Resources on Race and Racism

Below is an ongoing list of resources for anyone interested in learning more about race, systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial justice. They are a combination of short online articles, videos, comprehensive websites, books, and more. Also see the list of links to Blogs, Magazines, and Podcasts on the side.

1. Race is not biological but rather a social construct. We hear almost every day that race is somehow innate, inherent, or natural. In other words, we’re often taught to believe that race is biological, but this is a dangerous myth that has been dispelled countless times. However, despite this work, the myth persists. These sources refute the myth that race is biological and explain what it means when we say there is no biological basis to race:

2. Race was invented at a specific moment in history. If race is not biological, then it must be something we created or invented, a social construct. If race is a social construct, why was it created? When? By whom? I’m especially interested in how race (including whiteness) was invented, at least in part, as a divide and conquer strategy to break up coalitions between European and African laborers. This developed especially in colonial Virginia in the mid to late 1600s (as in Bacon’s Rebellion). As many scholars have noted, with the invention of race, whiteness became associated with freedom and blackness with slavery. With the creation of a racial hierarchy, whiteness was positioned at the top, imbued with advantages, privileges, and a full sense of humanity. The sources below don’t all necessarily agree with each other on every detail, but they collectively provide an insightful understanding of this history. Shorter sources are listed first:

3. White people need to understand and recognize white supremacy in order to dismantle it. It can be very difficult for white people to think about and talk about how white supremacy (a racial hierarchy with white at the top) is at the heart of systemic racism, whether we’re looking at at colonial America or the present. Here are some sources that help address the challenge of confronting white supremacy:

4. Systemic racism persists. Just because race is a social construct doesn’t mean that racism isn’t very real. There are numerous sources that reveal the persistence of structural, institutional racism.

Environment and Health

Education, Employment, Wealth, and Housing

Voting and Politics

Criminal Justice System (see separate tab on “Resources on ‘The New Jim Crow'”)

Popular Culture and the Media (see separate tab on “Resources on Representation Matters”)

5. Focusing on economic inequality alone does not explain racial inequality. 

6. Race isn’t just black and white.

7. Intersectionality is extremely important because we can’t talk about race in isolation, as if it’s separate from gender, sexual orientation, class, etc. Doing so usually defaults to normative identities as this classic text on the issue shows in its title: All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies. In addition to the foundational work by Kimberlé Crenshaw, here are some additional sources to help explain the importance of intersectionality:

8. Take action! (Also see the list of links to Social Justice Organizations on the side – many have action plans.)

9. Many activists, scholars, and organizations have put together recommended reading lists.

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