8 books to educate yourself on race and anti-racism

Powerful reads, including local titles, that will help you learn about race and bring racial injustice to the forefront of conversation.

Aid your learning on racism and discrimination with these books

George Floyd’s death has once again brought the urgent need of condemning a nation that has a long history of racism and racist violence. The tragic incident sparked a fury that reverberated throughout the world. Many Malaysians, too, have eagerly shown their support for the Black Lives Matter movement but standing in solidarity with the black community isn't enough — equipping ourselves with knowledge to change, contribute and impact the larger world makes us a more effective ally.

Racism is a touchy subject, but not one we are unfamiliar with. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of books that can aid your learning on racist and discriminatory issues prevalent today as well as the ones stowed away in our own backyard.


When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir
By Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Ashe Bandele

Following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012, three women — Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi — came together to form an active response to the systematic racism in America: the Black Lives Matter movement. With the assistance of Ashe Bandele, Khan-Cullors shares a harrowing memoir of the prejudice and persecution faced by black Americans at the hands of law enforcement, including the brutal arrest and incarceration of her mentally ill and wheelchair-bound brother.


So You Want To Talk About Race
By Ijeoma Oluo

This New York Times Bestseller acts as a 101 handbook for readers who seek conversational advice when it comes to “seemingly harmless” racial comments used in everyday dialogue. Ijeoma Oluo delves into topics like intersectionality, the “N” word, the model minority myth and the school-to-prison pipeline as well as answers some of the most common questions about racism, such as “Why am I always being told to ‘check my privilege’?”, “What are microaggressions?” and “Is police brutality really about race?”.


Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race
By Reni Eddo-Lodge

In 2014, Reni Eddo-Lodge published a post on her blog (which went viral nationwide) entitled “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race” delineating her frustration of how a vast majority of white people in Britain refuse to accept the existence of structural racism and its symptoms. The idea is expounded in her book, focusing on issues such as eradicated black history and the inextricable link between class and race. Eddo-Lodge also presents a framework for detecting, acknowledging and countering racism.


How to Be an Antiracist
By Ibram X. Kendi

It’s not enough to be “not racist”, the goal is to be “antiracist” — a concept explicated by Ibram X. Kendi that reorients and reenergises the conversation about racism. In this book, Kendi charts his personal journey through the racist ideas he and his family embraced and delves into the ways we can restructure our belief and personal relationships, and re-evaluate the policies and social arrangements we support. This dogmatic book is an essential for those who want to go beyond awareness to contributing to the formation of a truly equitable society.


Class, Race and Colonialism in Peninsular Malaysia: A Political History of Malaysian Indians
By Michael Stenson

Malaysia’s post-colonial ruling elite perpetuated communal divisions in furthering ethno-populisms but Stenson outlines that such segregation had already begun when the British policies exploited and impoverished the people, particularly Indian workers. His historical insights remain relevant to the vast majority of Malaysian Indians today who continue to strive for their rights and welfare as the country hurtles into the future.


Green is the Colour
By Llyod Fernando

Set against the shadow of the 1969 May 13 riot, this is a sensitive novel that doesn’t veer away from the current truth. The Malaysian society is still plagued by the challenges of interracial acceptance, and Fernando’s story — which centres around lovebirds Yun Ming and Siti Sara — echoes the many obstacles interfaith couples face. An uncompromising look at Malaysia’s past, Green is the Colour vividly displays how racial intolerance from a micro level can lead to bigotry and a shaky national identity.


Yellow Peril!: An Archive of Anti-Asian Fear
By John Kuo Wei Tchen and Dylan Yeats

Authored by two scholars and teemed with cultural references from pulp novels, posters and theatrical productions, this bestseller aptly offers a modern analysis of “yellow peril”, one of the oldest colour-metaphors that Asians are an existential danger and threat to the Western World. The writers seeks to examine the extent of this iniquitous form of paranoia, supplemented with propagandistic and pseudo-scholarly literature. Prepare for some commentary that’s not only theoretically astute but side-splittingly forthright.


A is for Activist
By Innosanto Nagara

Children's literature has gotten increasingly white, which prompted Innosanto to illustrate a book for the next generation of progressives. This is not a book for the emotionally squeamish — this ABC board book aims to raise socially conscious kids who want to grow up in a space that's unapologetic about activism, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, environmental justice and everything else that an activist would advocate for. Life is not all fairytales, anyway.

All books can be found at online bookstores including Kinokuniya Malaysia, Books Depository and Silverfish Books (for local titles).


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