On Injustice, Inequality, and Being Black in America: A Reading List

As protests continue across the U.S. — and the world — one way we can support the movement for justice, equality, and real transformative change for Black people is to take the time to read, listen, and learn more deeply about institutionalized racism in America.

You’ll find recent posts by fellow creators in the WordPress.com community in the Black Lives Matter tag in the Reader. Below, we’ve compiled posts across blogs and publications that can act as starting points for deeper reading, and we’ll highlight more Black authors and storytellers this month.

Dear White People, This is What We Want You to Do

“What can I do?” In a powerful post at Inside the Kandi Dish, Kandise Le Blanc sums it up: Read. Donate. Check in on your Black loved ones. Take a good look at yourself. Get uncomfortable.

I want you to acknowledge that your life is easier because you’re white. I want you to admit that you would never choose to be a Black person— because you know your life would be harder. 

I want you to know that you are the byproduct of a successful racist regime that has capitalized off of Black oppression and suppression for centuries. I want you to realize that being racist is more American than apple pie.

Readings on Racism, White Supremacy, and Police Violence in America

In a reading list, the editorial team at Literary Hub compiles 16 essays from the publication that explore what it means to be Black in the United States, from an interview with Angela Davis on Black Lives Matter, Palestine, and the future of radicalism to Garnette Cadogan’s personal essay on walking while Black.

It is hard to know what the next week will bring—let alone the next five months—but as we imagine a way forward it is important to have a grounding in the past. 

LitHub editor-in-chief Jonny Diamond

MoAnA Manifesto: My Personal Statement On Defending, Supporting And Protecting Black Lives

MoAnA Luu, the chief content and creative officer of ESSENCE, calls on allies to show their commitment to change through the “Raise Your Voice” initiative, which will give “$1 million worth of print and digital advertising access to nonprofit organizations combating racial injustice and inequities.”

Eventually, the streets will go silent. The crushing grief and anger over the past week will take root and some people’s activism will fade. Still, I will continue doing my daily job, fighting for Black women in a society where nobody wants to hear it.

I will continue calling upon YOU to support Black communities through access to education, through the hiring of Black staff, through the empowerment of Black women on boards, and through empowering Black women via media outlets and providing them with a platform to express their opinions.

“We are not okay. And you shouldn’t be either.”

Meg K. Guliford, a guest contributor at Duck of Minerva, writes about being a Black grad student right now.

COVID-19 changes how we live and interact. This is hard enough. But if you consider such tremendous change coupled with increased risk of economic and health insecurity as well as the threat of violence stemming from 400 years of structural racism, it will give you greater insight about the explosion of emotions Black Americans are currently experiencing.

What I Said When My White Friend Asked for My Black Opinion on White Privilege

In a post from 2016 that is as relevant right now as it was then, Lori Lakin Hutcherson, the editor-in-chief of Good Black News, shares her response to an old friend who asked her opinion on white privilege and racism.

So, again, I’m glad you asked, because I really want to answer. But as I do, please know a few things first: 1) This is not even close to the whole list. I’m cherrypicking because none of us have all day.  2) I’ve been really lucky. Most of what I share below is mild compared to what others in my family and community have endured. 3) I’m going to go in chronological order so you might begin to glimpse the tonnage and why what many white folks might feel is a “Where did all of this come from?” moment in society has been festering individually and collectively for the LIFETIME of pretty much every black or brown person living in America today regardless of wealth or opportunity.

Black Authors Discuss Being Black in America

Electric Literature rounds up notable interviews with Black authors on systemic racism, white supremacy, and identity, including So You Want to Talk About Race author Ijeoma Oluo on the roots of police brutality and Chris L. Terry on biracial identity and his novel, Black Card.

If you’re looking for works that reflect your rage, or help clarify the rage of others, we’ve collected some of our favorite interviews with authors who are shedding light on the experience of living as a Black American under white supremacy.

Electric Literature staff

Black Autistics Exist: An Argument for Intersectional Disability Justice

What does it mean to be autistic, femme, and Black? At South Seattle Emerald, ChrisTiana ObeySumner writes about the lack of awareness of intersectionally disabled people — people whose “intersectionality include[s] one or more disability, a non-White racial identity, and other socially marginalized intersections.”

When I started searching the internet and Seattle University’s libraries for anything I could find about the intersectionality of race and autism, I noticed a disturbing pattern: There were a significantly miniscule number of articles, books, or blogs about people who share my intersections. I was livid. Am I really asking for too much? To see affirmation, narratives, and research about what it means to be Autistic, (let alone, in addition to chronic neurological and psychiatric disability,) Femme, and Black?

The even more infuriating piece of this is how much this sounds like I am asking to win Publishers Clearing House with the big check, the balloons, and Ed McMahon showing up on my doorstep. It’s beyond dismissive; it’s violent, isolating, and disaffirming. I feel left out, alone, erased from the sociopolitical discourses of what it means to be autistic/disabled, what it sociopolitically means to be femme and autistic/disabled, and what it sociopolitically means to be femme, autistic/disabled, and Black — and these are only three components of my intersectionality that I wear the most “out loud.”

Being Black in America

In an interview from 2019, the staff at Fair Observer talks with Akil Houston, a filmmaker and associate professor of cultural and media studies at Ohio University, about racial inequality and the portrayal of Black Americans in the media.

In 1968, the late writer James Baldwin was asked a similar question by Esquire magazine. His response was that, if “the American black man [and women too] is going to become a free person in this country, the people of this country have to give up something. If they don’t give it up, it will be taken from them.” I would argue that the “give up” portion has to do with the assumption that the promise of a just and truly democratic society is the responsibility of the marginalized. As Baldwin cautioned then, and I would echo now the responsibility is in large measure on white citizens who can influence the national conversation and the behavior of their families and friends in ways that marginalized groups cannot.

Maybe It’s Time to Lose Your Trash Friends

On her personal blog Awesomely Luvvie, author and speaker Luvvie Ajayi says that if you’re speaking up right now — and will continue to after the world moves on to the next news cycle — you’ll know you’re doing things right if you start to lose friends.

A lot of folks are talking out right now because it’s safe. Everybody is saying, “Black lives matter” and a lot of them were people who, last week, were quiet. I respect it. Thank you for speaking out now. But the real work is going to come and it’s going to challenge people you love. It’s going to make them uncomfortable.

Histories of Violence: Why We Should All Read Malcolm X Today

At the Los Angeles Review of Books, political philosopher and critical theorist Brad Evans talks with Kehinde Andrews, a professor of Black Studies at Birmingham City University and the director of the Centre for Black Studies, about Malcolm X and how his message has influenced his understanding of violence in today’s world.

Justice can only be found in the creation of a new political and economic system. The roots of oppression are coded into the DNA of racial capitalism. The pretense that there can ever be justice within this framework is one of the biggest myths that holds back transformative change. 

For additional reading, browse the latest posts in the Black Lives Matter tag, or dive into our Discover archives of editors’ picks:

The Cocoamattic Employee Resource Group (ERG) at Automattic recently compiled resources on how to support the fight against racial injustice and ways to support your Black colleagues and friends.