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7 books about racism every adult should read right now

As the nation reels from the death of George Floyd while in police custody, many Americans struggle to grasp how these crimes against minorities can still occur in the US in 2020.

To help educate about racism, here are seven groundbreaking books — all of which are part of the Brooklyn Public Library’s Black Lives Matter reading list for adults — that illuminate the struggles faced by people of color today.

“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

"Between The World And Me" by Ta-Nehisi Coates
“Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi CoatesAmazon

Few books capture the modern black experience like Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me.” Written as a novel-length letter to his son, Coates brilliantly draws upon everything from the Civil War to his own childhood to demonstrate how racism rears its ugly head to this day. It’s no wonder that the prescient work has become the bible for the Black Lives Matter movement.

"White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism" by Robin DiAngelo
“White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People To Talk About Racism” by Robin DiAngeloAmazon

Feel a sudden rush of indignation upon reading the phrase “white fragility”? That feeling is the basis for this New York Times best seller by anti-racism educator Robin DiAngelo, who explores “the counterproductive reactions white people have when their assumptions about race are challenged, and how these reactions maintain racial inequality,” according to the book’s description. “White Fragility” does a magnificent job explaining how the condition afflicts even “non-racists” and what we can do to overcome this systemic butterfly effect.

“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race” by Beverly Daniel Tatum

"Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?": And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum
“Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race” by Beverly Daniel TatumAmazon

Ever wonder why kids of the same ethnicity still seem to self-segregate? In her 1997 opus, racial psychology expert Beverly Daniel Tatum addresses this phenomenon and other cultural elephants in the room that people avoid discussing. Tatum argues in favor of straight talk with regard to race if we are to shatter ethnic boundaries and heal as a nation.

"The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness" by Michelle Alexander 
“The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle AlexanderAmazon

Dubbed “one of the most influential books of the past 20 years” by the Chronicle of Higher Education, Michelle Alexander’s masterwork has been cited in multiple judicial decisions and even won the prestigious NAACP Image Award for nonfiction. In her groundbreaking 2010 book, Alexander illuminates the striking parallels between the racist Jim Crow legislation of post-Reconstruction America and the oppressive criminal justice system of today.

“The New Jim Crow” can be summed up in Alexander’s earth-shattering line: “We have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.”

“How To Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi

"How to Be An Anti-racist" by Ibram X. Kendi
“How to Be An Antiracist” by Ibram X. KendiAmazon

Racism doesn’t always come as a cross-burning Klansmen — it’s often born out of apathy. “How To Be an Antiracist” helps people become better allies by identifying all forms of racism, understanding their consequences and working to nip them in the bud before they snowball.

"Just Mercy: A Story Of Justice And Redemption" by Bryan Stevenson
“Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan StevensonAmazon

This is the inspiring true story behind the movie starring Michael B Jordan. “Just Mercy” follows idealistic young lawyer Bryan Stevenson as he fights for the poor, the wrongly condemned, and other outcasts of an unfair criminal justice system. The 2019 film adaptation, which also stars Jamie Foxx, is now available for free to watch online.

“The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin

"The Fire Next Time" by James Baldwin
“The Fire Next Time” by James BaldwinAmazon

Often credited as giving voice to the Civil Rights movement, James Baldwin’s pioneering 1963 book “The Fire Next Time” chronicles the author’s early life in Harlem and the ramifications of racial inequality. The provocative piece still resonates almost 60 years later, even providing the basis for Coates’ landmark best seller “Between the World and Me” from 2015.

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