The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Resources for Thinking and Acting

There are endless opportunities to learn, engage, and grow. Use the resources below (adapted from a compilation by the Lafayette College Kaleidoscope Social Justice Peer Educators) to educate yourself and others and help build a community that is respectful and inclusive for all. 

Read these online

This letter, written in response to white condemnation of non-violent protest lays out the importance of protest to force a conversation about injustice and the responsibility we all have to push for change. This letter also clarifies that MLK understood violent protest as a highly logical response to a broken social contract.

The Groundwater Approach provides an incredibly helpful analogy for structural racism. The analogy was designed to “help practitioners at all levels internalize the reality that we live in a racially structured society, and that that is what causes racial inequity. The metaphor is based on three observations: 1. racial inequity looks the same across systems, 2. socio-economic difference does not explain the racial inequity; and, 3. inequities are caused by systems, regardless of people’s culture or behavior. Embracing these truths helps leaders confront the reality that all our systems, institutions, and outcomes emanate from the racial hierarchy, on which the United States was built. In other words, we have a “groundwater” problem, and we need “groundwater” solutions. Starting from there, we begin to unlock transformative change.”

This fabulous online reading list is organized by common questions and concerns people have about protests, racism, and police violence, and answers each question with compelling evidence to refute popular but incorrect narratives around racial justice

Check Your Privilege provides a “guided journey that deepens your awareness to how your actions affect the mental health of Black, Brown, Indigenous, People of Color ( BBIPoC).”

  • This article discusses why COVID-19 is disproportionately affecting people of color, attributing the disparity to issues of structural racism
  • This video discusses the evolution of race as a social construct designed to privilege white people and give them power over their darker skinned counterparts
  • Read “The Case for Reparations by  Ta-Nehisi Coates about the need for America to reckon with its racial past
  • Read this article on the disputes between Ta-Nehisi Coates and Cornel West over the nature of structural racism and power systems in the US, and how they should be addressed
  • Read this interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates about how these current movements differ from those in 1968, Colin Kaepernick, police abolition, nonviolence and the state, and why he is hopeful
  • Read “Racism Won’t Be Solved by Yet Another Blue-Ribbon Report by Adam Harris about how what America needs in this moment is substantive change, not another government report about race relations in America that merely tells the same story that many other reports written in the aftermath of mass protests already cover
  • Read “Trump Gave Police Permission to be Brutal by Adam Serwer. This article addresses Trump’s position as a president who advocates law and order but not justice, and who has encouraged violent police behavior by dehumanizing those outside of his base. In a time that calls for unity, the president has delighted in deepening divisions and “advocating the violent enforcement of the color line”
  • Read this article that explores a Tulsa Police Major’s comments that they’re “shooting black people 24 percent less than we probably ought to be”
  • This page from the Atlantic compiles 163 of the Atlantic’s writings on race and racism in America
  • Read this article about how to talk about race, racism, and racial justice
  • Read this article on four ways to be an ally in the fight against racism
Read these books

Learn About How To Be An Anti-racist

  • “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo
  • “How to be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi
  • “Mindful of Race” by Ruth King
  • What if I Say the Wrong Thing?: 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People by Verna A. Myers
  • Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad

Learn About Privilege, Structural Racism Discrimination, and Activism

  • “White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide” by Carol Anderson
  • “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander
  • “Are Prisons Obsolete” by Angela Davis
  • “Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American Textbook Got Wrong” by James W. Loewen
  • “The House That Race Built” original essays by Toni Morrison, Angela Y. Davis, Cornel West, And Others on Black Americans and Politics in America Today
  • “When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir” by Patrisse Khan-Cullors
  • “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo
  • “The Color of Law- A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America”- by Richard Rothstein
  • “Possessive Investment In Whiteness” by George Lipsitz
  • Just Mercy by Byran Stevenson
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? By Beverly Daniel Tatum
  • Microaggression: in Everyday Life: Race, Gender and Sexual Orientation by Derald Wing Sue
  • Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis 
  • Black Power: The Politics of Liberation by Kwame Ture
  • Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common Good by Chuck Collins
  • Crook Country: Racism and INjustice in America’s Largest Criminal Court by Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve

Learn About the History of Race and Racism in the US

  • “Slavery by Another Name” by Douglas Blackmon
  • “Ain’t I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism” by Bell Hooks
  • “Barracoon: The Story of the Last Slave” by Zora Neale-Hurston
  • “An African American and Latinx History Of The United States” by Roxanne Dumbar-Ortiz
  • “Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas In America” by Ibram x Kendi
  • “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin
  • “The Color of Law- A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America”- by Richard Rothstein
  • “Whiteness of a Different Color” by Matthew Frye Jacobson
  • Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Learn About the Black Experience and Intersectionality in America

  • “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • “Black Skin White Masks” by Frantz Fanon
  • “Freedom Is a Constant Struggle” by Angela Davis
  • “The Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color” by Cherrie L. Moraga
  • “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin
  • “The Fire This Time” by Jesmyn Ward
  • “I’m Still Here- Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness” by Austin Channing Brown
  • “Citizen” by Claudia Rankine
  • “The Wretched of the Earth” by Frantz Fanon
  • “Divided Sisters” by Midge Wilson & Kathy Russell
  • “A Taste of Power” by Elaine Brown
  • “Assata: An Autobiography” by Assata Shakur
  • “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf” by Ntozake Shange
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley
  • How to Cure a Ghost by Fariha Roisin
  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • Patricide by Dave Harris

Learn About Key Theories and Intellectual Frameworks for Understanding Race and Intersectionality in America

  • “Black Feminist Thought” by Patricia Hill Collins
  • “The Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color” by Cherrie L. Moraga
  • "But Some of Us Are Brave” Edited by Akasha (Gloria T.) Hull, Patricia Bell-Scott, & Barbara Smith
  • "Whiteness of a Different Color” by Matthew Frye Jacobson
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire
  • We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  • How We Get Free: Black Feminism and the Combahee River Collective by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor
  • Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome by Joy DeGruy
  • Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
  • Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis
  • Black Power: The Politics of Liberation by Kwame Ture
  • Decolonizing Wealth: Indigenous Wisdom to Heal Divides and Restore Balance by Edgar Villanueva
Watch these

Trevor Noah’s commentary on the broken social contract in America

Trevor Noah’s thoughtful monologue on recent events helps to explain the centuries-old frustrations of people of color in America and how looting during protests serves as a response to the looting of black bodies by police

The Innocence Files (Netflix)

The untold personal stories behind eight cases of wrongful conviction that the Innocence Project and organizations within the Innocence Network have uncovered and worked to overturn.

I Am Not Your Negro (Can be accessed on Kanopy through the Lafayette Library)

In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, "Remember This House." The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and assassinations of three of his close friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin's death in 1987, he left behind only 30 completed pages of this manuscript. Filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished.

13th (on Netflix)

"Filmmaker Ava DuVernay explores the history of racial inequality in the United States, focusing on the fact that the nation's prisons are disproportionately filled with African-Americans.”

When They See Us (on Netflix)

“In 1989 a jogger was assaulted and raped in New York's Central Park, and five young people were subsequently charged with the crime. The quintet labeled the Central Park Five, maintained its innocence and spent years fighting the convictions, hoping to be exonerated. This limited series spans a quarter of a century, from when the teens are first questioned about the incident in the spring of 1989, going through their exoneration in 2002 and ultimately the settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014.”

Dear White People (on Netflix)

“This Netflix-original series follows a group of students of color at Winchester University, a predominantly white Ivy League college. The students are faced with a landscape of cultural bias, social injustice, misguided activism and slippery politics. Through an absurdist lens, the series uses irony, self-deprecation, brutal honesty, and humor to highlight issues that still plague today's"post-racial" society.”

Just Mercy

“After graduating from Harvard, Bryan Stevenson heads to Alabama to defend those wrongly condemned or those not afforded proper representation. One of his first cases is that of Walter McMillian, who is sentenced to die in 1987 for the murder of an 18-year-old girl, despite evidence proving his innocence. In the years that follow, Stevenson encounters racism and legal and political maneuverings as he tirelessly fights for McMillian's life.”

Ferguson: A Report from Occupied Territory

“The United States is currently in the midst of a national dialogue regarding racial profiling and police brutality; a dialogue triggered by the killing of Michael Brown in August of 2014. Ferguson: A Report from Occupied Territory goes to the frontline of this discussion, and offers invaluable insights from Ferguson residents for whom the burdens of discrimination and injustice are a daily fact of life.”

Moonlight (on Netflix)

A look at three defining chapters in the life of Chiron, a young black man growing up in Miami. His epic journey to manhood is guided by the kindness, support and love of the community that helps raise him.

Hello, Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea (on Netflix)

Chelsea Handler explores how white privilege impacts American culture and the ways it's benefited her life and career.

Selma

“Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 legally desegregated the South, discrimination was still rampant in certain areas, making it very difficult for blacks to register to vote. In 1965, an Alabama city became the battleground in the fight for suffrage. Despite violent opposition, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (David Oyelowo) and his followers pressed forward on an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, and their efforts culminated in President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

American Son (Netflix)

This movie deals with police brutality against black men and the terror of raising a son of color in America.

Do the Right Thing

This Spike Lee film is a parable about racism and rioting, and how they interact.

The Media Education Foundation is providing anti-racism videos for free here.

Listen to these

Black Lives Matter: What Matters Podcast

 A podcast created by Black Lives Matter to help generate a dialogue around topics that are affecting Black communities. 

Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast

“Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast features movement voices, stories, and strategies for racial justice. Co-hosts Chevon and Hilba give their unique takes on race and pop culture, and uplift narratives of hope, struggle, and joy, as we continue to build the momentum needed to advance racial justice in our policies, institutions, and culture. Deepen your racial justice lens and get inspired to drive action.”

Code Switch

An NPR podcasts hosted by journalists of color tackling conversations about race and how it impacts every part of our society.

… While Black

“A seriously opinionated podcast bring you the real and the sometimes raw on anything happening while black.”

Truth be Told

“Truth be told is an advice podcast that explores how you can be you in a world that doesn’t always want you to be. We’re like the friend you can call after a long, exhausting day - the one who will laugh, cry, bitch, and moan with you. The one who gets it.”

The United States of Anxiety

“The United States of Anxiety is a show about the unfinished business of our history and its grip on our future. Many of the political and social arguments we’re having now started in the aftermath of the Civil War when Americans set out to do something no one had tried before: build the worlds first multiracial democracy. The podcast gives voters the context to understand what’s at stake in this election.”

The Stoop

“The stoop podcast digs into stories that are not always shared out in the open. Hosts Leila Day and Hana Baba start conversations and provide professional-reported stories about what it means to b black and how we talk about blackness. Come hang out on The Stoop as we dialog about the diaspora.”

You Had Me at Black

“You had me at Black is where black millennials tell the true-life stories you won’t see on TV.”

In Black America

“In Black America is a long running, nationally syndicated program dedicated to all facets of the African American experience.John Hanson profiles a diverse selection of current and historically significant figures whose stories help illuminate life in Black America. Guests include civil rights leaders, educators, artists, athletes, and writers describing their experiences, achievements, and work in chronicling and advancing the quality of African American life.”

Other: Mixed Race in America

“This five-part miniseries explores what happens when your parents come from two different countries, cultures, or races. Host Alex Laughlin shares her own stories and interviews multiracial people about what their racial identities mean to them.”

About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge

From the author behind the bestselling Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race comes a podcast that takes the conversation a step further. Featuring key voices from the last few decades of anti-racist activism, About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge looks at the recent history that leads to the politics of today.

The Mental Health Invisible Tour

An invisible tour guide takes you on a journey throughout Lafayette College's campus and exposes the struggles and successes of student, staff and faculty mental health. The tour starts outside the Farinon Student Center and ends at the Counseling Center, exploring topics about race, sexual assault, Greek Life, the Lafayette expansion, suicide, struggles of the engineering department, the private contracting of custodial workers and more. The journey will make you tear up, laugh and cry all in an hour and hopefully will warm your heart to others in this community. This episode is cosponsored by WJRH and the Mental Health Coalition.

Floodlines

This outstanding podcast by the Atlantic revisits Hurricane Katrina and analyzes in great detail what it calls an “unnatural disaster.”