When teaching our children about social justice, it can be easy to focus on their learning and forget about our own. But parents need to be constantly learning as well! It can be hard to sneak in time to read, but when you have a moment, give these books a try. They’ll open your eyes to important issues of racial justice, compassion, and activism.
When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir
by Patrisse Kahn-Cullors
In When They Call you a Terrorist, Patrisse Khan-Cullors – one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement – shares her deeply personal, heartfelt story that has brought national awareness to racist police brutality. The story will give you a glimpse of what it means to be a Black woman in America, and what happens when you fight back against a system of oppression. Despite intense and sometimes violent pushback, Khan-Cullors and other organizers have created an unstoppable movement. Any aspiring activist or social justice advocate should learn from her story.
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson
Just Mercy is a remarkable story about redemption and mercy that will challenge your assumptions and make you question what little justice actually exists in our ‘justice’ system. The heart wrenching story is told by Bryan Stevenson, one of the most influential justice leaders of our time. Stevenson shares about working with some of the most forgotten, invisible humans in the United States – those facing life in prison or a death sentence. By taking a deep dive into their stories, you’ll find yourself reminded of all of our humanity, and you’ll end the book wondering, “What does justice really look like?
Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools
by Monique Morris
Pushout will leave you outraged at the injustice of our education system. By diving deep into the stories of young girls, Monique Morris opens readers up to the world of punishment, control, and discrimination in our public school system. Through the eyes of some of the most vulnerable children in our country, you will see the the challenges that Black girls face every day in their fight for an education. Through a powerful story of the remarkable resilience young people demonstrate every day, Morris paints a picture of a broken discipline system that criminalizes some of our most brilliant, creative young people.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander
In The New Jim Crow, legal scholar Michelle Alexander draws national attention to the institutions that have systematically excluded Black Americans from our society. She argues that the end of Jim Crow laws were not the end of racial castes in our country, but modern society has simply turned to a different method of racial control – the criminal justice system. Since race can no longer explicitly be used for discrimination, society has turned to a system of (in)justice that allows us to not only discriminate against Black men and women, but to actually remove them from society. This book is a must read for anybody who is serious about standing up against racial justice.
The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas
Unlike the other four books on the list, The Hate U Give is a novel. Through a compelling story appropriate for young adult and adult audiences, Angie Thomas shines light on the challenges and tragedies of modern day racism and police violence. The story of Starr Carter, a 16-year old Black girl seemingly living in two different worlds, masterfully paints a picture of the true complexity of navigating race in America. While the book itself is fiction, Starr’s story represents the stories of too many young Black girls and boys in our country. This book will open your heart and mind to the harsh realities faced by too many of our nation’s children.
Reading these five books will provide you with a strong foundation for understanding race, racism, and racial justice. Just as importantly, I hope these books will urge you into action in your daily life. What can you do to fight against racism and stand up for racial justice?
We cannot adequately teach our children to be anti-racist without constantly learning about the issues ourselves. Also notice that all of these books are written by people of color – and four of them are written by women of color! If you want to learn about race and racism, you must seek out content from people of color. It is also important to note that these books almost all share stories of Black Americans. This does not represent the diversity of race and all of the experiences of racism in the United States. Sometime soon we will do another post with books that share even more perspectives from individuals who identify with different groups of people of color.
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below! Which of these books are you planning to read first? If you’ve read them, which of these books has been the most impactful for you? What other books have you read that have helped you learn about racial justice?