Anti-Racism: A Starter’s Guide

Last updated April 2022 with new books, movies, and music.

As your public library, we are committed as an organization and as individuals to dismantle the systems of oppression that have created, and that fuel, racist conditions. Learn more about your public library’s anti-racism journey »

On this page, you’ll find information for anyone starting to learn more about the insidious nature of systemic racism. Best for people beginning to examine how they perpetuate and uphold racist ideals, and who are looking for ways to be intentional about change for themselves and their families.

The comprehensive title lists on this page were originally compiled in August 2020 by a collaborative Oak Park team led by Collection Management Librarians Dontaná McPherson-Joseph and Jenna Friebel. Other Oak Park Public Library staff on the team include Megha Bamola, Vann Harris, Nora Sanchez, and Kathy Sexton. The lists were most recently updated in April 2022 with new books, movies, and music.

Here they are grouped by age and format:

Resources for young people, parents & educators

This Book Is Antiracist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action & Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell (book, nonfiction)

Breakdown of anti-racism, activities for the reader to try, and tips for standing up to racist adults.

Audience: Kids, Teens (ages 10-15)

An Indigenous People's History of the United States for Young People by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Debbie Reese & Jean Mendoza (book, nonfiction)

A more than 400 year sweeping history of the U.S. from an Indigenous and anti-imperialist perspective.

Audience: Kids, Teens (ages 12-18)

Me & White Supremacy: Young Readers' Edition by Layla F. Saad (book, nonfiction)

Teaches young readers how to explore and understand racism and white supremacy and how they can do their part to help change the world.

Audience: Kids, Teens (ages 9-14)

Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham (book, picture book)

A picture book about racism and racial justice, inviting white children and parents to become curious about racism, accept that it's real, and cultivate justice.

Audience: Kids (ages 6-12)

Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race by Megan Madison (book, picture book)

This age-appropriate introduction to the concept of race—developed by early childhood and activism experts—combines clear text with engaging artwork to help the youngest children recognize and confront unjust actions.

Audience: Kids (ages 2-6)

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism & You by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi (book, nonfiction)

A history of racist and anti-racist ideas in America, from their roots in Europe until today, adapted from the National Book Award winner Stamped From the Beginning.

Audience: Kids, Teens (ages 12-18)

Related resources:

The Talk: Conversations About Race, Love & Truth by Wade Hudson (book, anthology)

Thirty diverse and award-winning authors and illustrators capture frank discussions about racism, identity, and self-esteem.

Audience: Kids, Teens (ages 10-15)

We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell (book, picture book)

A group of Native American kids from different tribes presents 12 historical and contemporary time periods, struggles, and victories to their classmates, each ending with a powerful refrain: “We are still here!”

Audience: Kids (ages 7-12)

The Wedding Portrait by Innosanto Nagara (book, fiction)

Presents examples of civil disobedience that resulted in far-reaching political changes for equality and justice, including the refusal of Rosa Parks to give up her seat, the protests of Indians against the restrictions of British rule, and the boycott of the farmworkers in Immokalee, Florida.

For ages: Kids (ages 6-10)

What Is the Model Minority Myth? by Virginia Loh-Hagan (book, nonfiction)

Learn about the model minority myth and discover how it discriminates against and holds back Asian American Pacific Islanders in America.

Audience: Kids (ages 9-12)

Woke: A Young Poet's Call to Justice by Mahogany L. Brown (book, poetry)

A collection of poems by women of color, written for today's generation of young activists, reflects the passion of the fight for social justice while tackling subjects ranging from discrimination and empathy to acceptance and speaking out.

For ages: Kids (ages 8-12)

"Talking to Kids About Xenophobia" by Leslie Hsu Oh for National Geographic (article)

Hate incidents against people of Asian descent are up since COVID-19 was first reported. Here’s how parents can help kids make sense of that.

Audience: Adults

"Why White Parents Need to Do More Than Talk to Their Kids About Racism" by Margaret A Hagerman for TIME (article)

A short article about other ways white parents need to combat racism while raising children.

Audience: Adults

Teaching While White Podcast (podcast)

A podcast geared towards white educators about how to address and account for whiteness in their classrooms and become "racially literate."

Audience: Adults

Additional resources available at oppl.org


Nonfiction books

America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States by Erika Lee (book, nonfiction)

Analysis of how xenophobia interacts with racism and classism especially during moments of national uncertainty and crisis. Starts with the colonizing of the U.S. and goes all the way to the present.

Audience: Adults

America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence & Black Rebellion Since the 1960s by Elizabeth Hinton (book, nonfiction)

Drawing on new sources, a leading scholar presents a groundbreaking story of policing and "riots" that shatters our understanding of the post-civil rights era, arguing that we cannot understand the civil rights movement without coming to terms with the astonishing violence and hugely expanded policing regime that followed it.

Audience: Adults

The Broken Heart of America: St Louis & the Violent History of the United States by Walter Johnson (book, nonfiction)

A portrait of the racial dynamics baked into America's history told through a case study of St. Louis. The story begins with St Louis as a staging post for Native American removal and moves through its later legacy of labor organizing and anti-racist resistance.

Audience: Adults

Decolonizing Christianity: Becoming Badass Believers by Miguel A. De La Torre (book, nonfiction)

A call for American Christianity to stand in solidarity with marginalized people and end its complicity with white supremacy.

Audience: Adults

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor (book, nonfiction)

An analysis by activist and scholar Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor of how the Black Lives Matter movement holds potential to reignite a broader push for Black liberation.

Audience: Adults

Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism & School Closings on Chicago's South Side by Eve L. Ewing (book, nonfiction)

A sociological look at the wave of school closings on the South Side of Chicago in 2013 and the following uprising that explores Chicago's history of racist urban policy.

Audience: Adults

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (book, nonfiction)

Combines ethics, history, law, and science with a personal narrative to describe how to move beyond the awareness of racism and contribute to making society just and equitable.

Audience: Adults

Inventing Latinos: A New Story of American Racism by Laura Gaomez (book, nonfiction)

Covers American imperialism in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, attempts at a Latino civil rights movement, the growing Latino population and its reverberations on American politics, and the current anti-immigration policies.

Audience: Adults

Me & White Supremacy: How to Recognize Your Privilege, Combat Racism, Change the World & Become a Good Ancestor by Layla Saad (book, nonfiction)

Based on her viral challenge that asked people to be honest about their own racism, Me and White Supremacy teaches readers how to dismantle the privilege within themselves so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better too.

Audience: Adults

Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution & Imprisonment by multiple authors (book, nonfiction, anthology)

Collection of essays about criminalization and incarceration of Black men in America, a lot of modern analysis of Black Lives Matter.

Audience: Adults

Prison by Any Other Name (book, nonfiction)

Prison reform is necessary, but often the proposed reforms still overwhelmingly target marginalized communities, turning places of comfort into the very prisons they were meant to replace.

Audience: Adults

Rise Up! How You Can Join the Fight Against White Supremacy by Crystal Marie Fleming (book, nonfiction)

This urgent book explores the roots of racism and its legacy in modern day, all while empowering young people with actionable ways they can help foster a better world and become antiracists.

Audience: Teens

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo (book, nonfiction)

Provides readers with a guide for how to approach conversations about race, including important history to know, facts of the moment, and language usage.

Audience: Adults

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence & Resistance in the United States by Joe Macaré, Maya Schenwar & Alana Yu-lan Price (book, nonfiction)

A collection of reports and essays that explores police violence against Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other marginalized communities, miscarriages of justice, and failures of token accountability and reform measures.

Audience: Adults


Shorter reads

BLM: Black Lives Matter

"5 Ways to Use Your Money to Support Black Lives" by the Ellevest team (article)

A few suggestions for how to monetarily support Black people in the U.S.

Audience: Adults

"97 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice" by Caroline Shutack for Medium (article)

A comprehensive list of ideas—including everything from boycotting prison labor to decolonizing your bookshelf.

Audience: Adults

"Do Protests Even Work?" by Zeynep Tufecki for The Atlantic (article)

An argument for why protests are effective and worth participating in.

Audience: Adults

"The False Promise of Anti-Racism Books" by Saida Grundy for The Atlantic (article)

An argument that consciousness-raising texts are rendered futile without concrete systemic change.

Audience: Adults

"From Donating to Volunteering: Here's How to Support Black Lives Matter, Protesters & Equality Initiatives" by Sanya Mansour for TIME (article)

A comprehensive list of various ways people can participate in the movement for racial justice.

Audience: Adults

"From Truth Telling to Land Return: Four Ways White People Can Work for Indigenous Justice" by Jamie Utt for Everyday Feminism (article)

Examines the lasting effects of colonization on Indigenous peoples specifically the theft of land and reparations in the form of said land.

Audience: Adults

"Heteropatriarchy & the Three Pillars of White Supremacy" by Andrea Smith (article, pdf)

A short article on how to navigate intersectional organizing against white supremacy while understanding the limits of multiculturalism and the need to acknowledge different experiences of white supremacy within communities of color.

Audience: Adults

"Racial Capitalism & the Structural Roots of White Nationalism" by Matt Birkhold for Praxis Center (article)

A history of how racism has been used by those in power as a means to divide working people in the U.S. and prevent solidarity.

Audience: Adults

"A Timeline of Events That Led to the 2020 'Fed Up'-rising" by Michael Harriot for The Root (article)

This straightforward timeline gives a basic introduction to the history of racist ideas and polices in the U.S. with special focus on policing.

Audience: Adults

"White Supremacy Culture Dismantling Racism" by Kenneth Jones & Tema Okun (article)

A list of characteristics of usually unnoticed white supremacy culture that show up in workplaces and organizations and ideas for how to counter them.

Audience: Adults

"Why You Should Donate Directly to Black People—and How" by Christal Yuen for Greatist (article)

Suggestions of where to donate and an argument for direct monetary support to Black people.

Audience: Adults

Antiracist Checklist for Whites by Robin Diangelo (worksheet, pdf)

A checklist to assist with self-critique and growth.

Audience: Adults

Common Patterns of Whites by Kathy Obear (worksheet, pdf)

A list of common white behaviors that further racism and complacency.

Audience: Adults


Media

Seeing White logo

Seeing White with host John Biewen (podcast series)

This podcast introduces people to the overall, historical, and contemporary concept of "whiteness." Asks questions like "What is 'whiteness' for?"

Audience: Adults

"American Police" from NPR Throughline (podcast episode)

An overview of the evolution of American policing in the North and South beginning from the American Revolution.

Audience: Adults

Breakdances With Wolves Podcast by Wesley ("Snipes Type") Roach & Minty LongEart (podcast)

A podcast self described as "natives with opinions and a platform" that provides a native perspective on everything from COVID-19 to prison abolition to Tiger King.

Audience: Adults

"The Cost of Code Switching" by Chandra Arthur (video)

Taught from a young age to culturally code switch, Chandra Arthur discusses how learning default conformity in different settings changes people's access to opportunities.

Audience: Adults

"The Difference Between Being 'Not Racist' & 'Antiracist'" by Ibram X. Kendi (video)

If you can't get your hands on Ibram X. Kendi's book How to Be An Antiracist, his TedTalk contains some of the same content, like a definition of antiracism and how it can actively be used.

Audience: Adults

"How Racism Makes Us Sick" by David R Williams (video)

In this talk, David R William presents evidence for how racism deeply affects health and well-being.

Audience: Adults

The Central Park Five by Ken Burns (documentary)

Explores race and criminal justice through the story of The Central Park Five—five teenagers of color wrongfully arrested, interrogated, and convicted of the rape of a white woman in New York City's Central Park.

Audience: Adults


Other resource compilations

Black Lives Matter Chicago logo

Black Lives Matter Chicago (website)

The BLM Chicago website has tons of information on how to become directly involved in the BLM movement.

Audience: Adults

21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge from America & Moore (website)

A 21-day guide for how to begin your anti-racism journey full of resources and concrete suggestions.

Audience: Adults

Allyship & Solidarity Guidelines Blog from Unsettling America (website)

The Unsettling America organization's Allyship & Solidarity Guidelines blog for those who want to work towards justice for Indigenous people.

Audience: Adults

Freedom to Thrive Oak Park (website)

The Freedom to Thrive Oak Park website has begun publishing data on policing in Oak Park.

Audience: Adults

Project Implicit from Harvard University (website)

Project Implicit provides tests on implicit association to help people identify their own biases.

Audience: Adults

Talking About Race from The National Museum of African American Culture (website)

A web page with many resources and recommendations for having conversations about race.

Audience: Adults

Becoming Anti-Racist: 23 Things You Can Watch, Listen to, or Do on Chicago Beyond (resource guide, pdf)

A succinct beginning anti-racism guide from Chicago Beyond, a local organization focused on investment in racial equity.

Audience: Adults

Stay current on news and new arrivals.

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