From a Bill Moyers interview with Ibram X. Kendi, the author of Stamped From The Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America (2017). Kendi was asked what five books should be mandatory reading (once readers were done with his book).
I think that it really depends on what they’re interested in. But I think books that are critical in understanding the popular sort of discussions that we’re having now that have to do with race injustice. Of course, there is Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, which I think really takes the reader through understanding how much of a problem the death penalty is, how much of a black problem it is, and how virulently racist the policies and operators are within that — in Alabama and other places.
I think many people, even very well-meaning people, still believe in the existence of the biological races and I think the best book to dispel that myth is Dorothy Roberts’ Fatal Invention, which was a book that was, in many ways, transformational for me. And it really not only dissected the idea of biological races, but it even showed us the way in which these concepts of biological races are big business. Either big business or it’s big within academic research, in which you get a lot of money for sort of prove this and demonstrate this and build theories or specific genes associated with specific groups on it.
I think another book that I would recommend, because I think when you’re really thinking about — I’m hoping that through reading Stamped From the Beginning people will begin to adopt a more anti-racist mentality. And when you really adopt a more anti-racist mentality, you really adopt a more loving mentality toward humanity, toward yourself. And I think, just like we have not been systematically taught about racism, we have not been systematically taught about love. One book I would recommend would be bell hooks’ All About Love, because I think when we’re thinking about this issue, we can’t escape the very fundamental issue of love and empathy.
I would also recommend — there’s so many biographies, but I would recommend Paula Giddings’ biography of Ida B. Wells, because I think we need examples. We need examples of people who were very courageous in their time, people who were anti-racist in their time, people who were willing to stand up and fight over the course of their lifetime. And I think that’s probably one of the most masterful biographies of an activist. I know her and so I would recommend that book too.