The best books on racism you can read for free right now
A dynamic that has emerged from the unrest surrounding the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police last week is an increased demand for antiracist literature. People appear to have finally taken up the cause of educating themselves about the entrenched societal issues fueling the current racial reckoning in America.
“Since Friday, we’ve had close to 500 online orders for about eight to 10 different books on antiracism and race,” James Fugate, co-founder of Black-owned Eso Won Books in Los Angeles, told TIME early this week. “It’s been overwhelming.”
Many well-known titles by Black authors have sold out on Amazon in the US. (Writers are urging readers to buy from small, black-owned bookstores, not to support the corporate behemoths.) Some third-party sellers have hiked prices to more than $50 for copies of books like Ibram X. Kendi’s How to Be an Anti-Racist, Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race and Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race.
These much-hyped books are a great starting place, but they’re not a cure-all for racism. “Why I’m Longer Talking to White People About Race is a great primer, and Me and White Supremacy is a great toolbook, but then what happens?” asked U.K.-based publisher Sharmaine Lovegrove, whose Dialogue Books publishes writers from diverse backgrounds. It’s not enough for people to buy “one book that tells them what they’ve got to do and makes them think they’ve done the work,” she added. Reading, learning and working towards anti-racism is a lifelong practice.
In the meantime, to help accelerate this worldwide moment of knowledge-sharing, a number of publishers have made ebooks on anti-racism available for free:
The End of Policing by Alex S. Vitale
Verso Books, the world’s largest independent, radical English-language publishing house, has made the ebook of Alex S. Vitale’s The End of Policing available for free download. Vitale, a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College, argues in his book that the problem in America isn’t over-policing, it’s policing itself. The book delves into the tainted origins of modern policing as a tool of social control and explains how the expansion of police authority directly undermines community empowerment and even public safety. According to reviews, The End of Policing combines the best in academic research with topical urgency to explain why change is necessary now.
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States
Haymarket Books, a Chicago-based independent, nonprofit publisher, is similarly offering this collection of reports and essays on police violence against Black people and other marginalized communities as a free ebook download. Contributors including William C. Anderson, Candice Bernd, Aaron Cantú and Thandi Chimurenga explore a broad range of crimes by police: the killing of Black men and women; violence against Latino and indigenous communities; law enforcement’s mistreatment of pregnant people; discrimination against those with mental illness; and the impact of racist policing on parenting. The book also explores alternatives to punitive law enforcement to keep communities safe.
Trouble I've Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism by Drew G. I. Hart
Author and theology professor Drew G. I. Hart, PhD, tweeted that Herald Press is offering his book, Trouble I've Seen: Changing the Way the Church Views Racism, as a free ebook download. You have to add the digital version to your shopping cart, then enter the promo code HART to snag your free copy. In his book, Hart argues that white Christians have repeatedly gotten it wrong about race, because white culture and privilege have so thoroughly shaped their assumptions. He asks how the church might be changed if all Christians were taught to listen to stories of those on the radicalized margins.
Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini
In the UK, publisher 4th Estate Books has made Superior: The Return of Race Science by Angela Saini available as a free ebook. Reni Eddo-Lodge praised the book for “roundly debunk[ing] racism’s core lie — that inequality is to do with genetics, rather than political power.”
A number of grassroots activists have begun sharing the texts of anti-racist literature on social media, too. Writer Nabila Lovelace shared a wealth of PDF documents in an expansive Twitter thread, ranging from The Wretched of the Earth by French psychiatrist Frantz Fanon, a 1961 text examining the dehumanizing effects of colonization, to Black Feminist Thought by Patricia Hill Collins, her seminal 1990 book exploring the words and ideas of Black feminist intellectuals. A helpful follower organized Lovelace’s reading list into a Google document.
A Black History Month library compiled by writer Charles Preston in 2017 has also been making the rounds online. It’s an expansive resource, with free literature on everything from afro-futurism to mass incarceration to black music. So get reading! There’s more than enough free content online to keep you occupied while you wait for your local black-owned bookstore to restock titles by Ta-Nehisi Coates, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and so many other brilliant Black minds.