An Anti-racist Reading List

The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’

The heartbeat of racism is denial.

— Ibram X. Kendi

It’s been said that racism is so American that when we protest racism, some assume we’re protesting America.

— Beyoncé Knowles

Now is a good time to read these books, follow these authors, confront our history, and unpack what we need to unpack.

Systemic racism is a machine that runs whether we pull the levers or not, and by just letting it be, we are responsible for what it produces. We have to actually dismantle the machine if we want to make change.

Source: Oluo, Ijeoma. So You Want to Talk About Race (pp. 29-30).

When social scientists describe racism as “systemic,” we’re referring to collective practices and representations that disadvantage categories of human beings on the basis of their perceived “race.” The key word here is “collective.” Much of the racial stupidity we encounter in everyday life derives from the fact that people think of racism as individual prejudice rather than a broader system and structure of power.

The thing about white supremacy is that it socializes all of us to minimize its terror, to systematically deny or underestimate the harm. “We’ve come so far,” “Things are getting better,” “It could be worse”—all of these tropes minimize racial terror. Americans have been socialized to look on the bright side despite centuries of colonial and racial violence, torture, and the oppression of minorities. Our problem is not and has never been overreacting to racial terror. Our problem is the hegemony of under-reaction, denial, minimization. Ours is a society that has always socialized white folks to live in the midst of racial oppression but go on with their lives like normal. At every turn, those who oppose white supremacy have been met with denial, violence, “race card” accusations, or magnificent claims about progress. It seems that in the minds of many white liberals, we should all be celebrating the fact that most of us are not physically in chains. White supremacy wants you to look at four hundred years of uninterrupted racial terror and conclude “Things aren’t so bad.”

Source: Fleming, Crystal Marie. How to Be Less Stupid About Race (p. 12, pp. 128-129).

Being seen racially is a common trigger of white fragility, and thus, to build our stamina, white people must face the first challenge: naming our race.

White people in North America live in a society that is deeply separate and unequal by race, and white people are the beneficiaries of that separation and inequality. As a result, we are insulated from racial stress, at the same time that we come to feel entitled to and deserving of our advantage. Given how seldom we experience racial discomfort in a society we dominate, we haven’t had to build our racial stamina.

Source: DiAngelo, Robin J.. White Fragility (pp. 1-2, p. 7).

White rage is not about visible violence, but rather it works its way through the courts, the legislatures, and a range of government bureaucracies. It wreaks havoc subtly, almost imperceptibly. Too imperceptibly, certainly, for a nation consistently drawn to the spectacular—to what it can see. It’s not the Klan. White rage doesn’t have to wear sheets, burn crosses, or take to the streets. Working the halls of power, it can achieve its ends far more effectively, far more destructively.

The trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement. It is not the mere presence of black people that is the problem; rather, it is blackness with ambition, with drive, with purpose, with aspirations, and with demands for full and equal citizenship.

The truth is, white rage has undermined democracy, warped the Constitution, weakened the nation’s ability to compete economically, squandered billions of dollars on baseless incarceration, rendered an entire region sick, poor, and woefully undereducated, and left cities nothing less than decimated. All this havoc has been wreaked simply because African Americans wanted to work, get an education, live in decent communities, raise their families, and vote. Because they were unwilling to take no for an answer.

Source: Anderson Ph.D., Carol. White Rage (p. 3, p. 6).

History duels: the undeniable history of antiracist progress, the undeniable history of racist progress. Before and after the Civil War, before and after civil rights, before and after the first Black presidency, the White consciousness duels. The White body defines the American body. The White body segregates the Black body from the American body. The White body instructs the Black body to assimilate into the American body. The White body rejects the Black body assimilating into the American body—and history and consciousness duel anew.

The Black body in turn experiences the same duel. The Black body is instructed to become an American body. The American body is the White body. The Black body strives to assimilate into the American body. The American body rejects the Black body. The Black body separates from the American body. The Black body is instructed to assimilate into the American body—and history and consciousness duel anew.

But there is a way to get free. To be antiracist is to emancipate oneself from the dueling consciousness. To be antiracist is to conquer the assimilationist consciousness and the segregationist consciousness. The White body no longer presents itself as the American body; the Black body no longer strives to be the American body, knowing there is no such thing as the American body, only American bodies, racialized by power.

Source: Kendi, Ibram X.. How to Be an Antiracist (p. 33).

Racist and Antiracist Definitions from “How to Be an Antiracist”

How to Be an Antiracist” opens up each chapter with a racist and anti-racist definition. I copied them out for my own reference.

Chapter 1, Definitions

RACIST: One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea.

ANTIRACIST: One who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing an antiracist idea.

Chapter 2, Dueling Consciousness

ASSIMILATIONIST: One who is expressing the racist idea that a racial group is culturally or behaviorally inferior and is supporting cultural or behavioral enrichment programs to develop that racial group.

SEGREGATIONIST: One who is expressing the racist idea that a permanently inferior racial group can never be developed and is supporting policy that segregates away that racial group.

ANTIRACIST: One who is expressing the idea that racial groups are equals and none needs developing, and is supporting policy that reduces racial inequity.

Chapter 3, Power

RACE: A power construct of collected or merged difference that lives socially.

Chapter 4, Biology

BIOLOGICAL RACIST: One who is expressing the idea that the races are meaningfully different in their biology and that these differences create a hierarchy of value.

BIOLOGICAL ANTIRACIST: One who is expressing the idea that the races are meaningfully the same in their biology and there are no genetic racial differences.

Chapter 5, Ethnicity

ETHNIC RACISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequity between racialized ethnic groups and are substantiated by racist ideas about racialized ethnic groups.

ETHNIC ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between racialized ethnic groups and are substantiated by antiracist ideas about racialized ethnic groups.

Chapter 6, Body

BODILY RACIST: One who is perceiving certain racialized bodies as more animal-like and violent than others.

BODILY ANTIRACIST: One who is humanizing, deracializing, and individualizing nonviolent and violent behavior.

Chapter 7, Culture

CULTURAL RACIST: One who is creating a cultural standard and imposing a cultural hierarchy among racial groups.

CULTURAL ANTIRACIST: One who is rejecting cultural standards and equalizing cultural differences among racial groups.

Chapter 8, Behavior

BEHAVIORAL RACIST: One who is making individuals responsible for the perceived behavior of racial groups and making racial groups responsible for the behavior of individuals.

BEHAVIORAL ANTIRACIST: One who is making racial group behavior fictional and individual behavior real.

Chapter 9, Color

COLORISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequities between Light people and Dark people, supported by racist ideas about Light and Dark people.

COLOR ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between Light people and Dark people, supported by antiracist ideas about Light and Dark people.

Chapter 10, White

ANTI-WHITE RACIST: One who is classifying people of European descent as biologically, culturally, or behaviorally inferior or conflating the entire race of White people with racist power.

Chapter 11, Black

POWERLESS DEFENSE: The illusory, concealing, disempowering, and racist idea that Black people can’t be racist because Black people don’t have power.

Chapter 12, Class

CLASS RACIST: One who is racializing the classes, supporting policies of racial capitalism against those race-classes, and justifying them by racist ideas about those race-classes.

ANTIRACIST ANTICAPITALIST: One who is opposing racial capitalism.

Chapter 13, Space

SPACE RACISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to resource inequity between racialized spaces or the elimination of certain racialized spaces, which are substantiated by racist ideas about racialized spaces.

SPACE ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity between integrated and protected racialized spaces, which are substantiated by antiracist ideas about racialized spaces.

Chapter 14, Gender

GENDER RACISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequity between race-genders and are substantiated by racist ideas about race-genders.

GENDER ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between race-genders and are substantiated by antiracist ideas about race-genders.

Chapter 15, Sexuality

QUEER RACISM: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequity between race-sexualities and are substantiated by racist ideas about race-sexualities.

QUEER ANTIRACISM: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between race-sexualities and are substantiated by antiracist ideas about race-sexualities.

Chapter 16, Failure

ACTIVIST: One who has a record of power or policy change.

Empty the Pews of Toxic Christianity

There is a great exodus taking place in Christian circles. Can it be called a loss of faith? I don’t think so. It is rather a loss of confidence in everything at once. Christianity has always been about “the Word,” but these days, words don’t seem to matter. They’ve lost their power to describe and convince in the face of horrible deeds, from climate-change denial to the persecution of trans people to the wholesale abandonment of Christ’s teachings in favor of abusive meanness. The hard-right white evangelical voter gave us Trump. The church sat silent as industrial oligarchs ruined the earth.

Christianity is improbable. When its cultural presence fades, be that through the Roman Catholic sex-abuse meltdown or because of the Trumping of white evangelicalism, all that’s left is disillusionment. Presuppositional theology—the sort of “apologetics” my late father Francis Schaeffer dealt in—only works if you accept the possibility that some of “this” (i.e., the entire claim of “historical” Christianity) might be true. Fewer and fewer people do these days, outside of the initiated and indoctrinated. The grim “witness” of how Christians have behaved and voted is too heavy a blow for faith in magical thinking to survive. This anthology marks a historic moment as a group of younger writers and scholars have come together to record what is happening (and has happened) to their inner lives of faith. What ties these essays together is one idea: history needs record keepers.

A large part of what this book does is capture a generational exodus from toxic Christianity from the perspective of (for the most part) former believers. What is the usefulness of these essays? They are a record of dissent! They are a record of heartbreak! They are a record of hope based on lives lived, not unattainable magical fixes! They are also a therapeutic reaching out to those (like me) whose neural pathways have been damaged by what has to be called nurtured insanity.

In the age of Trump, whose single most supportive demographic has been and remains white evangelicals, it has become clear that right-wing Christians—evangelicals, radical traditionalist Catholics, and Mormons—are authoritarians who will dismantle democracy before they will give up power.

Source: Stroop, Chrissy. Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church . Epiphany Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I quietly rejected my Southern Baptist upbringing as racist, misogynist, authoritarian, intellectually lazy, and morally and ethically rotten at age eleven. One night, writhing in spiritual torment and cognitive and moral dissonance, I became an atheist and a humanist and haven’t looked back since. I chose moral autonomy. I choose an ending of oblivion rather than submit to one that perversely features eternal conscious torment. I rejected what I considered primitive moral development.

“Empty the Pews” tells the stories of people who left toxic Christianity. Heed these ex-evangelical voices. Empty the pews of toxic churches. If a church isn’t queer-affirming, leave it and tell them why. As ex-evangelicals have been warning us, the Christian Right is the single greatest threat to human rights in America today. Empty their pews, and share your story of leaving toxic church.

#EmptyThePews points to the necessity of abandoning and confronting anti-democratic Christianity. Some religion embraces pluralism, but fundamentalism, in its intolerance, undermines pluralism, and white evangelical Protestantism is a variety of fundamentalism.

Source: If we want to save American democracy, we must have a very difficult conversation about evangelical Christianity | The Conversationalist