(Note: The author will continue to update this article with additional resources as he finds them helpful or personally recommended. Updated 5.16.22)
***Full disclaimer: I’m very much white- some combination of Italian and a British Isles mutt- so at first glance it may seem problematic that a good number of the resources I’m about to recommend come from white people. However, I’ve been learning that this is a problem we (white people) created and it’s our responsibility to fix where we’ve erred (trying to prove our superiority). So, it’s been extremely good for me to find white people who are humble enough to turn the lens back on whiteness and slowly chip away at misconceptions before diving in deeply with a full understanding and blinders off into the world of POCs who have been at this for so long. I’m only just now feeling comfortable stepping into that side of conversations, having been “uniformed” or just plain stubbornly resistant for far too long.***
I am not offering this list as any definitive “you should absolutely add this to your reading/listening/watching”. But I thought I would share with you all the resources I’ve been working through to gain a better understanding of the past, present, and future of us as a people, as Americans, and specifically of systematic, unwarranted, invisible white privilege. I know it’s hard to sift through so many things out there even as we sit in a position where there’s more knowledge at our fingertips than at any other point in history. We shouldn’t have to ask our black brothers and sisters to explain things to us when there’s so much out there available that’s been trying to do this very thing for decades. So I’m trying to bridge the gap a little as I continue to learn myself.
As I offer the links, I’ll try to provide categories for “if you’re at this stage, start here”, because I do think it will help to have some kind of order to work through. Again, this is what’s been helpful for me. Your own mileage may vary. I still have a long way to go. We all do. But I thought this might help.
The “I really don’t see what the big deal is, I’m not a racist” category:
1) Peggy McIntosh – 18 minute TedTalk on Compassion and Privilege
2) Peggy McIntosh – Essay on Invisible Privilege
3) Dr. Robin DiAngelo on common myths
4) Racism in America – Bob the Tomato (Phil Vischer) encapsulates the issue in 18 minutes and drives home the point that the most important thing we can all do is to care.
The “I get that racism is still an issue, but why say there’s a system and we’re all complicit?” category:
1) John Biewen – Who invented the idea of “black” or “white” and why?
2) John Biewen and Chenjerai Kumanyika – a more focused look at history through the lens of whiteness. If you don’t listen to anything else, LISTEN TO THIS series.
3) Eyes on the Prize (PBS) – a 14 hour documentary series telling the story of the Civil Rights Movement (1954-1980s). This admittedly gets hard to find, due to “copyright issues”. But YouTube seems to have at least 11 of the 14 episodes if you do just a bit of searching.
4) Kerner Commission Report – Following the riots in 1967, President Johnson tasked a group with identifying what happened, why, and what could be done about it. Their findings are inside, essentially stating there’s nothing new to be said that hasn’t already been said on the matter. Extremely eye opening.
5) 13th – Netflix documentary – As trendy as this one is, I recommend you place it last in the historical series, as it briefly touches on events and issues from past decades that are better understood in-depth, rather than at a glance. Definitely still a must watch, as it brings the whole thing into focus as well as updating more recent issues.
6) There is a Racial Gap in Financial Literacy – “In 2019, white Americans had a median family wealth of $188,200, while Black Americans had a median family wealth of just $24,100.” Annuity.org’s excellent article outlines how a lack of financial literacy is affecting the black community. ((NEW! 5.16.22))
The “this is a sin problem, not a race problem” theological category:
1) Dr David Platt, McLean Bible Church leadership – Unity in Diversity 7 part series – An extremely humble look at personal preference versus intentional unity within the body.
2) Kirk Franklin, Dr. Tony Evans – A candid conversation from early March 2020 on why this is an issue we can’t expect people who don’t understand the gospel to be able to fix. Also discusses the complicity of the church by silence.
3) James T Roberson – A critical look on where the church was on slavery and why silence was/is too often the stance.
4) Divided By Faith – Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America – Meticulously researched, this is a pretty dense book, full of historical context for what was happening in Evangelical churches in both the North and South during different eras of early slavery, Abolitionist movements, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and on into the 90s with the rise of racial reconciliation. The focus is on how certain steps along the way have been made to “improve” matters legally, while driving wedges further between black and white culture- effectively breaking things as we fix them, specifically within the church.
The “Bryan Stevenson is an amazing man, go support EJI” category:
1) Just Mercy – streaming FREE on many platforms through June – Dramatic retelling of Stevenson’s book of the same name, regarding actual events, cases, and people he worked with.
2) Stevenson again, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative – 1/3 of the country’s black male population has been incarcerated at one point in their life. There is a problem with the system.
3) Bryan Stevenson and Tim Keller on how the church should be ambassadors for the restoration of the whole city. This is a few years old but still painfully relevant.
The “this will probably offend everyone, and I’m ok with that” category:
John Oliver (Last Week Tonight) – An overarching commentary on police, unions, brutality, and what can/should be done about it. (Warning, language and political spit-roasting. It’s an incredible watch but not for everyone.)
The “additional historical narratives, including my own backyard” category:
1) History This Week – How the 6th US Census and intentionally faulty data collection directly led to the argument that has been posited for generations since: Freedom causes black people to go insane.
2) Michael Graham – Orlando’s racial history. This is part one in a three part series that’s all worth a read. Continue the other two parts at the end of the first article.
3) Jason Byrne – A specifically detailed look at the Ocoee Election Day Massacre of 1920
The “Revisionist History is my favorite podcast ever” category:
Malcolm Gladwell – Revisionist History is my longstanding favorite podcast series. It’s now in its 5th season. Specifically of help on this subject:
- Carlos Doesn’t Remember- On Privilege, Poverty, and Education
- The Satire Paradox- How creating laughable moments normalizes issues instead of creating change
- Miss Buchanan’s Period of Adjustment- The fallout that no one discusses from Brown vs. BoE.
- The Foot Soldier of Birmingham- An artist’s rendering of a famous civil rights photo is far from accurate, but it did its job.
- State v Johnson- a landmark trial and accounts surrounding it that helped finally break through Jim Crow laws.
- Mr Hollowell Didn’t Like That- A followup to State v Johnson that continues the critique of the judicial system.
- General Chapman’s Last Stand- An incredible starting point on the immigration “crisis”. It may not seem related, but it very much is.
- The Hug Heard Round the World- A look at how Sammy Davis Jr and other black Americans have struggled to maintain their own identity and culture or blend in with “white” society.
- Good Old Boys- How valuable it is to have open discourse with people we disagree with.
- Descend Into the Particular- A Jesuit approach to looking at cases like Michael Brown and the importance of narratives.
The “this doesn’t seem like it’s connected, but it really is” category:
The Border Trilogy– An incredible series detailing immigration, border patrol, and the treatment of people unlike ourselves. It was important for me to begin to piece together the idea that there are many groups who are disenfranchised by the current system, not just one.
The “what do we do with what we’ve learned?” category:
1) Solvable has a 3-part series on “Unjust Systems of Power”, “Mass Incarceration”, and “Lack of Accountability for Police Violence” that are fantastic. If you’re unfamiliar with the format, it’s 20-30 minutes where a very well-informed guest on the frontlines of an issue is asked to define a problem, offer specific steps in which the problem can be fixed, and then close with action items a listener can take in order to do something about the problem.
2) Your Enneagram Coach Episodes 9, 10, and 11 have also taken a detour in order to allow an inside look at the experience of black Americans through the lens of both the Enneagram but also the American church. Great perspective, great resources, moving presentation.
3) Mark Charles (Independent), is an American and Navajo citizen and former pastor campaigning on a platform of #allthepeople. If you’re aware enough to realize that the two major political parties are largely putting up the same two candidates and believe we can do better, take a look here.
4) Follow the & Campaign. A group who are willing to make things not about party platform but about what’s right and what’s wrong. That it’s possible to represent both Biblical Values & Social Justice.
5) Actual phone/email action items. These may not be for everyone, and each particular issue is clearly for you to decide on- I’m not saying I advocate 100% anything being suggested in this doc. But someone’s gone to a whole lot of trouble to compile useful info/links for people to pretty easily contact individuals about a whole slew of racial justice issues.
What about you? What resources have you found that aren’t simply memes or hot takes but actually have given you new perspective and fresh eyes on the issues we’re all dealing with?