Anti-Racism Reading List January 2024

10 articles to further your anti-racism action and learning

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Hello friends,

It’s time for the first reading list of 2024 and, as usual, there’s a lot to dig into, including several pieces from Our Human Family writers. Ready to go? Here’s what’s included (this TOC is a bit of an experiment - what do you think?):

Table of Contents

I know this is a question that comes up often so I was interested to read Clay’s take on it, which very much is where I’m coming from. However, I especially like the list of questions towards the end of his article, which serve as a good self-check:

“we all need as many people as possible attacking the problem (not each other) to continue making headway. There’s more than enough racism out there for everyone to tackle in their own circle of influence.”

2. There Is But One Fight by Terra Kestrel

It’s another piece from Our Human Family (which is well worth subscribing to). This piece addresses some important nuances and asks some deep questions. I’ll certainly be sitting with it for a while:

“Toni Morrison was a master of context, and it is only in the full context of Morrison’s exceptional speech that we see the power of another statement: “You don’t waste your energy fighting the fever; you must only fight the disease. And the disease is not racism. It is greed and the struggle for power.””

I’ve often heard Brené Browne quoted as a good example, and I’ve often thought about whether some of the strategies she suggests would work as well for Black and Global Majority women. Here, the inimitable Rebecca Stevens shares her thoughts:

“ After listening to Browne’s talk, I decided to show up as my full vulnerable self.

I was in for a nasty surprise. What I found out, is that being vulnerable is possible when you a white — it's like an addendum to white privilege. When you are Black, it just doesn’t work in your favor..”

It’s no surprise to anyone reading this that the powers-that-be in global publishing are predominantly white men. What many people don’t think about is what that means for Black writers. Nova Reid lays it out in enlightening and excruciating detail here, and shares tips for wading through the morass:

“You are so incredibly vulnerable when you deliver your first manuscript, it’s no small feat, so you need to trust who you are working with. Their hands are first to be on what might be your most prized possession. To then receive your most treasured piece of work back, with over a hundred racist micro-aggressions in the comments, is beyond unacceptable. It is deeply harmful, dehumanising and incredibly painful.”

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We started 2024 seeing what’s happened to some notable Black firsts, such as Dr Claudine Gay. So this article on “supertokens” seems particularly timely. As the author points out, sometimes the visibility of supertokens is performative and doesn’t indicate real cultural change.

“The supertoken exists because they have already excelled in systems that were meant to crush them. Their presence in a firm or institution does not automatically change the system. In some cases, the supertoken might be the one upholding the system with an “I made it through, why can’t you?” attitude. Only a supertoken who is willing to use their privileges to dismantle the systems of exclusion for others might aid in an organization’s decolonization efforts.”

6. Why Organizations Fail at DEI by Lecia Michelle

Speaking of which, this article by Lecia Michelle looks at the approach necessary for real change to happen, and it’s not the one many organisations take:

“What they didn’t understand — or refused to understand — was that it takes more than simply hiring someone to address issues within an organization. It takes a top-down commitment to be part of that change. In my own experience, DEI trainers focus on employees much more than they do the employers. People at the top seem to have little to no incentive to change. It’s easier to believe that the problem lies solely with staff.”

(Side note: that’s exactly why one of our main Mission Equality programmes is aimed at senior leadership.)

If this seems like a “water is wet” moment, it’s because it is. Ask any Black woman who’s been asked to lead anything, and they can describe their own experience of this phenomenon:

“Experts and advocates for women of color say Black women are often hired or promoted to leadership roles at companies at times of crisis with the expectation being that they will fix the issues. The task, experts say, can be so daunting that it quickly leads to burnout or even failure.”

8. The story of how Swahili became Africa’s most spoken language by John M. Mugane

As a language buff, I was fascinated, inspired and delighted by this tale of the spread of an African language:

“By immersing themselves in the affairs of a maritime culture at a key commercial gateway, the people who were eventually designated Waswahili (Swahili people) created a niche for themselves. They were important enough in the trade that newcomers had little choice but to speak Swahili as the language of trade and diplomacy. And the Swahili population became more entrenched as successive generations of second-language speakers of Swahili lost their ancestral languages and became bona fide Swahili.”

Many descendants of enslaved Africans struggle to pinpoint their ancestors’ origins. This project may help to fill some of those gaps:

“Being able to pinpoint where exactly a person is from, she says, “has implications for their culture, their language, their beliefs, their practices—which contributed to so much of the culture of the Americas and the African diaspora at large.”

In this article, the author unpacks the foundations which allowed this crime against humanity to continue. I’ll keep the quote short, as it speaks for itself:

“Slavery didn’t die in America after the Civil War; it was reinvented.”

Bonus: I'd Like To Ask For Your Help by Rebecca Stevens

I don’t often include two articles by the same author in a reading list edition, but I wanted to help get the word out. Rebecca has left her job after experiencing the most atrocious racism, day in, day out, and now needs help finding something new. If there’s anything you can do, please reach out to her directly.

“If you know of any jobs or assignments in global health, health equity, antiracism, racism, communications, or writing, please let me know, I’d be really interested. I’m someone who works hard and who thrives in diverse teams. I’m purpose-driven and determined to make my life matter. If all I can do is change one person’s life for the better, I’m all in.”

Which of these articles made the most impression on you this month? What action will you take now that you’ve read it?

Thanks for reading,


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© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2024. All Rights Reserved.

Cover photo courtesy of Canva.

I am an anti-racism educator and activist, Co-Founder of Mission Equality, the author of “I’m Tired of Racism”, and co-host of The Introvert Sisters podcast.

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