7 Books to Read Right Now to Help Support BIPOC In Your Community and Beyond

updated Jun 8, 2020
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The aftermath of the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor (not to mention the many others) has caused pain, protests, and for many people, a desire to better understand the causes of systemic racism and how to act proactively against it. As with many things, one of the best places to start is with a book.

There are countless books that detail the Black experience, the pain and roots of how we got here, and help build a context and framework for anyone who wants to learn the best way to show their anti-racist allyship. Here are some to consider*:

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The New Jim Crow

Published ten years ago, legal scholar Michelle Alexander’s book explains how mass incarceration—aided by the War on Drugs—in the United States has effectively created a new caste system. Alexander’s book has been so influential that it helped inspire the Marshall Project, which is focused on bringing attention to criminal justice issues.

Buy: “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander, $9.99 from Amazon

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How to Be an Antiracist

This book is exactly what the title suggests: It’s a comprehensive explanation of the complex layers of systemic racism that goes on to share how to combat it, both in thought and action. It combines author Ibram X. Kendi’s personal experience with ethics, law, science, and more to provide readers with an illuminating, informative guide.

Buy: “How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi, $14.99 on Amazon

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The Warmth of Other Suns

Isabel Wilkerson’s book about the Great Migration brings to life the stories of Black families and individuals who fled the Jim Crow South in search of equality and a better life in the 20th century. Not only does this book contextualize the “undocumented immigration” that occurred, but it helps explain the racism and social issues that plague cities and communities today.

Buy: “The Warmth of Other Suns” by Isabel Wilkerson, $12.99 from Amazon

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The Bluest Eye

“The Bluest Eye,” Toni Morrison’s searing first novel about a young black girl who prays to have the blonde hair and titular blue eyes that she’s been led to believe are ideal, helps show how institutionalized racism affects children from a young age, and the heartbreaking consequences it wreaks.

Buy: “The Bluest Eye” by Toni Morrison, $11.99 from Amazon

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So You Want to Talk About Race

For many people, it can be difficult to bring up a conversation about race, even if their hearts and actions are in the right place. Luckily, Ijeoma Oluo wrote a book that helps you do just that—she provides language, prompts, and frameworks for people who are ready to have the difficult, but necessary, talks.

Buy: “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo, $10.99 on Kindle

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White Fragility

If you’re a white person who’s an ally and strives to support BIPOC but still wonders why it’s hard to discuss or contend with white privilege, Robin DiAngelo provides an eye-opening examination in this book. It’s a great companion book with “So You Want to Talk About Race”—one helps you figure out why it’s hard to talk about, and the other helps you actually do it.

Buy: “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo, $12.99 from Amazon

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Notes of a Native Son

James Baldwin’s series of essays capture what it was like to be Black in the ’40s and ’50s, just before the Civil Rights Era and helped establish him as a preeminent social critic. His book is frank, powerful, and just as relevant today as it was when it was published in 1955.

Buy: “Notes of a Native Son” by James Baldwin, $11.99 from Kindle

Prices listed here are for the Amazon Kindle edition, as many titles are out of stock in paperback and hardback. Check with your local or favorite independent book seller to see what they have in stock—or reach out to one of these black-owned bookstores:

*This, of course, is by no means an exhaustive list. This, this, and this provide even more essays and books to consider. I’d love to hear from you in the comments about the books and texts that have helped you, or you feel are important for everyone to read.