Books or resources on being a white ally
June 25, 2015 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Do you have any suggestions for books or resources on being a white ally (US-specific)? Thanks!

Also interested in books about African American (or other minority) history, or maybe about the civil rights movement or other later efforts to combat racism.

Just want to learn more and figure out what I can do.
posted by knownfossils to Human Relations (9 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
The New Jim Crow
posted by Shanda at 1:17 PM on June 25, 2015

Oh, wow, did not see that thread!
posted by knownfossils at 2:33 PM on June 25, 2015

One of the most important parts of aiming to be a better ally is holding yourself expressly and explicitly accountable no matter how much it bothers you. Recognize how much you directly, indirectly, consciously, and subconsciously contribute to racism in word and deed. It is uncomfortable and absolutely vital to do this, over and over and over again; if you shy away, you're always going to secretly consider yourself something of an exception to the rule.

So with that in mind, I'd recommend starting off with White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh.

Then check out some Robin DiAngelo: White Fragility: Why It's So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism, White Fragility and the Rules of Engagement, and the original White Fragility as well as What Does it Mean to be White?: Developing White Racial Literacy.

Reading work by other white people who are in the process of acknowledging their own privilege and engaging in anti-racist activism is going to make you feel defensive, for sure, and you're almost certainly going to find yourself absentmindedly falling into traps like "nuh UH, not ALL white people, THEY might do that, but I don't." So make sure you've broken through a good amount of that noise and at least tried to get your privilege somewhat in check before you start engaging with work by critics and scholars of color -- one of my personal favorites is When White Women Cry: How White Women's Tears Oppress Women of Color by Mamta Motwani Accapadi -- because otherwise you're not going to be able to hear as much or as clearly as you should.

When and where you feel prickly or defensive, don't shut down or rush past to ignore it: Rise up to meet the challenge, shut up, listen, and learn.
posted by divined by radio at 3:05 PM on June 25, 2015 [2 favorites]

FWIW, some people (increasing #s, as of late, methink) are wary of the very word "ally."
From where I stand, I intuited very early on in my exploration of texts from other vantage points that the word is more aspirational than anything, and also quite vague.

Aspirational in that there is no "ally achievement unlocked" bubble that's gonna pop up. Or rather, if there were, they would be thousands of variously sized bubbles that will likely continue to appear for the rest of your life. Some will fade in, some will pop, some will appear over the horizon in the midst of a long walk.

Vague in that there is no single battlefield, if we're to borrow a more traditional definition. For that matter, there may be differing views of a single issue from within a relatively homogeneous group.

The word is also sometimes used as a sort of badge, when really, if you internalize what you learn, it will be obvious when it needs to be. Don't do it for the cookies.

All of that said: seems like others (and I haven't even checked into the other thread) have proffered great specific references, and I probably can't improve on them. I personally just try to intentionally expose myself to voices that I might not normally hear, in books, blogs, twitter. Older books are great, but it's also valuable to be able to compare and contrast takes on current events. It can be as ham-fisted as searching for "black women you should follow on ," and just approaching it with no expectations.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 5:02 PM on June 25, 2015 [1 favorite]

Some more suggestions to help you understand the history:

Sundown Towns, by James Loewen

One Drop of Blood: The American Misadventure of Race, by Scott Malcomson
posted by RedEmma at 7:07 AM on June 26, 2015


Killing Rage, by bell hooks
posted by RedEmma at 7:10 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, I highly recommend attending at least one (best if more than one) Undoing Racism type workshop. I am familiar with the People's Institute version, and they are powerful.
posted by RedEmma at 7:13 AM on June 26, 2015

By all means read all of this stuff. But being an ally means action, in my opinion. So link up with groups doing actual political action in your area. It's not about feeling a certain way or using certain words, but about what you do.
posted by yarly at 11:17 AM on June 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

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