My fellow white people, we have some catching up to do.  And we need to do it fast.  While it would be nice to consider women like Amy Cooper “crazy” or anomalous in some other way, she is everywhere.  She is us and we are her.  Derek Chauvin may be an extreme and horrific example of the abuse of power, but the core nature of this power is used against people of color (POC) every day, in small and large ways.  White people use their race privilege as a weapon against POC constantly, and until we are aware of it and do something about it, it will continue, with disastrous results. The fact is, and it should abundantly clear to even the most resistant of us, that because of white people and our commitment to racism, POC are dying.

The argument isn’t, as many “good” white folks frame it, whether we are racist. As Americans, we have all been raised in a country founded by racism.  We have been breathing it in, absorbing that thinking, and benefiting from the structures that racism built (for our benefit) for our entire lives.  This will likely make us uncomfortable at first.  It may never have occurred to us.  Everyone wants to believe that they are “good.”  We like to think that racist people hate other people, that racism is individuals vs. other individuals.  That is not true. As white Americans, every single one of is racist.  Our society, our laws and our governmental structures support white supremacy and we participate in upholding those structures every single day.

We may reject this idea.  We may think it doesn’t apply to us.  We may even say “I don’t see color; everyone is the same.”  But our color blindness is a privilege, because whiteness is the default.  We don’t have to think about race because our race is the one in power. Everything is set up for the advantage of white people.  The most important thing we can do as white people is to realize that our willful blindness to this fact has been endangering those who are not white for centuries.

So, assuming we don’t want to continue this ignorance, we may now feel guilty or heartbroken or helpless (or all of those things) and ask ourselves and others but what do we DO?  The answer is straightforward. We need to become not just “not racist” (which most people consider themselves as long as they are in the KKK) but anti-racist.  Which means we need to actively fight racism, to resist it ourselves and call out other white people who are supporting it.  In order to do that, we need to challenge our fundamental thinking and learned behaviors so that we are best prepared to speak against racism and respond to racist thinking and behaviors.  We need to change our perceptions so that we can see what we have maybe never seen before.

The first step toward doing anything meaningful is to educate ourselves, and we need to do it ourselves and not rely on POC to educate us (although there are many willing to educate us and we should listen when they do).  The good news is that there are books aplenty to help us along this path.  Below is the curriculum of sorts that began my anti-racist journey.  I am no expert, I have not been trained in anti-racist work.  I’m just a white lady who reads a lot and has a strong intention to learn more about being anti-racist.  These are just some of the books I have read, and there are many more I plan to read (listed at the end of this post). I’d love to see your recommendations in the comments.


Blind Spot:  The Hidden Biases of Good People by Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony G. Greenwald
This book is a good primer on bias and how entrenched is in our subconscious.  What we consciously think is only part of our perception and not even the most important part.  Our subconscious thinking is very powerful, heavily influences our behavior and is very hard to see.  What I love about this book is that there is a series of quizzes that determine how strong your biases are towards certain things.  These quizzes can be very enlightening.


Waking Up White, and Finding Myself in the Story of Race by Debby Irving.  Recognizing that you have privilege and that your behavior can negatively affect others (without you being aware of it) is uncomfortable.  This discomfort is the main reason that white people shy away from racial issues.  A good way to ease into the concept anti-racism is to read about the journey of racial awareness of another white person.  In this book, Ms. Irving shares her journey from ignorant “nice white lady” to actively anti-racist.  Her challenges and obstacles might seem familiar, or may even serve as a good cautionary tale.  You will feel her discomfort and possibly recognize your own in her stumbles and missteps.  But you will also see that getting past this discomfort is essential and worth the effort.  On the other side of that discomfort is understanding and empathy.  Her dedication to changing her mindset and broadening her awareness is the core of her story and it is both informative and engaging.


Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum. Written by a psychologist, this book is chock full of information about the formation of racial identity in children and young adults.  It centers mostly around black identity but includes sections on mixed-race identity, Asian identity and white identity.  It is also a great resource for learning the language of racial identity and racism, which is vitally important to learn in order to be effective in thinking about and addressing racial issues within ourselves and with others.

So You

So You Want To Talk About Race? by Ijeoma Oluo.  If you read only one book about race (but I really hope you read more!), it should be this one.   Ms. Oluo explains everything a white person needs to start anti-racism work.  It has all the terminology, ideas and concepts to give you a solid foundation.  It has helpful guidance about what to do when confronted with racism and how you should react.  This book is a keeper and should be re-read for reference.


Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond by Marc Lamont Hill.  Before George Floyd and Breonna Taylor there was a heartbreaking list of others including Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Trayvon Martin.  There are also names we don’t know, like the many victims of the Flint Water Crisis.  Mr. Hill writes about these cases in detail and puts them into the context of the structural racism of America that created (and continues to create) these situations.  When we white people think of racism as individuals against individuals, it’s easy to dismiss this or that racist person’s behavior as “crazy” or “other” or “not like me.”  But racism runs deep and is built into every social and governmental structure in this country.  It affects the behavior of everyone.  We must change the systems to make things better.

Just Mercy

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson.  One of the most problematic social institutions that affects POC is mass incarceration.  There are more POC in prisons than white people, despite the fact that they make up less of the population.  POC also get harsher sentences, higher bail, and tougher parole.  The system is set up to work against them in every possible instance.  Mr. Stevenson’s book is about his work with death row inmates and he provides history and context to these issues.

With a basic understanding of racial identity terms and structural racism, the next step is to listen to the voices of POC.  Sometimes the authors are speaking to a broad audience (i.e. for white people too) and sometimes they are talking specifically to their own communities, but either way, white people can learn a lot of insight into the lived experiences of POC by reading their stories. A lot of these authors have a social media presence and I highly recommend following them.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I’m Still Here Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness  by Austen Channing Brown

The Origin of Others by Toni Morrison

This Will Be My Undoing Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins

Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching A Young Black Man’s Education by Mychal Denzel Smith

There are many books I haven’t gotten to, but which make up my “antiracist bookshelf.”  I’ll share them here because they came highly recommended by good sources, but I can’t vouch for them personally.

White Fragility Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
Eloquent Rage A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper
How To Be Less Stupid About Race by Crystal Marie Fleming
How To Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi  (also Stamped From the Beginning by the same author)
We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates

One final thought.  I have written the words “anti-racism work” many times in this post and that is because it is, actually, work.  Educating ourselves, changing our perceptions, navigating discomfort and confusion, is work.  It’s hard and worthy of effort.  Moreover, it’s very important to note that there is no END to it.  There is no point where, as a white person, we get our “woke badge” and we’re done (we’re used to that, getting credit for hard work, but this isn’t the place for it).

Being anti-racist is a life-long commitment to getting ourselves where we should have been already.  We don’t get credit, we don’t get attention, we don’t get a reward.  Don’t expect POC to be grateful or even notice.  We need to pace ourselves, forgive our missteps, open ourselves up to uncomfortable and maybe even painful feedback, and do better when we know better (to paraphrase Maya Angelou).