4 books to read to be a better white ally

If fair treatment for everyone is something that’s important to you, then understanding society’s relationship with race and racism, and asking yourself some fundamentally uncomfortable questions is the first step in fighting for equality.

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis – a 46-year-old black security guard who died after pleading for air as a white police officer knelt on his neck – has triggered yet another conversation around racial bias and has left many people questioning how they can be better allies.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Protests have been going on for three days in Minneapolis (Barbara J. Perenic/AP)</figcaption>
Protests have been going on for three days in Minneapolis (Barbara J. Perenic/AP)

The public outcry over Floyd’s death has highlighted the importance for everyone to use their voice to call-out everyday racism – not just those who feel oppression the most.

A good place to start is your reading list. Learning about the history of racial oppression, the microagressions that people of colour face in our world today and the enormous benefit of the white privilege system is the first step to collectively dismantling racism.

Here a few key titles to read and pass on to your friends and family.

1. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
by Reni Eddo-Lodge’

Back in 2014, Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote a blog post questioning why discussions about race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t affected by it.

The essay went viral and Eddo-Lodge expanded her ideas into this larger book, which looks at the British history of slavery, lynchings, and police brutality, and how these deep-rooted inequalities have placed obstacles in front of black people in the education and employment systems today.

Beautiful, illuminating and rightly distressing, Eddo-Lodge’s polemic on structural racism is a must-read for anyone who is keen to better understand the ways in which we’re all complicit.

2. Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World by Layla Saad

One of the most damaging things about white privilege is that those who benefit from it often have a limited understanding of its existence.

‘Me and White Supremacy’ educates readers how to recognise and counter the privilege within themselves so that they can correct unconsciously damaging behaviours and help other white people to do better too.

Filled with practical exercises, this is a go-to resource for anyone who wants to confront racial prejudices within themselves and have the right tools, language and knowledge join the fight.

3. ‘White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism’ by Robin DiAngelo

This New York Times bestseller explores the unhelpful reactions that white people have when they’re confronted by their privilege – such as countering with ‘reverse racism’ – and how shutting down these conversations works to maintain racial prejudices.

Provocative and articulate, DiAngelo’s book sets out to explain how racism continues to be at the heart of American society and how all of us are helping to hold it in place by not asking more questions and demanding more answers.

An important read for those who want to help to push the conversation forward and galvanise change faster.

4. ‘Such a Fun Age’ by Kiley Reid

This 2019 novel by Kiley Reid begins by telling the story of a young black woman who is wrongly accused of kidnapping a child she is babysitting by a white security guard.

An argument ensues – recorded on a smartphone – and the woman is finally allowed to leave when the child’s father arrives and explains the situation.

The events that follow are a nuanced take on racial biases, class divides and the white pursuit of ‘wokeness’, which is subtly woven into a story of friendship, careers, marriage and life.

Compulsively readable and tremendously thought-provoking, the themes in this smart and excellent book will stay with you long after you’ve put it down.