Systemic racism — nobody denies it’s an overwhelming concept that can sometimes appear insurmountable. However, if there’s one universal truth about overcoming a problem it’s this; first, you must acknowledge its existence.
Following that? Education.
On the tails of our list of recommended childrens books about race relations, we have turned to our friend Jordan Turner, owner of renowned Sydney bookstore Gertrude and Alice.
In a time when many people didn’t know how to support the Black Lives Matter movement beyond simple donations, Jordan stepped up with a list of essential books to get people on their journey to really understanding complexities of race relations both here in Australia and in the USA.
We’re grateful to him for doing so.
First Nations Australians
Dark Emu, Bruce Pascoe (Young Dark Emu is an edition written for children)
Australia’s history books wrongly portrayed this country’s First Nations peoples as basic hunter-gatherers (largely suspected to be a convenient lie to justify mass dispossession).
Pascoe’s groundbreaking and award-winning book refutes that story as unfounded, detailing the complex systems of planting, irrigation, harvesting, and storing of food.
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Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, edited by Anita Heiss
Essential reading for anyone looking to shift their perspective. Here, award-winning author Anita Heiss has compiled accounts from high profile identities from all ages and stages, sharing unique Australian experiences that also share a devastating common thread.
The Biggest Estate on Earth, Bill Gammage
Historian Bill Gammage dedicated decades to understanding the rich agricultural systems of our First Nations peoples — but don’t be fooled — this is more than just a book about farming. What might appear as a study on land management reveals the dangerous implications white colonialism has on all Australians centuries later.
Too Much Lip, Melissa Lucashenko
Melissa Lucashenko’s masterful novel that brings new meaning to the term ‘dark comedy’. On one level it’s your traditional family drama but all set against all the complexities of modern First Nations lives, revealing the effects of generational trauma. There’s fortune-telling, funerals, and a friendly local cop, making it an accessible but entirely thought-provoking read.
Diversity in Australia
The Hate Race, Maxine Beneba Clarke
An award-winning memoir about growing up Afro-Caribbean amongst the casual racism of white suburban middle-class Australia during the 1980s and 90s.
African-American History in America
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge
This is THE book to read on understanding white privilege in the new millennium. What started as a blog post by Eddo-Lodge became a manifesto for a generation of African-Americans who had spent too many exhausting hours explaining the unfair status quo to an often willfully ignorant audience.
White Fragility, Robin Diangelo
A powerful guidebook for tackling the more nuanced affectations of white privilege, tackling sayings such as ‘it’s not me’ and ‘I’m doing my best, what do you want from me’. For Diangelo, the crux of modern racism is steeped in humility (and not having enough of it). A brilliant read for anyone who has felt anger, fear, guilt, denial, and stayed silent in the face of racism.
I Am Not Your Negro, James Baldwin
Based on the unfinished novel ‘Remember This House’ by activist James Baldwin, this book (and now incredible documentary by Raoul Peck and narrated by Samuel L Jackson) is a collection of some of Baldwin’s most powerful passages, letters and notes on the state of racism in the United States following the murder of civil rights leaders Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. A soul-stirring film and read.
Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson
A confronting look at the corrupt and prejudiced trappings of the current criminal justice system in the United States and a moving window into the lives of those persecuted by it.
Me & White Supremacy, Layla F. Saad
For Saad, the dismantling of prejudice lies in action, rather than intellectualism and her book is an essential source for anyone interested in doing the work required to challenge overt and covert systems of white supremacy.
The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
A riveting fiction based on the all-too-prevalent reality of police brutality. Thomas tells the tale of a young American girl who lives a predominantly black neighborhood but attends a mostly white private school.
Her life is torn in two when she is the sole witness to a homicide of her best friend by a policeman and documents the complex strain she faces as she has to testify before a grand jury. Now a critically acclaimed film, this is a fiercely honest and tragically timely story.
I also recommend I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou, If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin, and anything by Toni Morrison.