A social justice reading list for Black History Month
This year for Black History Month, we dive into books that seek to foster positive change and light a path to a more just and equitable future—including titles on prosecutorial reform, equity in education, and economic parity. Read on to discover these and other books on social justice, and explore our related list of books on art and design justice.
Get Off My Neck: Black Lives, White Justice, and a Former Prosecutor’s Quest for Reform by Debbie Hines
In Get Off My Neck, Debbie Hines draws on her unique perspective as a trial lawyer, former Baltimore prosecutor, and assistant attorney general for the State of Maryland to argue that US prosecutors, as the most powerful players in the criminal justice system, systematically target and criminalize Black people. Hines describes her disillusionment as a young Black woman who initially entered the profession with the goal of helping victims of crimes, only to discover herself aiding and abetting a system that prizes plea bargaining, speedy conviction, and excessive punishment above all else. In this book, she offers concrete, specific, and hopeful solutions for just how we can come together in a common purpose for criminal justice and racial justice reform.
Waiting to Inhale: Cannabis Legalization and the Fight for Racial Justice by Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and Tahira Rehmatullah
From the start, the War on Drugs targeted Black, Brown, and Indigenous Americans already disadvantaged by a system stacked against them. Even now, as white Americans who largely escaped the fire capitalize on the legalization movement and a booming cannabis industry, their less fortunate peers continue to suffer the consequences of the systemic racism in policing and failed drug policy that fueled the original crisis. In Waiting to Inhale, Akwasi Owusu-Bempah and Tahira Rehmatullah issue a powerful call for a racial reckoning and provide a roadmap to redress this deep and abiding injustice.
What does it mean to be racialized-as-black in France on a daily basis? #You Know You’re Black in France When… responds to that question. Under the banner of universalism, France messages a powerful and seductive ideology of blindness to race that disappears blackened people and the antiblackness they experience. As Trica Keaton notes, in everyday life, France is anything but raceblind.
The Myth That Made Us: How False Beliefs about Racism and Meritocracy Broke Our Economy (and How to Fix It) by Jeff Fuhrer
The Myth That Made Us exposes how false narratives—of a supposedly post-racist nation, of the self-made man, of the primacy of profit- and shareholder value-maximizing for businesses, and of minimal government interference—have been used to excuse gross inequities and to shape and sustain the US economic system that delivers them. Jeff Fuhrer argues that systemic racism continues to produce vastly disparate outcomes and that our brand of capitalism favors doing little to reduce disparities. Evidence from other developed capitalist economies shows it doesn’t have to be that way. We broke this (mean-spirited) economy. We can fix it.
#HashtagActivism: Networks of Race and Gender Justice by Sarah J. Jackson, Moya Bailey and Brooke Foucault Welles
The power of hashtag activism became clear in 2011, when #IranElection served as an organizing tool for Iranians protesting a disputed election and offered a global audience a front-row seat to a nascent revolution. Since then, activists have used a variety of hashtags, including #JusticeForTrayvon, #BlackLivesMatter, #YesAllWomen, and #MeToo to advocate, mobilize, and communicate. In this book, Sarah Jackson, Moya Bailey, and Brooke Foucault Welles explore how and why Twitter has become an important platform for historically disenfranchised populations, including Black Americans, women, and transgender people. They show how marginalized groups, long excluded from elite media spaces, have used Twitter hashtags to advance counternarratives, preempt political spin, and build diverse networks of dissent.
Knowledge Justice: Disrupting Library and Information Studies through Critical Race Theory edited by Sofia Y. Leung and Jorge R. López-McKnight
In Knowledge Justice, Black, Indigenous, and Peoples of Color scholars use critical race theory (CRT) to challenge the foundational principles, values, and assumptions of Library and Information Science and Studies (LIS) in the United States. They propel CRT to center stage in LIS, to push the profession to understand and reckon with how white supremacy affects practices, services, curriculum, spaces, and policies.
Power On! by Jean J. Ryoo and Jane Margolis
This lively graphic novel follows a diverse group of teenage friends as they discover that computing can be fun, creative, and empowering. Taylor, Christine, Antonio, and Jon seem like typical young teens—they communicate via endless texting, they share jokes, they worry about starting high school, and they have each other’s backs. But when a racially-biased artificial intelligence system causes harm in their neighborhood, they suddenly realize that tech isn’t as neutral as they thought it was. But can an algorithm be racist? And what is an algorithm, anyway?
An Inclusive Academy: Achieving Diversity and Excellence by Abigail J. Stewart and Virginia Valian
Most colleges and universities embrace the ideals of diversity and inclusion, but many fall short, especially in the hiring, retention, and advancement of faculty who would more fully represent our diverse world—in particular, women and people of color. In this book, Abigail Stewart and Virginia Valian argue that diversity and excellence go hand in hand and provide guidance for achieving both. Stewart and Valian provide practical advice for overcoming obstacles to inclusion. They describe better ways of searching for job candidates; evaluating candidates for hiring, tenure, and promotion; helping faculty succeed; and broadening rewards and recognition.
More than a Glitch: Confronting Race, Gender, and Ability Bias in Tech by Meredith Broussard
The word “glitch” implies an incidental error, as easy to patch up as it is to identify. But what if racism, sexism, and ableism aren’t just bugs in mostly functional machinery—what if they’re coded into the system itself? In the vein of heavy hitters such as Safiya Umoja Noble, Cathy O’Neil, and Ruha Benjamin, Meredith Broussard demonstrates in More Than a Glitch how neutrality in tech is a myth and why algorithms need to be held accountable.