Dismantling Racism: 21 Books, Podcasts and Films to Help You Be an Activist and Ally

Dismantling Racism: 21 Books, Podcasts and Films to Help You Be an Activist and Ally

racism is the first step to its undoing. With this
in mind, we’ve compiled a list of books, documentaries and podcasts
that have helped our self-education on prejudice and privilege past
and present, and show how non-black people can be actively

If you do choose to buy one of these books, consider ordering
from London’s black-owned independent bookshops such as Pepukayi Books,
Sevenoaks Bookshop, Jacaranda Books and New Beacon
, which was the UK’s first black publisher and

Want to be anti-racist? Start your self-education with
these books and shows


Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad

Subtitled “How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and
Change the World”, Saad’s guide sheds light on how, consciously or
not, our behaviours and biases perpetuate white supremacy and
thereby helps readers to stop inflicting damage on people of
colour. If you want to make a change but don’t know where to start,
this one’s for you.

Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis

Since the killing of George Floyd, quotes by pioneering activist
Davis have flooded social media, such as: “in a racist society, it
is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” Instead of
simply liking a meme, pick up this book which reflects on the
importance of black feminism, intersectionality, prison
abolitionism and the legacies of previous liberation struggles.
Finished? Read If They Come in the Morning, in which Davis recounts
her own incarceration and offers a scathing analysis of the
policing of black people.

So You Want to Talk About Race? by Ijeoma Oluo

To dismantle white supremacy, we need constructive conversations
around race. Oluo answers common questions from non-black people –
what are microaggressions? is police brutality really about race? –
as well as offering advice on talking with friends and family.

All God’s Children Need Travelling Shoes by Maya Angelou

While travel lets us experience different destinations and
cultures, the people actually writing the stories about them are
disproportionately white. Meeting Faith by black Buddhist nun Faith
Adele and Emily Raboteau’s Searching for Zion are great tales of
self-discovery by black women travel writers, though we really
couldn’t put down Angelou’s account of her time in Ghana, where she
experienced revelations about belonging and bigotry.

White Fragility by Robin Diangelo

Why are white people so uncomfortable talking about racism?
Diangelo examines how an unwillingness to recognise privilege along
with a defensive attitude to cries of racism prevent meaningful
dialogue and reinforce inequality. This book helps us confront the
fact that racism is not merely an act, but “a complex,
interconnected system” that must be changed.

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Baldwin was a prophet of the civil rights movement. Divided into
parts – a letter written on the centenary of the abolition of
slavery and a personal reflection on Baldwin’s years in Harlem –
this book exposes racial injustices in history and religion, and
demands change. He writes: “We, the black and white, deeply need
each other here if we are really to become a nation.” Among
Baldwin’s other titles are If Beale Street Could Talk, Another
Country and I Am Not Your Negro, of which the Bafta-winning
film adaptation is especially moving.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Eddo-Lodge feeds the hunger for discussion around erased black
histories, whitewashed feminism, class-based racism and the
ignorance of white privilege in Britain. The author has urged
everyone who buys a copy of her book to match the money with a
donation to a justice group, or borrow the book and donate the
money you would have spent instead. You can also listen to Reni’s
nine-part podcast series About Race,
as she explores themes at the heart of her book with key voices
from anti-racist activism. For more on the black British
experience, read The Good Immigrant or Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl,
Woman, Other.

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

“Revolution is not a one-time event,” writes self-proclaimed
“black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet” Audre Lorde in this searing
anthology – written between 1976 and 1984 – which roasts racism
along with sexism, classism, homophobia and ageism. To understand
what’s happening now, she says, it’s important to understand how
history has shaped this moment.

When They Call You a Terrorist by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

“Twelve. That was the year that I learned that being Black and
poor defined me more than being bright and hopeful and ready.”
Turning pain into power, Khan-Cullors (co-founder of Black Lives
Matter) uses her call-to-arms memoir to expose the human stories
behind the statistics and headline atrocities committed against
black people. To learn more about the rise of Black Lives Matter,
watch this documentary or this TED interview.

The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon

Published in 1961 by French psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, one of
the leading anti-colonialist thinkers of the 20th century, The
Wretched of the Earth explores the dehumanising effects of
colonisation and disenfranchisement as well as the role of violence
in the fight for freedom.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

A touching and challenging read, Between the World and Me is an
intimate letter penned to Coates’ teenage son about the feelings,
symbolism and realities associated with being black in the US. Part
memoir, part history, it sheds light on the racism that seeps
through schools, police and the streets. “Racist violence,” he
writes, “has been woven into American culture.” If this gets you
thinking, try Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power too.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Hayley

This may have been published in 1965, but its message resonates
today. “If you want something, you had better make some noise,”
says Malcolm X. Based on a series of interviews conducted in the
years before his assassination, the book traces his life through
Harlem’s underworld, a prison conversion to the Nation of Islam and
the founding of the Organisation of Afro-American Unity,
chronicling his views on religion, race and black nationalism along
the way. Done reading? Watch Spike
Lee’s 1992 film adaptation

How to Be an Anti-Racist by Ibram X Kendi

Personal experience, history and science combine in this
blueprint for building an anti-racist society. If you’re asking
yourself “what more can I do right now?”, leaf through these pages
to find out how you can go beyond being “not racist” to working to
create a more just society.

Brit(ish) by Aufa Hirsch

If someone was born in Britain, and their parents were born in
Britain, why do people keep asking where they’re from? Hirsh paints
a picture of the country in denial about both its imperial past and
racist present. Personal and provocative, the book explores how we
got into this situation and makes a rallying cry for change. Like
this? Pick up Akala’s Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of
Empire next.

Documentaries, films & shows


There’s a lot of history crammed into this
, which traces the mass incarceration of black
people to the ratification of the 13th Amendment in 1865, which
prohibited slavery “except as a punishment for crime whereof the
party shall have been duly convicted”. Director DuVernay argues
that this loophole has been exploited to maintain racial

Whose Streets?

follows the demonstrations after the killing of
18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, which sparked the Black
Lives Matter movement, shedding light on underreported police
brutality. “The police showed up to a peaceful candlelight vigil,”
says one resident, “and boxed them in.” To further acquaint
yourself with the history of protest, watch LA
and Selma, a dramatisation of marches led by Martin
Luther King Jr.

Dear White People

To understand white privilege, microaggressions and the way
discrimination is entrenched in our everyday, binge on Dear
White People
, in which students of colour navigate daily
slights and slippery politics at an Ivy League college that’s not
nearly as “post-racial” as it believes.


Code Switch by NPR

Expect no-holds-barred conversations about race and the way it
impacts every part of society from politics to pop culture and the
workplace. Episodes include “A Decade of Watching Black
People Die”, “What Does ‘Hood Feminism’ Mean for a Pandemic?” and
“After the Cameras Leave”.

No Country for Young Women

To educate yourself on how women of colour navigate life, love
and work in a white man’s world, tune in to No
Country for Young Women
, hosted by Londoners Sadia Azmat and
Monty Onanuga. There’s no tiptoeing around the taboo here.

Intersectionality Matters with Kimberlé Crenshaw

Critical race theorist Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the word
“intersectionality”. Hosting this podcast from the African American Policy
Forum, she brings the term to life through animated discussion with
political organisers, journalists and writers covering topics such
as COVID-19 in prisons and the crossover between race, gender and

1619 by The New York Times

In August 1619, a ship carrying 20 enslaved Africans arrived in
the English colony of Virginia. Few aspects of modern-day America
have been untouched by this event. In this series based on The 1619 Project by The New York Times
Magazine, Pulitzer-winning racial injustice reporter Nikole
Hannah-Jones reexamines the history of the US in the long shadow of
that moment, highlighting the contributions of black Americans in
building US democracy, wealth and culture over the four centuries

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