“The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’” — Ibram X. Kendi

Daniela Marina
10 min readJun 3, 2020

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I know there’s a number of antiracist reading lists being shared online currently, but I wanted to throw my suggestions into the mix, too — and also provide some further reading links, as well as some audio options.

I spend an enormous amount of my time reading, digesting information, and trying to make sense of the world we live in. I’ve become increasingly aware of my privilege over time, and my reading choices serve as a constant reminder of my place in society, as not only a white woman, but also an individual in a job where I have a great amount of access to books, ideas, and conversation. This process of recognising and understanding my own privilege is constant and ongoing; and I never take it for granted that I have the opportunity and time to continually learn more, and to pin point my own ignorance around certain issues.

I’ve read and endorse most of the titles below, but others I’m including based on recommendations/reviews, and with the intention to read them soon.

“What’s the problem with being “not racist”? It is a claim that signifies neutrality: “I am not a racist, but neither am I aggressively against racism.” But there is no neutrality in the racism struggle. The opposite of “racist” isn’t “not racist.” It is “antiracist.”

Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist

“White people may find this book difficult to read because my represenations will challenge and discomfort them. My hope is that this book stimulates new ways of thinking about racialised inter-subjective relations and contributes to the development of an understanding of, and respect and appreciation for, each other in the struggle for racial justice and Indigenous rights.”

— Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Talkin’ up to the White Woman

  • This is a text I’ve yet to read. I did however hear Aileen on a panel discussing deconolising feminism at The Wheeler Centre’s Broadside Festival last year. Unfortuantely I don’t believe the talk is available online. A new edition of her book is also coming out soon. It’s been 20 years since she first published it, and clearly it’s still as relevant as ever.

“Mostly, I wondered what black writers weren’t writing when we spent so much creative energy begging white folk to change.”

Kiese Laymon, Heavy: An American Memoir

“I wanted to put presence into absence. I was very frustrated that black British women weren’t visible in literature. I whittled it down to 12 characters — I wanted them to span from a teenager to someone in their 90s, and see their trajectory from birth, though not linear. There are many ways in which otherness can be interpreted in the novel — the women are othered in so many ways and sometimes by each other.”

Bernardine Evaristo on her novel via The Guardian

“Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.”

Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches

“Living every day in the presence of those who refuse to acknowledge your humanity takes great courage”

Min Jin Lee, Pachinko

“Being good and great does not absolve you from a terrible sin and a pain inflicted on a people who did nothing to deserve it. Remember that: the first people of this land who have suffered for your greatness did nothing to deserve it. A truly great country — if we truly believe that — should be held to great account.”

Stan Grant, Talking to My Country

“I believe that white progressives cause the most daily damage to people of color. I define a white progressive as any white person who thinks he or she is not racist, or is less racist, or in the “choir,” or already “gets it.” White progressives can be the most difficult for people of color because, to the degree that we think we have arrived, we will put our energy into making sure that others see us as having arrived. None of our energy will go into what we need to be doing for the rest of our lives: engaging in ongoing self-awareness, continuing education, relationship building, and actual antiracist practice. White progressives do indeed uphold and perpetrate racism, but our defensiveness and certitude make it virtually impossible to explain to us how we do so.”

Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

  • Lots of resources here on Robin’s website.
  • I saw this great lecture by Robin at the University of Sydney a few years ago. You can listen here, but unfortunately can’t see the slides, but the resources on her website should relate.

“When I write, I am fixing my feet. I am claiming the ethos, or moral authority, to influence public discourse. And I am defying every expectation when I do it.”

Tressie McMillan Cottom, Thick: And Other Essays

“The journalists in this book have demonstrated the highest professional achievements and courage. . . . Without them, the stories of today and tomorrow will remain only partly told.”

Christiane Amanpour, from the foreword

“Be kind to everybody. Make art. Fight the power.”

Colson Whitehead accepting his National Book Award for The Underground Railroad

In Dark Emu my aim is to give rise to the possibility of an alternative view of pre-colonial Aboriginal society. In reviewing the industry and ingenuity applied to food production over millennia, we have a chance to catch a glimpse of Australia as Aboriginals saw it.

Many readers of the explorers’ journals see the hardships they endured and are enthralled by the finds of grassy plains, bountiful rivers and sites where great towns could be built; but by adjusting our perspective by only a few degrees we see a vastly different world from the same window.

Bruce Pascoe, Dark Emu

“If you are disgusted by what you see, and if you feel the fire coursing through your veins, then it’s up to you. You don’t have to be the leader of a global movement or a household name. It can be as small scale as chipping away at the warped power relations in your workplace. It can be passing on knowledge and skills to those who wouldn’t access them otherwise. It can be creative. It can be informal. It can be your job. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you’re doing something.”

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

“The edge of the stories in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s debut collection Friday Black is razor sharp, ready to cut deep. This book is dark, captivating and essential. This books is a call to arms and it is a condemnation. Adjei-Brenyah offers powerful prose as parable. The writing in this outstanding collection will make you hurt and demand your hope. Read this book. Marvel at the intelligence of each of these stories and what they reveal about racism, capitalism, complacency and their insidious reach.”

Roxane Gay on Friday Black

“The tears may well be genuine, but that does not make them innocent.”

Ruby Hamd, White Tears/ Brown Scars

“Don’t let anybody, anybody convince you this is the way the world is and therefore must be. It must be the way it ought to be.”

Toni Morrison, The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations

“For the first time, there are politicians speaking from real, lived experiences to issues never before given a national, let alone global, platform. Our issues aren’t only race and gender — we also speak about poverty, healthcare, education, housing, and the climate crisis from perspectives that were, until now, perilously ignored. If revolution is a taking of power by the powerless to change government, then ours is a revolution.”

Golriz Ghahraman, Know Your Place

“To be black is to hear the brunt of the selective enforcement of the law, and to inhabit a psychic unsteadiness in which there is no guarantee of personal safety. You are a black body first, before you are a kid walking down the street or a Harvard professor who has misplaced his keys.”

Teju Cole, Known and Strange Things

“I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”

James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

“Patiently educating a clueless white person about race is draining. It takes all your powers of persuasion. Because it’s more than a chat about race. It’s ontological. It’s like explaining to a person why you exist, or why you feel pain, or why your reality is distinct from their reality. Except it’s even trickier than that. Because the person has all of Western history, politics, literature, and mass culture on their side, proving that you don’t exist.”

Cathy Park Hong, Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning

I loved a sunburnt country — won’t it
please come back to me? Won’t it
show me why my spirit wanders
but is never free?
I will soothe its burns with lotion, I will peel off its dead skin.
If it can tell me
why I’m
drifting
ever further from my kin.

Alison Whittaker, Blakwork

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