3 Books From My Anti-Racism Journey

Investigating questions of "race" and identity

Hello friends,

One of the commitments I’ve made on this anti-racism journey is to keep learning, because I certainly don’t know everything. So, in the last few months I’ve made it my business to buy some anti-racism books and watch programs about aspects of the Black experience in different countries. I’m not going to attempt to do full reviews, but here are some books you might find interesting.

So You Want to Talk About Race

I started with a book that had been on my TBR pile for the longest time: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Uluo. This covers a whole bunch of topics in easy to digest chapters, asking an answering the questions you’re most likely to have about microaggressions, intersectionality, cultural appropriation and much more. A few quotes that resonated with me were:

  • “a privilege has to come with somebody else’s disadvantage—otherwise, it’s not a privilege.”

  • “When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else’s oppression, we’ll find our opportunities to make real change.”

  • “witnesses are the only defense people of color seem to have against police brutality, and often even that isn’t enough.”

  • “We should not have a society where the value of marginalized people is determined by how well they can scale often impossible obstacles that others will never know.”

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race

Uluo’s book has a US perspective, so next I tackled the UK perspective in Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race.

This book looks at some of the history, the fear that many white people have about Black people, white privilege, and the intersection of race and class, among other topics. Some of the quotes that stood out to me were:

  • “The journey towards understanding structural racism still requires people of colour to prioritise white feelings. Even if they can hear you, they’re not really listening.”

  • “To be white is to be human; to be white is universal. I only know this because I am not.”

  • “Structural racism is dozens, or hundreds, or thousands of people with the same biases joining together to make up one organisation, and acting accordingly. Structural racism is an impenetrably white workplace culture set by those people, where anyone who falls outside of the culture must conform or face failure. Structural is often the only way to capture what goes unnoticed – the silently raised eyebrows, the implicit biases, snap judgements made on perceptions of competency.”

Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging

I stayed with the UK perspective with a book by Afua Hirsch titled Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging.

As the title suggests, it covers her sense of alienation in the UK, and her journey to discover her identity as a Black Brit. Here are some quotes that made me think:

  • “‘Black’ is as meaningless an identity in a country like Nigeria, where almost everyone is black, as ‘white’ is in a country where almost everyone is white.”

  • “The more you get asked The Question, the more confused you feel about the answer. I can’t be British, can I, if British people keep asking me where I’m from?”

  • “I have always wondered how we have managed to contort our memories in such a way as to celebrate abolishing something, while forgetting how fundamental a prior role we played in developing it in the first place. We were not only one of the trade’s major protagonists, but also one of its earliest adopters.”

I always find it valuable to get other people’s perspectives on these issues we’re all concerned with. It’s interesting how many commonalities there are, no matter which country Black people happen to be in. If you’ve read any of those books, I’d love to hear what stood out for you.

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As always, thanks for reading.

Sharon

NB. I’ve included Amazon affiliate links above - it’s up to you whether you use them. :)

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© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Cover photo courtesy of Canva.

I am an anti-racism writer, a professional B2B writer and blogger, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast. If you value my perspective, please consider upgrading to a paid subscription.