Over the weekend, Dean Beardsley wrote about Darden’s commitment to action around issues of race and equity. He talked about actively dismantling racism and bias and how taking actions in that vein are central to being a business leader and a major part of helping black students, staff, and faculty achieve their greatest possible potential. Another major component of that work is learning more about the history of race and discrimination in the United States and beyond. I have had many white colleagues and friends recently inquire about how they can start on that journey of discovery. And while Google is a great place to start, it’s certainly easy to be led astray. Below, and in subsequent posts I’ll recommend books, articles, and other media that can help establish your allyship bona fides. As a bonus, publisher’s weekly has compiled a list of Black-owned bookstores in the United States so that folks can not only support anti-racist thought leadership, but also Black businesses. Lastly, I’ll stress, that whatever medium you choose to engage in, the important thing is that you choose to engage.
Allyship Starter Pack: Books
Debby Irving’s book provides a template to emulate in how one contends and thinks about race. f Through a series of personal vignettes, reflections and exercises, Irving shares her own journey from obliviousness to awareness. If you’re feeling helpless about where to start, this is a good introduction.
Using her many years as a trainer and educator in diversity and inclusion, sociologist Robin D’Angelo explains why it can be so difficult to talk about race in a meaningful way, and the responses and reactions that lead people to shut down meaningful dialogues about race. If you find that talking about race makes you upset, anxious or defensive, D’Angelo provides tools that can help a person move past those reactions into meaningful dialogue.
Penned as a novel length letter to his 15 year old son, Between the World and Me is a work that unflinchingly and unsparingly chronicles the experience of being Black in the United States, and the attendant fear, anxiety, and trauma that follow. The book does not offer pat solutions, but forces the reader to reflect and examine if and how they will struggle with the reality of racism.
Taken from the perspective of a civil rights attorney and legal scholar, Alexander provides a sobering account of the legal system in the United States and how it’s construction mirrors and amplifies the effects of the Jim Crow era south. This is a must read if you want to understand why the police in particular are being called into question by the Black lives matter movement.
Stevenson’s memoir on his own history and the founding of the Equal Justice Initiative provides a compelling, intimate and personal counterpoint to Michelle Alexander’s work. In offering an unflinching chronicle of working through a racist criminal justice system to save the life of one man, Stevenson threads the needle perfectly between explaining racism on a systemic and individual level.
Practical, tactical, and straightforward, author and activist Layla Saad deepens and start to create a nuanced understanding of racism. Her perspective as a Black person growing up in the UK and living in Qatar help extend the conversation beyond the United States, while also equipping readers with essential tools to begin combating bias and racism on a personal and systemic level. Get your pencils ready.
Oluo provides an instruction manual for anyone who wants to talk about race. If you find yourself wanting to have the conversation but not knowing where to start, what to say, how to say it, or who to say it to, or how to make your point clear, Oluo clarifies. By framing each chapter as a topic or question, providing arguments and counterarguments, she creates essential scripts that people of all races can benefit from.
If you’re ready to move from dialogue to action, and ready to envision a world that is built from a stance of anti-racism and opposition to prejudice and all it’s forms, Kendi’s book helps to invigorate and inspire readers to take personal responsibility for dismantling systems that uphold injustice.