Best BLM 101 Resources for the skeptical republican
July 11, 2016 6:08 PM   Subscribe

I have agreed to a challenge by a very right-wing republican on the topic of black lives matter. He is having me read The War on Cops and I can choose 4 hours worth of any material I want for him to read. What are some excellent books/resources that do the best job of explaining the problem for somebody very ignorant of black lives in general?

The person in question has posted a lot of long pretty racist screeds about how the real problem in black communities are young black thugs roaming the streets who care nothing about themselves, etc etc. I was considering The New Jim Crow, but it is only tangentially related to violence by police. I don't know him especially well (he's on my wife's side of the family), but he clearly styles himself as an intelligent, open-minded type. The more grounded the arguments in provable facts and statistics, the better.

Any type of media is fine - webpages, news articles, books, movies, etc.
posted by zug to Human Relations (21 answers total) 62 users marked this as a favorite

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates?
posted by Peach at 6:58 PM on July 11, 2016 [5 favorites]

Has he read Ta-Nehisi Coates's Between the World and Me?
posted by theodolite at 7:00 PM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Case for Reparations. Also by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
posted by shoesietart at 7:01 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

I haven't read Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow yet, but it comes very highly recommended.
posted by mhum at 7:03 PM on July 11, 2016 [4 favorites]

A couple days ago reporter Chris Hayes tweeted out a list of books he recommends:

1) The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
2) Racecraft by Karen Fields and Barbara Fields
3) From The War on Poverty to the War on Crime by Elizabeth Hinton
4) The Collapse of American Criminal Justice by William J. Stuntz
5) Harsh Justice by James Whitman
6) Ghettoside by Jill Leovy
posted by bluecore at 7:20 PM on July 11, 2016 [7 favorites]

I just started reading The New Jim Crow, it's so good I bought a second copy to give away.
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 7:20 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

The New Jim Crow is like the foundation of the house that is how we have so many black people summarily shot by police. You can throw statistics at him all day long and they can all be perfectly true and reflective of some unattainable objectivity, but Alexander's book really lays out how we got here. Make him read it. It'll take more than four hours, though. But if he's genuinely and seriously interested, he can take the time. (Why four hours? Is there a meteor that's gonna hit us or something?)
posted by rtha at 7:36 PM on July 11, 2016 [15 favorites]

I think the above suggestions are more immediately helpful focusing on violence and policing. If another angle helps, I thought Reproducing Racism did a good job actually laying out some of what structural racism looks like in recent-ish history. (ie: what is redlining, etc)
posted by lorimt at 8:02 PM on July 11, 2016

I agree that throwing The New Jim Crow at your friend is unlikely to be productive given the time it would demand. The website for the book does have some interesting study guides though, and they in turn link to additional supporting material. Might be some useful things there. The webinar transcript in the high school curriculum one includes a nice summary of the book's thesis by the author. whimsicalnymph's links are good too.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:07 PM on July 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

Apparently this reddit comment in r/changemyview was capable of changing a lot of people's views regarding the "black people's problems are their own fault" sort of mentality. However, it may not hit the bullseye since it focuses more on socioeconomic issues and not police violence. However, it is an important factor when considering things like the relation between poverty and crime. Consider it a short supplementary thing to tack on.
posted by picklenickle at 8:45 PM on July 11, 2016 [14 favorites]

The New Jim Crow is great because it breaks down a lot of the little racist beliefs that add up to writing off injustice against Black Americans. If you're worried about the time limit, you could have him listen to the Fresh Air interview with Michelle Alexander, and maybe also have him listen to an interview with (or watch the TED talk by) Bryan Stevenson.

I think one of the most crucial realities for White people to confront is that this isn't (just) about racist cops getting violent. It's about White society turning a blind eye to an entire system that devalued Black lives.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:32 PM on July 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

I would consider putting together a 4-hour syllabus of sorts; a selection of excerpts from various books and readings suggested here and elsewhere. A mix of cite-heavy cold, hard data, mixed with the emotional lived experience of African-Americans that hits you in your gut - that might be what breaks through the ice.

The first chapter of The New Jim Crow and the first chapter of Between the World and Me come most immediately to mind as powerful, accessible, persuasive overviews of the subject matter.

A very important primary document - Department of Justice report on the Ferguson, Mo. Police Department. It very clearly, forcefully reveals many, many discriminatory, racially-biased practices of the Ferguson police department in ways that cannot be just easily argued away.

Claudia Rankine's Citizen is very striking as a poetic look at the lived experience of being African-American that touches upon black shootings by police.
posted by naju at 10:16 PM on July 11, 2016 [6 favorites]

I wouldn't start by challenging his racism head on. That's what he wants you to do, and that's what he's mentally gearing up to fight against. I'd instead have him read Radley Balko's excellent Rise of the Warrior Cop. It's not explicitly about race, although there is race in it. But the book he gave you was basically written in response to Balko's line of argument, which is that over-militarized policing goes hand-in-hand with everything that is wrong with government tyranny, and that it poses a fundamental threat to the American republic. Balko has decent right-wing credentials (Cato Institute, Reason magazine) so it's hard to tar him as a liberal apologist. And the book itself is thoughtful and persuasive and packed with very solid data.

Reading this book should give this person pause and cause him to ask any questions about whether his beliefs about the nature of American policing might be incorrect. And that puts you in a good place, then, to start asking questions like the ones in The New Jim Crow about how things got to be this way, or the ones in Between the World and Me about how these problem affect real people. If he actually is open-minded and intelligent, he'll have follow-up questions after reading this book. And that's when you can start to introduce a real discussion about race. And if reading this book does not cause him to be open to additional information or arguments or questions, I'd submit that he is neither intelligent nor open-minded and is not worth ever talking to again.
posted by decathecting at 10:33 PM on July 11, 2016 [21 favorites]

A recent blog post by TNC about W.E.B. Du Bois' Black Reconstruction in America tangentially touched on this sort of question.
So often I am asked—as all black writers are asked—how their message might be packaged to appeal to those who have no appetite for what we are saying. The interlocutor is usually a person of good faith, who is in agreement, but the question is always a trap. Any writer who takes as their starting place any doubt as to their own humanity, or the humanity of their subject, has already lost. The real questions, the questions in that writer’s heart, are never explored. And instead they are stuck answering the same set of questions that they’ve, long ago, resolved. For black writers, this is a formula for never evolving, for writing the same thing over and over. For black writers the danger is having their work devolve into workshop on racial sensitivity.

Du Bois rejected that approach. He wrote knowing full well that what he said was neither palatable nor negotiable, that a large portion of the country would not be swayed, and that the truth, in and of itself, must be enough. It is often said that this space lacks for hope. Here is your bone for the day: In the academy, Du Bois was victorious. He did not live to see that victory, but it is his view on the centrality of white supremacy that now carries the day.
posted by zamboni at 9:13 AM on July 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

This Vox explainer gets a little bit repetitive, but it's fairly convincing:
posted by Drowsy Philosopher at 11:09 AM on July 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by reksb at 1:11 PM on July 12, 2016

Nth-ing The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander & Department of Justice report on the Ferguson, Mo. Police Department
posted by hworth at 6:11 PM on July 12, 2016

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