The North: Leon Litwack’s North of Slavery.
Reconstruction: Eric Foner’s Reconstruction.
Convict leasing: Douglas A. Blackmon’s Slavery by Another Name.
Jim Crow: James D. Anderson’s The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860–1935. Khalil Gibran Muhammad’s The Condemnation of Blackness. Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law. Thomas J. Sugrue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis.
The Great Migration: Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns.
Civil and human rights: Jeanne Theoharis’s A More Beautiful and Terrible History. Mary L. Dudziak’s Cold War Civil Rights. Deborah Gray White’s Too Heavy a Load. Paula J. Giddings’s When and Where I Enter.
Mass incarceration: Elizabeth Hinton’s From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime. Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow. Angela Davis’s Are Prisons Obsolete? Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy.
Police violence: Wesley Lowery’s They Can’t Kill Us All. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation.
Health and housing: Harriet A. Washington’s Medical Apartheid. Matthew Desmond’s Evicted.
Voting: Ari Berman’s Give Us the Ballot. Carol Anderson’s One Person, No Vote.
From each book, move to a lifetime of anti-racist action.
Northam is apparently moving toward a legislative life of anti-racist action in Virginia. His team is reportedly fashioning a racial-equality platform of putting more funds into affordable housing and public education, instituting equitable standards for small-business procurement, and expanding economic opportunity for entrepreneurs. These plans will help, in the same way a nice raise helps a low-income worker, even as these plans will do nothing to address why homes are unaffordable, why certain public schools are underfunded, or why black entrepreneurs face restrictions.
Vann R. Newkirk II: Ralph Northam’s mistake
From afar, I want to believe Northam’s sincerity and commitment. But too often, feigned ignorance buys racial innocence. When people do not deny their racism, they claim their ignorance of racism. And they are believed because people commonly believe the fundamental villain in America’s racist saga is ignorance.
Racist power is the fundamental villain in America’s racial saga. But in order to challenge or overtake racist power, we must know racist power and its policies and ideas and blackfaced and hooded and badged and suited soldiers of violence.
This anti-racist syllabus is a first step. It is for people beginning their anti-racist journey after a lifetime of not truly knowing themselves or their country. It is for people opening to knowledge now, to changing themselves now, to changing the world now.