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27 Books for Adults to Learn About Racism and Diversity

by Tiffany
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If you are trying to understand race, diveristy, and bias better, this list of 26 books about race and diversity for adults will give you that understanding.  In a world with white privilege and unintentional racism and bias based on the color of someone’s skin, these books will help you better understand why the divide is there and how we can become a country where everyone is treated equally.

Links on this website may be affiliate links.  We are an Amazon affiliate, which means we will receive a small compensation for each purchase you make through our links at no extra cost to you. 

Like many white people right now, we are trying right now to understand what many people in this country have to deal with on a daily basis.

We have always been very clear and adamant to our childrent that skin color makes no difference in a person’s value to God.  Skin color doesn’t define a person’s worth any more than hair or eye color.

We’ve taken in children of color as foster parents, we are friends with people of color, and we served our missions in the Caribbean – Barbados, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic.  We firmly believe that all are alike unto God, and we have so much love for people of color.

However, not everyone believes this way.  Racism and biases strongly exist in this country, and white privilege is a real thing.

Our experiences with loved ones don’t even come close to helping us understand what is really going on in this country with regards to race and diversity.

The fact that black parents have to have this conversation with their children in this decade is sickening:

How can we understand just how entrenched it is in society when we haven’t experienced it ourselves?

The closest we’ve come is being missionaries in Barbados where we were one of the few white people on island, and we were labelled at elitist, spoiled tourists – which is nothing compared to being labelled as dangerous.  Our lives were never at risk.

We reached out on social media, specifically to people and women of color, to get a list of accurate, helpful books that we can use to understand as adults what too many children of God live with every day.

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Plan on using this list?  Please share it on Pinterest!  And if you are looking for books for children, you can check out our post with 35 books for kids about race and diversity.

Books for Adults About Racism and Diversity

Here are the many books that friends and acquaintances of color have recommended to us as accurate ways to teach yourselves.  You can also check out our post on books for children to educate yourself.

Although we are sharing the Amazon links for these books, we also strongly recommend you support these independent black-owned bookstores by purchasing from them, even if the cost is a little more than Amazon.

 

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

The New York Times best-selling book exploring the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality.

Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what can be done to engage more constructively.

 

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor

Based on the viral Instagram challenge that captivated participants worldwide, Me and White Supremacy takes readers on a 28-day journey, complete with journal prompts, to do the necessary and vital work that can ultimately lead to improving race relations.

Updated and expanded from the original workbook (downloaded by nearly 100,000 people), this critical text helps you take the work deeper by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and including expanded definitions, examples, and further resources, giving you the language to understand racism, and to dismantle your own biases, whether you are using the book on your own, with a book club, or looking to start family activism in your own home.
This book will walk you step-by-step through the work of examining:

  • Examining your own white privilege
  • What allyship really means
  • Anti-blackness, racial stereotypes, and cultural appropriation
  • Changing the way that you view and respond to race
  • How to continue the work to create social change

Awareness leads to action, and action leads to change. For those who are ready to closely examine their own beliefs and biases and do the work it will take to create social change.

 

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do

From one of the world’s leading experts on unconscious racial bias, a personal examination of one of the central controversies and culturally powerful issues of our time, and its influence on contemporary race relations and criminal justice.

We do not have to be racist to be biased. With a perspective that is both scientific, investigative, and also informed by personal experience, Eberhardt offers a reasoned look into the effects of implicit racial bias, ranging from the subtle to the dramatic. Racial bias can lead to disparities in education, employment, housing, and the criminal justice system–and then those very disparities further reinforce the problem. In Biased, Eberhardt reveals how even when we are not aware of bias and genuinely wish to treat all people equally, ingrained stereotypes can infect our visual perception, attention, memory, and behavior.

 

Between the World and Me

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.

 

How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide

How to Be Less Stupid About Race is your essential guide to breaking through the half-truths and ridiculous misconceptions that have thoroughly corrupted the way race is represented in the classroom, pop culture, media, and politics. Centuries after our nation was founded on genocide, settler colonialism, and slavery, many Americans are kinda-sorta-maybe waking up to the reality that our racial politics are (still) garbage. But in the midst of this reckoning, widespread denial and misunderstandings about race persist, even as white supremacy and racial injustice are more visible than ever before.

Combining no-holds-barred social critique, humorous personal anecdotes, and analysis of the latest interdisciplinary scholarship on systemic racism, sociologist Crystal M. Fleming provides a fresh, accessible, and irreverent take on everything that’s wrong with our “national conversation about race.” Drawing upon critical race theory, as well as her own experiences as a queer black millennial college professor and researcher, Fleming unveils how systemic racism exposes us all to racial ignorance—and provides a road map for transforming our knowledge into concrete social change.

Searing, sobering, and urgently needed, How to Be Less Stupid About Race is a truth bomb for your racist relative, friend, or boss, and a call to action for everyone who wants to challenge white supremacy and intersectional oppression. If you like Issa Rae, Justin Simien, Angela Davis, and Morgan Jerkins, then this deeply relevant, bold, and incisive book is for you.

 

Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out

“Racism is a heart disease,” writes Ruth King, “and it’s curable.” Exploring a crucial topic seldom addressed in meditation instruction, this revered teacher takes to her pen to shine a compassionate, provocative, and practical light into a deeply neglected and world-changing domain profoundly relevant to all of us.
 
With Mindful of Race, Ruth King offers:
 
Tend first to our suffering, listen to what it is trying to teach us, and direct its energies most effectively for change.
 
Here, she invites us to explore: 

  • Ourselves as racial beings, the dynamics of oppression, and our role in racism
  • The power of paying homage to our most turbulent emotions, and perceiving the wisdom they hold
  • Key mindfulness tools to understand and engage with racial tension
  • Identifying our “soft spots” of fear and vulnerability—how we defend them and how to heal them
  • Embracing discomfort, which is a core competency for transformation
  • How our thoughts and emotions “rigidify” our sense of self—and how to return to the natural flow of who we are
  • Body, breath, and relaxation practices to befriend and direct our inner resources
  • Identifying our most sensitive “activation points” and tending to them with caring awareness
  • “It’s not just your pain”—the generational constellations of racial rage and ignorance and how to work with them
  • And many other compelling topics

 Drawing on her expertise as a meditation teacher and diversity consultant, King helps readers of all backgrounds examine with fresh eyes the complexity of racial identity and the dynamics of oppression. She offers guided instructions on how to work with our own role in the story of race and shows us how to cultivate a culture of care to come to a place of greater clarity and compassion.

 

The Hate U Give

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

 

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

“Jarvious Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.”

As the United States celebrates the nation’s “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status–much like their grandparents before them.

In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community–and all of us–to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.

 

A Long Walk to Water

A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about a girl in Sudan in 2008 and a boy in Sudan in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way. 

 

One Race One Blood: The Biblical Answer to Racism

Racism is a sin issue, not a skin issue. The consequences of racism on a personal and social level are appalling and in some situations even terrifying. Ken Ham, of Answers in Genesis, and Charles Ware address the horrors of racial discrimination with biblical truth and scientific proof that God created only one race.

“And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth…” (Acts 17:26 KJV)

Racism is a result of sin in a fallen world infused with evolutionary thinking. Explore the origin of people groups around the world and the science of genetics, melanin, and skin tone, all affected by the history of the Tower of Babel.

In One Race One Blood, Ken Ham and Charles Ware challenge the Church to move beyond the division of Darwinian “race” relations to the unity of grace relations. Loving relationships united by the Cross and governed by the Bible will lead to reconciliation. Such relationships among Christians across cultural and ethnic backgrounds are like a neon sign publicizing that grace has transformed and identified us as followers of Christ.

Christian families and churches will find solid, biblical answers to combat the hatred fueling personal prejudices and race-related riots. This essential book will inspire the hearts of believers to overcome evil with good and make the 21st century a generation of reconciliation.

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration

From 1915 to 1970, this exodus of almost six million people changed the face of America. Wilkerson compares this epic migration to the migrations of other peoples in history. She interviewed more than a thousand people, and gained access to new data and official records, to write this definitive and vividly dramatic account of how these American journeys unfolded, altering our cities, our country, and ourselves.
 
With stunning historical detail, Wilkerson tells this story through the lives of three unique individuals: Ida Mae Gladney, who in 1937 left sharecropping and prejudice in Mississippi for Chicago, where she achieved quiet blue-collar success and, in old age, voted for Barack Obama when he ran for an Illinois Senate seat; sharp and quick-tempered George Starling, who in 1945 fled Florida for Harlem, where he endangered his job fighting for civil rights, saw his family fall, and finally found peace in God; and Robert Foster, who left Louisiana in 1953 to pursue a medical career, the personal physician to Ray Charles as part of a glitteringly successful medical career, which allowed him to purchase a grand home where he often threw exuberant parties.

Wilkerson brilliantly captures their first treacherous and exhausting cross-country trips by car and train and their new lives in colonies that grew into ghettos, as well as how they changed these cities with southern food, faith, and culture and improved them with discipline, drive, and hard work. Both a riveting microcosm and a major assessment, The Warmth of Other Suns is a bold, remarkable, and riveting work, a superb account of an “unrecognized immigration” within our own land. Through the breadth of its narrative, the beauty of the writing, the depth of its research, and the fullness of the people and lives portrayed herein, this book is destined to become a classic.

 

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. And it is also Cassie’s story—Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family, even as she learns to draw strength from her own sense of dignity and self-respect.

 

How to Be an Antiracist

Antiracism is a transformative concept that reorients and reenergizes the conversation about racism—and, even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. At it’s core, racism is a powerful system that creates false hierarchies of human value; its warped logic extends beyond race, from the way we regard people of different ethnicities or skin colors to the way we treat people of different sexes, gender identities, and body types. Racism intersects with class and culture and geography and even changes the way we see and value ourselves. In How to Be an Antiracist, Kendi takes readers through a widening circle of antiracist ideas—from the most basic concepts to visionary possibilites—that will help readers see all forms of racism clearly, understand their posionous consequences, and work to oppose them in our systems and in ourselves.

Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.

 

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race

Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see Black, White, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides. These topics have only become more urgent as the national conversation about race is increasingly acrimonious. This fully revised edition is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the dynamics of race in America.

 

I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

Austin Channing Brown’s first encounter with a racialized America came at age 7, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools, organizations, and churches, Austin writes, “I had to learn what it means to love blackness,” a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America’s racial divide as a writer, speaker and expert who helps organizations practice genuine inclusion.

In a time when nearly all institutions (schools, churches, universities, businesses) claim to value “diversity” in their mission statements, I’m Still Here is a powerful account of how and why our actions so often fall short of our words. Austin writes in breathtaking detail about her journey to self-worth and the pitfalls that kill our attempts at racial justice, in stories that bear witness to the complexity of America’s social fabric–from Black Cleveland neighborhoods to private schools in the middle-class suburbs, from prison walls to the boardrooms at majority-white organizations.

For readers who have engaged with America’s legacy on race through the writing of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Michael Eric Dyson, I’m Still Here is an illuminating look at how white, middle-class, Evangelicalism has participated in an era of rising racial hostility, inviting the reader to confront apathy, recognize God’s ongoing work in the world, and discover how blackness–if we let it–can save us all.

 

An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States

Today in the United States, there are more than five hundred federally recognized Indigenous nations comprising nearly three million people, descendants of the fifteen million Native people who once inhabited this land. The centuries-long genocidal program of the US settler-colonial regimen has largely been omitted from history. Now, for the first time, acclaimed historian and activist Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz offers a history of the United States told from the perspective of Indigenous peoples and reveals how Native Americans, for centuries, actively resisted expansion of the US empire.

In An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, Dunbar-Ortiz adroitly challenges the founding myth of the United States and shows how policy against the Indigenous peoples was colonialist and designed to seize the territories of the original inhabitants, displacing or eliminating them. And as Dunbar-Ortiz reveals, this policy was praised in popular culture, through writers like James Fenimore Cooper and Walt Whitman, and in the highest offices of government and the military. Shockingly, as the genocidal policy reached its zenith under President Andrew Jackson, its ruthlessness was best articulated by US Army general Thomas S. Jesup, who, in 1836, wrote of the Seminoles: “The country can be rid of them only by exterminating them.”
 
Spanning more than four hundred years, this classic bottom-up peoples’ history radically reframes US history and explodes the silences that have haunted our national narrative.

 

So You Want to Talk About Race

Widespread reporting on aspects of white supremacy–from police brutality to the mass incarceration of Black Americans–has put a media spotlight on racism in our society. Still, it is a difficult subject to talk about. How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair–and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend?

In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.

 

My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies

The body is where our instincts reside and where we fight, flee, or freeze, and it endures the trauma inflicted by the ills that plague society. Menakem argues this destruction will continue until Americans learn to heal the generational anguish of white supremacy, which is deeply embedded in all our bodies. Our collective agony doesn’t just affect African Americans. White Americans suffer their own secondary trauma as well. So do blue Americans—our police.

My Grandmother’s Hands is a call to action for all of us to recognize that racism is not about the head, but about the body, and introduces an alternative view of what we can do to grow beyond our entrenched racialized divide.

  • Paves the way for a new, body-centered understanding of white supremacy—how it is literally in our blood and our nervous system.
  • Offers a step-by-step healing process, in addition to incisive social commentary.

 

Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

Some Americans insist that we’re living in a post-racial society. But racist thought is not just alive and well in America–it is more sophisticated and more insidious than ever. And as award-winning historian Ibram X. Kendi argues, racist ideas have a long and lingering history, one in which nearly every great American thinker is complicit.

In this deeply researched and fast-moving narrative, Kendi chronicles the entire story of anti-black racist ideas and their staggering power over the course of American history. He uses the life stories of five major American intellectuals to drive this history: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and legendary activist Angela Davis.

As Kendi shows, racist ideas did not arise from ignorance or hatred. They were created to justify and rationalize deeply entrenched discriminatory policies and the nation’s racial inequities.

In shedding light on this history, Stamped from the Beginning offers us the tools we need to expose racist thinking. In the process, he gives us reason to hope.

 

Citizen: An American Lyric

Claudia Rankine’s bold new book recounts mounting racial aggressions in ongoing encounters in twenty-first-century daily life and in the media. Some of these encounters are slights, seeming slips of the tongue, and some are intentional offensives in the classroom, at the supermarket, at home, on the tennis court with Serena Williams and the soccer field with Zinedine Zidane, online, on TV-everywhere, all the time. The accumulative stresses come to bear on a person’s ability to speak, perform, and stay alive. Our addressability is tied to the state of our belonging, Rankine argues, as are our assumptions and expectations of citizenship. In essay, image, and poetry, Citizen is a powerful testament to the individual and collective effects of racism in our contemporary, often named “post-race” society.

 

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

 

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

In 2014, award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t affected by it. She posted a piece on her blog, entitled: “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race.”

Her words hit a nerve. The post went viral and comments flooded in from others desperate to speak up about their own experiences. Galvanized by this clear hunger for open discussion, she decided to dig into the source of these feelings. Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of color in Britain today.

 

Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do

How do we talk about bias? How do we address racial disparities and inequities? What role do our institutions play in creating, maintaining, and magnifying those inequities? What role do we play? With a perspective that is at once scientific, investigative, and informed by personal experience, Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt offers us the language and courage we need to face one of the biggest and most troubling issues of our time. She exposes racial bias at all levels of society—in our neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and criminal justice system. Yet she also offers us tools to address it. Eberhardt shows us how we can be vulnerable to bias but not doomed to live under its grip. Racial bias is a problem that we all have a role to play in solving.

 

American Lynching

After observing the varying reactions to the 1998 death of James Byrd Jr. in Texas, called a lynching by some, denied by others, Ashraf Rushdy determined that to comprehend this event he needed to understand the long history of lynching in the United States. In this meticulously researched and accessibly written interpretive history, Rushdy shows how lynching in America has endured, evolved, and changed in meaning over the course of three centuries, from its origins in early Virginia to the present day.

Rushdy argues that we can understand what lynching means in American history by examining its evolution—that is, by seeing how the practice changes in both form and meaning over the course of three centuries, by analyzing the rationales its advocates have made in its defense, and, finally, by explicating its origins. The best way of understanding what lynching has meant in different times, and for different populations, during the course of American history is by seeing both the continuities in the practice over time and the specific features in different forms of lynching in different eras.

 

Negroes with Guns (African American Life Series)

First published in 1962, Negroes with Guns is the story of a southern black community’s struggle to arm itself in self-defense against the Ku Klux Klan and other racist groups. Frustrated and angered by violence condoned or abetted by the local authorities against blacks, the small community of Monroe, North Carolina, brought the issue of armed self-defense to the forefront of the civil rights movement. The single most important intellectual influence on Huey P. Newton, the founder of the Black Panther Party, Negroes with Guns is a classic story of a man who risked his life for democracy and freedom.

 

The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother

A young African-American man describes growing up in an all-black Brooklyn housing project, one of twelve children of a white mother and black father, and discusses his mother’s contributions to his life and coming to terms with his confusion over his own identity.

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2 comments

Nikki June 17, 2020 - 7:08 am

Love that you’re sharing these! I’m busy with “So you want to talk about race” and I’m learning sooo much x

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Melanie June 17, 2020 - 7:54 am

This is great! I was looking for more resources like this!

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