educating myself and genuinely listening about race in America from the people most disenfranchised by it and in danger because of it.

As part of my promise to do the latter, I want to read every book on this list from Bustle: “17 Books on Race Every White Person Needs to Read Now”. Here are four I’d add that have profoundly impacted how I view race and helped me understand the long and complex role it’s had on policy, people and power.


“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

“To be black in the Baltimore of my youth was to be naked before the elements of the world, before all the guns, fists, knives, crack, rape, and disease. The nakedness is not an error, nor pathology. The nakedness is the correct and intended result of policy, the predictable upshot of people forced for centuries to live under fear.”


“Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” by Matthew Desmond

“Often, evicted families also lose the opportunity to benefit from public housing because Housing Authorities count evictions and unpaid debt as strikes when reviewing applications. And so people who have the greatest need for housing assistance—the rent-burdened and evicted—are systematically denied it.”


“The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation” by Natalie Y. Moore

“By 1930, blacks were spatially isolated to a high degree in American cities, with Chicago leading the way. The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation was formed in 1933 as part of the New Deal and provided funds for refinancing urban mortgages in danger of default. But the Depression-era government program institutionalized redlining, a practice that excluded blacks by color coding black neighborhoods based on loan risks. The lowest color was red, where blacks lived. Redlining influenced lending practices of the Federal Housing Administration and the Veterans Administration of the 1940s with regards to blacks. Chicago blacks experienced a complicated relationship between the metaphorical two homes–the North that was supposed to be the promised land and the South from which they escaped.”


“The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison

“Jealousy we understood and thought natural… But envy was a strange, new feeling for us. And all the time we knew that Maureen Peal was not the Enemy and not worthy of such intense hatred. The Thing to fear was the Thing that made her beautiful, and not us.”


Featured image from Jill Krementz’s photo journal of Queen Toni Morrison as a young woman. 

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