The Black Bookshelf: Required Reading For An Aspiring Anti-Racist

What does it mean to be anti-racist? Not only are you actively opposed to the historic and systemic racism in our country, as well as the world, but it also means you’re well-read or continually seeking suggestions for ways to be better concerning the topic of Black rights and culture. With that said, we’ve gathered some of our favorite reading — a non-summer required reading list, if you will — for any aspiring anti-racist, a collection of strong-willed books sure to educate, invigorate and frustrate in order to activate your blossoming Black-supportive brain as to the history leading up to our present-day issues and the possibility of a better, more united future together.

How To Be An Anti-Racist (Ibram X. Kendi)

Going beyond the blueprint of racism, Kendi reshapes the conversation with individual calls to action for massive systemic changes. A problem this big doesn’t get fixed overnight, but by chipping away in our own personal ways, we can challenge each other to follow Kendi’s path to being more than just not racist, to be an anti-racist people can look up to.

White Fragility (Robin DiAngelo)

Anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo opens the floodgate of white emotion from anger and fear to guilt and silence and boldly breaks down the barriers white people need to lift up the Black community. A must-read anyone who not only wants to understand racism but also their part in it and how to talk about being better.

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (Beverly Daniel Tatum)

In a world where even our youth exhibits pack mentality, we learn about the potential risks of avoiding communication between groups of race and ethnicity. Tatum bridges the gap that shows, if we are to move forward, we do so best with a bit of harmony. How we talk to our children about inclusivity and equality is everything, as they grow up to have kids of their own one day.

Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson)

The true redemption story of a Black man wrongly accused of murder and the one young man who stood by him with relentless passion and determination for justice. Now a major motion picture, Just Mercy gives us a look at all some people need in this world — to be heard and treated with dignity, not based on the color of skin but based on their humanity.

Me and White Supremacy (Layla Saad)

Targeted at white readers so they may understand the impact of their privilege and supremacy, Saad offers a useful device for combating racism and changing the world, beginning with the conversation and converting into positive action. Whether or not we realize it, white people have a lot of work to do on conquering racism, and it begins here.

The New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander)

Civil rights scholar and litigator Michelle Alexander beautifully articulates the tragedy of the American criminal justice system in which its architecture is perfectly designed to discriminate people based on race. With millions of Black people subject to mass incarceration, Alexander wields a meticulous machete that cuts through to the devastating reality of our past and present justice system and how we have gotten so deeply embedded in racism compared to other countries.

White Rage (Carol Anderson)

Following an op-ed penned for The Washington Post in 2014, Anderson was contracted to write this 2016 brilliant work of nonfiction, which predates all of the current racial divides we see today, yet absolutely predicts it along with its causes. As we face the urgent call to action towards structural racism, we see how this lasting existence will only continue until we make the effort to confront our own rage, as men and women, as white people and as a country.

Stamped From the Beginning (Ibram X. Kendi)

Prefacing his anti-racist handbook, Kendi offered the definitive history of racist ideas in America. As we continue to stub our toes on the same racist behaviors, Kendi shows us that, despite being published in 2016, racism is more alive and well than ever, it seems. Because in order to grapple with our reality, we must first understand its origins if we are to defeat it, so as not to continue to stub the same toes over and over again, as history and Kendi show us.

More Man Enough on Racism: The Unwritten Rules For Black Men You May or May Not Be Aware of

Big Man, Tiny Habits: Your Vote Means More Than You Can Imagine

More than 100 million Americans did not vote in the last election.

Let that soak in for a moment.

It goes without saying we’re living through unprecedented days, but anywhere you turn people say it anyway. With so many things happening all at once — ongoing, incoming, every day something unheard of — it couldn’t possibly all be a coincidence, could it?

The short answer — no, not a chance. Not unless the Big Guy upstairs lost a major bet with Mother Nature and the devil himself.

Have you ever had a number of weighty life decisions blowing in the wind, hoping time would take care of them for you? Maybe work was changing, a living situation was uprooting or any number of existential dilemmas that could come crashing through the wall at any moment. You hoped they might naturally resolve themselves with a bit of apathy and a couple of blind eyes. But our inability to adapt and take action, however, allows all the chickens to come home to roost, which might’ve felt manageable until all the cows came, too. If you’re not up on our farm animal analogies, it’s a damn mess.

That’s what we’re living in collectively, only the problems we face are not so easily fixed overnight. We’re staring down the barrel of a long-overdue reckoning for collective past sins that have congregated like skeletons in a walk-in closet and came traipsing out like a year-long Day of the Dead parade of horrors. A climate crisis coming to life, peaking systemic racism, a deadly viral pandemic — just to lead off the list — with nobody in charge to calm the herd and guide us to safety. Instead of corralling them back inside or burying them in the backyard as we have in the past, it’s time we actually dealt with these monsters head-on.

The signposts we pass every day all point the same direction and reverberate the same sentiment.

It’s time for a change.

Why Your Voice Matters

We’re not overtly political. We know how divisive it can be, and we’re all about bringing men together to better themselves. But dire times require a bold response.

To be a young person 10 or 15 years ago meant living was relatively easy, and there was never much need to take interest in politics, much less vote, as long as the train stayed on the tracks and kept making all the stops. Life problems at 21 were generally insignificant and could be solved with a hug or a couple of Excedrin. We’re not on the tracks anymore, though. This train started skipping stops a long time ago, now we’re plowing through the desert on coal fumes with no switch lever in sight to change course.

Not until November 3.

Much of the burden falls on young people, a generation being deprived that tranquil blossoming and carefree living many of us had the privilege of. It’s on them to be the most active of us all, which makes for symmetrically unprecedented responses to unprecedented times. But really, it’s on all of us.

More than 100 million people.

If we want a brighter day, we’ve got to make a change, we’ve got to do a lot better. You may think your vote is small and meaningless, but you couldn’t be more wrong. How, you ask?

We may live with many antiquated systems, including our electoral one. Analysts suggest that a win in the popular vote for a new candidate wouldn’t suffice. It could take as much as a six-percent lead to win in the electoral college. So if we want a chance at even beginning to address any of the many problems on our doorsteps, every voice is actually quite large by that perspective.

And when that is done, we still have much work ahead. But none of it will be possible if we allow this brakeless locomotive to continue on this offroad misadventure.

Life After Quarantine: Who Will You Be When We See Each Other Again?

We’re no longer living in anticipation of a climate crisis, rather we’re hiding in safe spaces from it. Our west coast is on fire, our hurricane regions swirling out of control and when the two get together, fire tornados and heat lightning could rival a fireworks show had it not been canceled over a crippling virus and racial divide spanning across the whole country. Countless people are losing homes, firefighters are losing their lives and homeless people are stuck with the air quality of a jet engine.

There’s not one man who doesn’t feel the heat of this moment. Whether you’re being assaulted daily or torched by empathy, no one is excluded from this fight. In the past, our candidates have been variations of two evils or parades of political propaganda, but this time, it’s much more cut and dry. This is a battle of the soul, both individually and collectively — a good old battle of good versus evil.

Are you satisfied with this constant madness or do you desire a night of anxiety-free sleep? Does wearing a mask feel like an assault on your livelihood or can you stick it out if it saves lives? Are you threatened by the idea of equality or does it pierce your soul to watch others in pain? Are you racist or are you anti-racist? It’s all very simple if you take a moment to consider what’s on the table.

We’re not telling you who you should vote for. That’s what your head and heart are for. But we are saying there’s never been more need for you — yes, YOU — to step forward, have discussions and make decisions, not just for yourself but those around you and those coming after.

Just remember — more than 100 million people.

Not this time. Not on November 3.

Be there or be without a reason to complain if nothing changes.

Check out our Man Enough episode “Adapting” with Terrell Owens and Tank Sinatra, hosted by Justin Baldoni.

Cover: Prostock-studio (Envato Elements)


The Milwaukee Bucks Are Man Enough to Make a Stand, Are You?

On Wednesday afternoon, the Orlando Magic took the floor for their Game 5 pregame warm-up, but they didn’t stay long.

The Milwaukee Bucks never showed.

In the wake of Sunday’s Wisconsin shooting involving unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake, 29, and Kenosha police where the victim was shot seven times in the back after reportedly breaking up a dispute between two women, local peaceful protesters took to the streets. Blake’s incident, which has left him paralyzed — to what extent remains unknown — calls into question, yet again, why police and politicians refuse to admit that not only do Black lives matter, but that our officers in blue feel it’s acceptable to execute unarmed men without arresting them first, unless, of course, their only crime was being Black.

On Monday, Bucks guard George Hill was already one of several “psychologically distraught” Milwaukee players, who voiced his opinion over the NBA reconvening, saying “We shouldn’t have even come to this damn place, to be honest.”

Similar to the response to May’s George Floyd shooting in which multiple cops went well above the call of duty towards an unarmed Black man, peaceful protesters were confronted by their own oppression of armed men with no purpose being there other than to incite more violence. On Tuesday night, 17-year-old Blue Lives Matter enthusiast (for lack of a stronger word), Kyle Rittenhouse, killed two protesters and injured one just before approaching police with his automatic weapon and his hands up. Police walked past the white teen, who was later apprehended for first-degree murder in his home state of Illinois on Wednesday, only after another social media outrage cried for it.

With multiple players on the Bucks team, who clinched the number-one seed in the East for the NBA playoffs and were set to close out their series against the Magic on Wednesday, reportedly very upset over the shootings on Monday, it came as no surprise they took an immediate stand Wednesday by boycotting their game. In response, the NBA postponed the rest of the playoffs until further notice. Shortly after, former NBA all-star Kenny Smith walked off the stage during a TNT broadcast in support of the NBA strike.

The Milwaukee Bucks are man enough. Kenny Smith is man enough.

They’re man enough to recognize injustice and refuse to just watch anymore. They’re man enough to not be complicit, as we’ve learned silence makes us. They’re man enough to stand up for what’s right and, in this case, what’s incredibly wrong in our society. They’re man enough to do what needs to be done for change to occur.

And the response of the NBA shows exactly how effective these men can be. When people and groups large enough, influential enough and bold enough decide to be man enough (or woman enough), others will have no choice but to support. Kenny Smith just showed Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley that, despite being much smaller, he’s man enough.

So how about it, are you man enough?

What will you do to make a change and how long until you do?

If you’re not sure, ask yourself this: What’s it going to take to get you to?

Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images