American institutional racism: five perspectives


The institutionalization of racial inequality, and how that plays out in people’s lived experiences has been brought to the fore by George Floyd’s murder. But this debate is hardly new.

Blacks suffering at the hands of a system built to subordinate them is evidenced in hard statistics, economic inequality, political representation, police profiling and the insidious cruelty that eventually led to George Floyd’s brutal killing. Any issue that is both so complex and so embedded into the way we view the world takes time to unpick.

This week we’ve rounded up five books that approach institutional racism from a different perspective. From dismantling dangerous ideas of whiteness, to an investigation into state-sanctioned violence against black rights activists, and the ways policymakers have chosen to prop up systemic inequality, we hope you learn something useful.

1: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness - Michelle Alexander

“Notwithstanding improvements to the US judicial system, this distressing book offers important lessons for all societies that claim colour-blindness but enact policies that scapegoat marginalised groups. Colour-blindness leads to denial, believes Alexander; better to strive for colour-consciousness.”

2: White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism Robin DiAngelo

“Much of “White Fragility” is dedicated to pulling back the veil on these so-called pillars of whiteness: assumptions that prop up racist beliefs without our realizing it. Such ideologies include individualism, or the distinctly white-American dream that one writes one’s own destiny, and objectivity, the confidence that one can free oneself entirely from bias. ”

3: They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, And A New Era In America’s Racial Justice Movement - Wesley Lowery

“The human face of protesters, victims, and their families, as well as the timeline of organizational development, all in the geographical and historical context of several US cities make this an important first hand account of a two year period in the ongoing epidemic of police violence.”

4: White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide - Carol Anderson

“In this year of populist backlash, media coverage has often focused on the anger that ordinary white Americans feel over economic and demographic changes they see as threatening. Anderson reminds readers that white rage has a long history in the United States and that it has frequently come in response to black progress. Her book tells the story of Reconstruction and Jim Crow in harrowing terms, using specific incidents of white violence against blacks to personalize the horror.’.”

5: Between The World And Me Ta-Nehisi Coates

“Perhaps one of the only conventions that Coates seems to agree upon is the long-lived claim that the process of questioning will always hold greater value than the answers themselves.”

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This page was last edited on Thursday, 4 Jun 2020 at 15:18 UTC