Check our Calendar for the next “Let’s Talk About Race” program.
From the country's history of slavery to the ongoing debate about immigration, race in America has always been a complicated topic. Nevertheless, with the election and re-election of Barack Obama as President of the United States, many people believed that we had turned a corner in our country and could look forward to a post-racial America. However welcome and exciting Obama’s presidency, it did not reverse centuries of racial injustice that is built into every level of our society. Systemic racism is embedded in all social institutions, structures, and social relations within our society.
In 2017, a United Nations committee of human rights experts declared that racism is on the rise across the United States. Polling has revealed that more Americans say white people have a better chance of getting ahead than black people, a disparity that has changed little over the past 20 years. The findings, however, differ by race. According to white Americans, 54%, say both black and white residents have an equal chance of advancing. By contrast, 65 percent of African Americans and 50 percent of Latinos report that white people have the advantage to move ahead in today’s society.
Begun in 2015 at the Red Bank Public Library, Let’s Talk About Race is a program intended to provide a forum in which to increase dialogue and understanding among people of different races and ethnic backgrounds. Recipient of the 2018 New Jersey State Library Multicultural Program Award, Let’s Talk About Race was recognized for developing a long-term partnership with members of the Red Bank community that can result in sustainable cultural programming.
Due to the appeal of the program and the enthusiastic support of the participants, this resource center was created to keep the Library at the forefront of this important conversation. Because of the vastness of the topic, the sources presented are only a sample of the relevant material that is available on the many facets of racism. Due to its pervasive nature, racism has been addressed officially in different legal forums including the U.S. Constitution, statutory law, and civil litigation.
Section I contains important examples of these legal actions as well as discussions of the implication of each. Racism also has been discussed in a variety of media. Section II presents summaries of, and links to, publications that have identified the many ways in which racism has affected the lives of African American citizens. Section III is an annotated bibliography of both classic and contemporary books that deal with racism. The availability of each of these books through the Red Bank Public Library is indicated. For those who prefer visual presentations, a sample of videos about racial matters can be found in Section IV, while Section V contains a number of sources that present collections of movies dealing with racism. Finally, Section VI identifies important organizations that promote racial harmony.
Part I: Legal Matters
Racial barriers to full and equal participation by African Americans in United States society has been addressed in the halls of Congress, state legislatures, and courtrooms throughout our country’s history. The most familiar scenario is one in which federal guarantees, either written into the Constitution or legislated in the Congress, have overturned state laws that restricted the rights of African Americans. Providing a complete set of references to all of this legal work would be a task too imposing for this web page. Instead, we have identified the most consequential Constitutional amendments and civil rights laws that define the legal parameters of racial justice.
A. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Congressional Reconstruction included the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, otherwise known as the Civil War amendments. These additions to the Constitution extended civil and legal protections to former slaves.
1. 13TH AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION
The 13th, ratified by the states on December 6, 1865, abolished slavery within the United States. The Amendment bars every person from holding chattel slaves or engaging in other forms of involuntary servitude, which covers a broader range of labor arrangements where a person is forced to work by the use or threatened use of physical or legal coercion. Congress required former Confederate states to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment as a condition of regaining federal representation.
Text of the 13th Amendment
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
2. 14TH AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION
Ratified in 1868, the amendment addresses national citizenship rights and equal protection of the law. It specifically forbids the states to restrict the basic rights of citizens or other persons, and requires that they guarantee the same rights, privileges, and protections to all citizens. As one of the Reconstruction amendments, it grants citizenship to “all persons born or naturalized in the United States,” which included recently freed slaves following the American Civil War. By directly mentioning the role of the states, the 14th Amendment greatly expanded the protection of civil rights to all Americans and is cited in more litigation than any other amendment. Finally, it granted Congress the power to enforce this amendment, a provision that led to the passage of other landmark legislation in the 20th century. Congress required former Confederate states to ratify the Fourteenth Amendment as a condition of regaining federal representation.
3. 15TH AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION
Ratified in 1870, the amendment prohibited states from disenfranchising voters “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Section One ensued that states or communities did not deny men the right to vote based on their race. Section Two granted the U.S. Congress the power to enforcement through legislation. Many former confederate states took advantage of a provision that left open the possibility that they could institute voter qualifications equally to all races, thus giving rise to poll taxes, and literacy tests, among other qualifications that were discriminatory in practice. For example, the Grandfather Clause allowed any male to vote as long as his ancestors had voted prior to 1866, which naturally excluded African Americans.
Text of the 15th Amendment
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
4. 24TH AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION
In 1964, the 24th Amendment made poll taxes illegal in federal elections.
Text of the 24th Amendment:
Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
B. CIVIL RIGHTS LEGISLATION
The Reconstruction amendments to the Constitution extended new constitutional protections to African-Americans. Nonetheless, the struggle to achieve full equality would continue into the 20th century. This struggle was marked by the preparation and passage of legislation that outlawed specific forms of discrimination that disadvantaged African Americans as well as members of other protected classes. (A protected class consists of individuals who share some characteristic in common who are protected by laws that prevent discriminatory actions against them because of this shared characteristic – e.g., race, religion, sex, or national origin.) Some of the most important pieces of federal legislation are identified below.
Additionally, FindLaw (an online legal information and online marketing service for law firms) prepared a compilation of federal legislation that guarantees rights for individuals to receive equal treatment and prohibits discrimination in a number of settings, including education, employment, housing, lending, and voting. The article, entitled Civil Rights Laws, provides a link to a discussion of each of the laws identified.
1. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964
A federal law that prohibits segregation in public places and banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The CRA contains 11 titles addressing different forms of discrimination and adversity, including public accommodations, discrimination in voting, school desegregation, employment, and fair housing.
TITLE II. PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS
Prohibits discrimination because of race, color, religion, or national origin in certain places of public accommodation, such as hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues. The Department of Justice can bring a lawsuit under Title II when there is reason to believe that a person has engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination in violation of Title II. The Department can obtain injunctive, but not monetary, relief in such cases. Individuals can also file suit to enforce their rights under Title II. Other federal and state statutes may also provide remedies for discrimination in places of public accommodation.
TITLE VII. EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION
Prohibits private employers from discriminating against employees in such terms and conditions of employment as selection, placement, promotion, discharge, training, and pay and benefits. (In 1972, Title VII was amended to include federal, state, and local public employers and educational institutions.) The Act created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to enforce provisions of Title VII.
2. VOTING RIGHTS ACT OF 1965
Intended to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote as guaranteed under the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Prohibited the use of literacy tests, provided for federal oversight of voter registration in areas where less than 50 percent of the non-white population had not registered to vote, and authorized the U.S. attorney general to investigate the use of poll taxes in state and local elections. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 overturned the constitutionality of Section 4 of the law (see Shelby County v. Holder below).
3. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1968, TITLE VIII (FAIR HOUSING ACT)
Expansion of the CRA of 1964 that prohibited discrimination in the sale or rental of approximately 80 percent of the housing in the U.S. Provided for equal housing opportunities regardless of race, religion, or national origin. In 1988, Congress passed the Fair Housing Amendments Act, which expanded the law to prohibit discrimination in housing based on disability or on family status (pregnant women or the presence of children under 18).
4. CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1991
Reversed nine U.S. Supreme Court decisions (rendered between 1986 and 1991) that made it more difficult for workers to prevail in cases that alleged job discrimination. Provided for plaintiffs to receive monetary damages in cases of harassment or discrimination based on sex, religion, or disability.
Part II: Different Forms of Racism
Sad, but true, racism in the United States takes many forms that affect the quality of life enjoyed by African Americans. Each of the articles in this section exposes biases that operate throughout this country despite laws intended to prohibit these unfair discriminatory actions. These biases have been revealed by the creation of minority communities in proximity to environmentally hazardous or degraded environments, by more severe treatment of African Americans in the criminal justice system, by less appealing employment opportunities available to African Americans, by disenfranchisement of African Americans resulting from discriminatory voting practices, and by restrictions that limit access of African Americans to businesses or buildings that are open to (or offer services to) the general public. The articles represent mere samples of the published material relating to these different forms of unfair discrimination. Importantly, note the variety of published sources that have given voice to claims about the unfair treatment of African Americans.
In addition to the articles, a final entry for each type of racism presents important litigation about the type of unfair discrimination. The Supreme Court has dealt with unfair discrimination in numerous cases, some of the most important of which are identified below. Links are available to supplemental sources that discuss the implications of the Court’s ruling.
Finally, Important Supreme Court Cases for Civil Rights is an article prepared by the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (an umbrella group of American civil rights interest groups) that contains a list of U.S. Supreme Court cases, many of which involve race discrimination and the rights of members of racial groups.
A. ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM
YouTube, January 29, 2016. Introductory discussion of environmental racism, using water problem in Flint, Michigan, as a prime example of the practice.
The Atlantic, February 28, 2018. A new report from the Environmental Protection Agency finds that people of color are much more likely to live near polluters and breathe polluted air—even as the agency seeks to roll back regulations on pollution.
New Yorker, August 13, 2015. The architects of America’s parks and game refuges behaved as though wild nature was worth saving for its aristocratic qualities. However, where these were lacking, they were indifferent. Major environmental statutes, such as the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, were written with no attention to the unequal vulnerability of poor and minority groups.
NAACP, April, 2016. This is a large scale study of coal-fired power plants in the U.S. Details provided about the environmental justice performance ranking of coal power companies and the effects of individual plants on low-income communities and communities of color. Recommended actions for dealing with environmental racism are discussed.
5. LITIGATION INVOLVING ENVIRONMENTAL RACISM
National Mining Association v. Environmental Protection Agency. On June 29, 2015, the Roberts’ U.S. Supreme Court issued another ruling against the Environmental Protection Agency, stating that it unreasonably refused to consider the cost of regulating emissions of mercury and other poisonous chemicals from the stacks of electricity-generating power plants that burn coal. Decision ignores the fact that people of color have disproportionately experienced negative outcomes associated with the toxins emitted from these plants.
Texas Department of Housing and Community affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project. On June 25, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that people can sue under the Fair Housing Act to challenge a policy or action that results in a disproportionate effect on the basis of race or national origin. In this case, the TDHCA disproportionately granted tax credits to developments within minority neighborhoods and denied the credits to developments within Caucasian neighborhoods. The plaintiffs claimed this practice led to a concentration of low-income housing in minority neighborhoods, which perpetuated segregation in violation of the Fair Housing Act. This concept of disparate impact is critical for the enforcement of all civil rights laws so that environmental injustices can be addressed.
B. CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
American Sociological Association, 2007. This research brief highlights data and research findings on racial and ethnic disparities in crime and the criminal justice system in the United States, with particular emphasis on studies that illustrate differences that can be explained by discrimination. Though dated, the article serves as a baseline against which to compare more recent discussions of issues relating to race/ethnicity in different stages of criminal justice processing.
The Sentencing Project, April 19, 2018. The Sentencing Project is a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy center working to reduce the use of incarceration in the United States and to address racial disparities in the criminal justice system. For decades, the U.S. has relied on policies that have produced dramatic rates of incarceration, with a particularly disproportionate impact on communities of color.
The Sentencing Project, June 14, 2016. African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons across the country at more than five times the rate of whites, and at least ten times the rate in five states (New Jersey has the highest racial disparity in incarceration). Criminal justice reform has become a regular component of mainstream domestic policy discussions over the last several years, and this report contains a number of recommendations for reform.
4. LITIGATION INVOLVING THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
Batson v. Kentucky. On April 30, 1986, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a state denies an African American defendant equal protection when it puts him on trial before a jury from which members of his race have been purposefully excluded. The state denies a black defendant in a criminal trial equal protection when it puts him before a jury from which members of his race have been purposefully excluded as a result of a prosecutor's use of peremptory challenges.
Buck v. Davis. On February 22, 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court vacated a death sentence handed down to a black defendant after an “expert” witness told the jury that black defendants are more likely to kill again than whites. Under state law, the jury was permitted to impose a death sentence only if it found unanimously and beyond a reasonable doubt that Buck was likely to commit acts of violence in the future. The expert testified that one of the factors pertinent in assessing a person’s propensity for violence was his race, and that Buck was statistically more likely to act violently because he is black.
C. EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE BY POLICE
Vox, September 11, 2018. The Black Lives Matter protests in particular have shined a light on what many see as a systemic emphasis on excessive use of force by police, particularly on racial and ethnic minorities. This review of statistical data compares killings by police in America in comparison to other countries, and the large racial disparity in the race of victims of these shootings.
Citilab, February 15, 2018. Although implicit racial biases of the individual police officer are a determinative factor in the shooting of unarmed African American men, state-level structural racism (e.g., racial segregation, economic and employment gaps) also have an important effect on these incidents. Hence, the racial disparities found in police violence can no longer be attributed solely to what was in an officer’s heart. There is now empirical data showing that broader policies perpetuating racism must be considered, too.
Washington Post, March 16, 2018. During the final two years of the Obama administration, police violence against unarmed African Americans was arguably the leading domestic news storyline. Now this issue no longer is a big part of the national political conversation. Several reasons policing reform has lost our national attention are discussed.
4. LITIGATION INVOLVING EXCESSIVE FORCE BY POLICE
Tennessee v. Garner. On March 26, 1985, the Supreme Court held that laws authorizing police use of deadly force to apprehend fleeing, unarmed, non-violent felony suspects violate the Fourth Amendment, and therefore states should eliminate them. Law enforcement officers pursuing an unarmed suspect (who, in this case, was black) may use deadly force to prevent escape only if the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a significant threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or others.
Graham v. Connor. On May 15, 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that claims that law enforcement officials used excessive force in the course of an arrest, investigatory stop, or other “seizure” of a free citizen (in this case a black male) are most properly characterized as invoking the protections of the Fourth Amendment and must be judged by reference to its “reasonableness” standard. According to this standard officers’ actions are “objectively reasonable” when the facts and circumstances confronting them, without regard to their underlying intent or motivation. The “reasonableness” of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, and its calculus must embody an allowance for the fact that police officers are often forced to make split-second decisions about the amount of force necessary in a particular situation.
In addition to the two cases discussed in this section, 5 Supreme Court Cases the Police and the Public Should Know is an article (the author of which is associated with law enforcement organizations) that summarizes other cases dealing with police conduct.
D. EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION
Workplace Fairness is an organization that believes that fair treatment of workers is sound public policy and good business practice, and that free access to comprehensive, unbiased information about workers' rights - without legal jargon - is an essential ingredient in any fair workplace. It creates and maintains a comprehensive, online one-stop-shop for free information about workers' rights. The link contains an example of the type of resource it makes available to the public, in this case dealing with race discrimination.
CNN Money, November 25, 2015. The article offers a case study of the implicit and explicit racial bias that confronted Monica Harwell, an African American woman employed as a line worker by Con Edison. It also contains statistics on the extent of racial bias encountered by racial and ethnic groups in the U.S. The posture of several prominent companies is discussed.
Harvard Business Review, October 11, 2017. Researchers at Northwestern University, Harvard, and the Institute for Social Research in Norway, looked at every available field experiment on hiring discrimination from 1989 through 2015. The researchers found that anti-black racism in hiring is unchanged since at least 1989, while anti-Latino racism may have decreased modestly.
Fortune, November 4, 2014. The article provides a description of a common research methodology for studying race discrimination. Results indicated that even though recruiters profess color blind attitudes, African Americans nonetheless encounter racial discrimination. It is not that recruiters themselves necessarily have a racial bias; instead, they fear some of their customers do.
New York Times, September 7, 2018. According to the American Bar Association, women and people of color in the legal profession continue to face different forms of employment discrimination. These conclusions are based on the results of a survey of approximately 2,800 lawyers conducted by a group of academic and professional organizations. The report proposes steps that law firms can take to counter these biases.
New York Times, December 13, 2018. This is a compilation of reports by African-American professionals in fields dominated by white people who must deal with bias because “they don’t look the part’ of doctors, lawyers, and politicians. The individual stories describe their efforts to ward off bias at work by attending to how they dress, what they carry in their wallets, and how they behave.
7. LITIGATION INVOLVING EMPLOYMENT DISCRIMINATION
Griggs v. Duke Power. On March 8, 1971, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights Act requires the elimination of artificial, arbitrary, and unnecessary barriers to employment that operate invidiously to discriminate on the basis of race. If, as here, an employment practice (in this case a professionally developed selection test) that operates to exclude African Americans (i.e., has a disparate impact on employment) cannot be shown to be related to job performance, it is prohibited, notwithstanding the employer's lack of discriminatory intent.
Watson v. Fort Worth Bank & Trust. On June 29, 1988, the Supreme Court declared that disparate impact analysis can be applied to subjective or discretionary selection practices. In the past, the Court had applied disparate impact only to tests and other presumptively objective practices. The defendant, an African-American bank teller, applied (on four separate occasions) for a promotion to a supervisory position, but was rejected. The bank had not developed precise and formal selection criteria for the positions in question, but instead relied upon the subjective judgment of supervisors who were acquainted with the candidates and the nature of the jobs to be filled.
E. VOTING RIGHTS
The Southern Poverty Law Center is dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society. Using litigation, education, and other forms of advocacy, the SPLC works toward the day when the ideals of equal justice and equal opportunity will be a reality. This web page describes its initiatives to eliminate disenfranchisement and discriminatory voting practices in the Deep South.
The League of Women Voters is an American civic organization that was formed to help women take a larger role in public affairs after they won the right to vote. This web page describes its nonpartisan efforts to ensure that all eligible voters should have the equal opportunity to exercise that right.
Vox, November 28, 2017. "Social geography" refers to how different groups of people, including racial and ethnic groups, are spatially arranged in the geography of America's cities, suburbs, and rural areas. The strength of racially motivated voting in 2016 can be explained in part by the types of people (white or nonwhite, immigrant or native) who lived close to Trump supporters, and, even more importantly, how this social geography had changed over time. How and why the spatial relationships between groups matters is discussed.
Discover Society, June 1, 2016. Elected officials of both parties often prefer to leave controversial racial questions to less visible administrative agencies or the politically insulated courts than to engage with these issues in election campaigns. Most conservative colorblind voters do not explicitly favor white supremacy. But equally there is little doubt that most think it unwise and unjust for public policies to seek aggressively to transform further the political, economic, and social institutions and practices built up under centuries of white supremacist policies – institutions and practices in which whites continue to hold advantaged places, in fact if not in law. As the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the coded anti-Obama racist rhetoric to ‘make America great’ indicates, the struggle over color blind versus race conscious remedies to deep and enduring material racial inequality is far from ended
5. LITIGATION INVOLVING VOTING RIGHTS
Miller v. Johnson. On June 29, 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court explained that a redistricting plan is constitutionally suspect if the jurisdiction used race as the "predominant factor" in determining how to draw district lines. For race to "predominate", the jurisdiction must prioritize racial considerations over traditional redistricting principles. If a court concludes that racial considerations predominated, then the redistricting plan is considered "racially gerrymandered." The plan will be upheld as constitutional only if it is narrowly tailored to advance a compelling state interest.
Shelby County v. Holder. In June 2013, the Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 4 lays out the formulas for how the Justice Department enforces Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 requires that the states identified with a history of discrimination obtain approval from the federal government before they can make changes to their election law.
F. PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS
Economic Policy Institute, July 2, 2014. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 effectively addressed calls for equal access to public accommodations - although it would take several years before public establishments, particularly those in the South, fully complied with the Act’s requirements. However, more than 50 years after the 1963 March on Washington that called for reforms that would promote civil rights, the hard economic goals of the march, critical to transforming the life opportunities of African Americans, have not been fully achieved.
The Atlantic, April 14, 2015. This article provides a summary of civil rights legislation and court rulings in cases where proprietors refused service to potential customers. A de facto “American apartheid” characterized public accommodations following the Civil War. Currently, state Religious Freedom Restoration Acts provide a basis for denying service based on proprietors’ religious beliefs, usually in instances of LGBT rights.
Georgetown Law Journal, 2017. This academic article addresses issues relating to discrimination in the provision of public services to African Americans by companies engaged in the platform economy. Platform economy businesses use online platforms to connect providers of goods and services - such as drivers and landlords - with users of those goods and services -such as passengers and renters. These platforms often make race visible to both providers and users by requiring that they create proﬁles that include names, photographs, and other information. Such proﬁles may trigger conscious and unconscious bias and result in discrimination even if the parties never meet in person.
New York Times, August 31, 2018. Recollections of an African-American woman about vacation car trips with her family into the American South are the subject of this article. This is a beautifully crafted piece about the many risks encountered by African-American motorists, including the dangers of journeys on local roads and nighttime travel. African-American motorists had to use extreme caution to avoid problems with local police. An indispensable manual for travel was the Negro Motorist Guide Book that identified safe and welcoming hotels, restaurants, and gas stations.
5. LITIGATION INVOLVING PUBLIC ACCOMMODATIONS
Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States. The Heart of Atlanta Motel in Atlanta, Georgia, refused to accept black Americans. Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbade racial discrimination by places of public accommodation if their operations affected commerce. On December 14, 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Commerce Clause extends the anti-discrimination provisions in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to hotels that host travelers from outside the state.
Katzenbach v. McClung. On December 14, 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that Congress may legitimately regulate interstate commerce where the “aggregate activity” has a “substantial” impact on interstate commerce. Racial discrimination by local restaurants, in the aggregate, impacts interstate commerce substantially. Even if the particular impact of this restaurant is not “substantial,” its occurrence on a broad basis will influence interstate commerce. The court reviewed the record which supported that the practice of racial discrimination by local restaurants was a widespread practice. The court even went so far as to examine a study which showed that spending by minority populations in localities with high levels of discrimination was substantially lower in order to support the conclusion that the aggregate impact was substantial.
Part III: Books Dealing with Racial Matters
Below is an annotated bibliography of books that address issues that African Americans regularly confront in the U.S. Many are classics, representing the first widely read discussions of the forms in which racism is manifest and the toll that such injustice takes on African Americans. Much of the current literature emphasizes the implicit, covert racism experienced by African Americans that is widespread and damaging to their sense of fairness in our society.
The availability of each book is indicated with the following designations:
Red Bank Library owns a copy: RB + call number
Red Bank Library has an electronic resource: RB + ER
Red Bank Library has one or more reviews of a book on its web site: R
Book is available through Libraries of Middlesex Automation Consortium: LM
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Michelle Alexander (2012)
America’s prison system is a unique form of social control, much like slavery and Jim Crow, the systems it has replaced. It has simply replaced one caste system (Jim Crow) for another one (imprisonment, parole, detention) that keeps the majority of minorities in a permanent state of disenfranchisement. The book details what economists usually miss, namely the entire legal structure of the courts, parole, probation, and laws that effectively turn a perpetrator of a crime into a moral outlaw who is unworthy of rehabilitation. (RB + ER) (LM)
Teaching Peace: How to Raise Children to Live In Harmony: Without Fear, Without Prejudice, Without Violence. Jan Arnow (1995)
The author, one of the country's leading authorities on the psychology and teaching practices of multi-cultural education and violence abatement, offers advice on how to raise children peaceably at home, at school, and in the neighborhood. The process of child rearing must appropriately address a variety of issues, including war toys, gender equality, hate groups, children's literature, TV violence, and video games. The book contains samples of school and community policies that work, and useful bibliographies are presented as well. (LM) (R)
The Fire Next Time. James Baldwin (1995)
“You must put yourself in the skin of a black man. . ." before one can understand what it means to be black in white America. This book galvanized the nation and gave passionate voice to the emerging civil rights movement. At once a powerful evocation of James Baldwin's early life in Harlem, it examines the deep consequences of racial injustice to both the individual and the body politic. (RB + ER) (LM) (R)
Racism Without Racists: Color-blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America. Eduardo Bonilla-Silva (2017)
Bonilla-Silva traces the legacy of the US past into the present, exploring institutions that have helped perpetuate racial inequality and segregation in housing, education, political life, the prison system, and other areas. A survey is included of various forms of contemporary economic inequality, social segmentation, and control. Because the book sometimes functions as the only text on race in many college classrooms, it has been updated regularly, this being the 5th edition. (LM) (R)
Between the World and Me. Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)
An examination of America's history of race and its contemporary resonances. It offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current racial crises. This is the author’s awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences. Americans have built an empire on the idea of “race,” a falsehood that damages us all but falls most heavily on the bodies of black women and men. (RB + 305.8009 COA + ER) (RB + ER) (LM) (R)
Policing the Black Man: Arrest, Prosecution & Imprisonment. Angela Davis (ed., 2016)
A comprehensive analysis of the key issues of the Black Lives Matter movement that contains essays by criminal justice experts and legal scholars. The book explores the many ways the criminal justice system impacts the lives of African American boys and men at every stage of the criminal process, from arrest through sentencing. Essays range from an examination of the historical roots of racism in the criminal justice system to a consideration of present-day police killings of unarmed black men. (LM) (R)
The Girl Who Fell from the Sky. Heidi Durrow (2011)
A fictional portrait of a young biracial girl (Rachel) dealing with society’s ideas of race and class. This award-winning book is an insightful family saga of the toxicity of racism and the forging of the self. As the child of an African American father and a Danish mother, the author brings piercing authenticity to this provocative tale. (RB + ER) (LM) (R)
Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America. Michael Eric Dyson (2017)
This is a deeply personal call for change in race relations in America. It is structured as a Baptist worship service, dividing chapters into "Hymns of Praise," "Invocation," "Benediction" and "Sermon." Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress, we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievances have been ignored, dismissed, or discounted. Based largely on his personal experiences, the stories give power to his invectives and helps open our eyes to situations that white America rarely confront. (RB + 305.8009 DYS) (LM) (R)
The House at the End of the Road: The Story of Three Generations of an Interracial Family in the American South. W. Ralph Eubanks (2009)
This is a story about the author's grandparents, an interracial couple in early twentieth-century rural Alabama who were able to build a strong family and establish a unique cultural and racial identity in spite of Jim Crow laws. While Eubanks begins by seeking his grandparents' motivations and their methods for subverting societal norms, his memoir eventually broadens to a thoughtful (though still personal) exploration of the construction of race and racial identity, particularly within families that cross the color line. (LM) (R)
America Behind the Color Line: Dialogues with African Americans. Henry Louis Gates (2004)
This book contains 40 interviews conducted with noted and average African Americans, including statesmen, artists, police chiefs, and WWII veterans. These interviews reveal that African Americans have had a unique, difficult experience in America, and have succeeded against the odds. Racism persists in America (albeit in more subtle ways) and, therefore, today's younger generation of African Americans are confronted by many challenges. (LM) (R)
Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul. Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. (2016)
A powerful argument on the state of black America that criticizes the idea of a post-racial society. Part manifesto, part history, part memoir, Glaude argues that we live in a country founded on a “value gap” - with white lives valued more than others - that still distorts our politics today. Forceful in ideas and unsettling in its candor, the book sets forth the untenable position of black America and offers thoughts on a better way forward. (RB + 305.896 GLA) (LM) (R)
The Keepers of the House. Shirley Ann Grau (1965)
This Pulitzer Prize winning novel is a many-layered indictment of the brushfires of racial and blood bitterness. It is a story of the granddaughter of mixed racial parents who finds her trapped in the fall-out of a destructive encounter between the black and white branches of her family. The political aspirations of her husband are complicated by his wife’s heritage, and everyone is diminished by a situation unripe for reconciliation. (RB + ER) (LM)
Black Like Me. John Howard Griffin (2010)
This is a mid-century classic. Wondering what "adjustments and discriminations" he would face as an African American in the Deep South, the author left behind his life as a Southern white man, stepped across the color line by darkening his skin, and traveled through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, experiencing life as a black man. By so doing, he exchanged his privileged life for the disenfranchised world of an unemployed black man. During his six-week experience, he encountered first-hand the difficulties African Americans faced when trying to acquire the means to support himself, means that are common to all individuals; food and water, restrooms, housing, employment, transportation, and social support. (RB + YAB GRI + ER) (LM) (R)
The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row. Anthony Ray Hinson (2018)
Anthony Ray Hinton spent nearly 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. But with no money and a different system of justice for a poor black man in the South, Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. After three years in despair and agonizing silence, he accepted his fate, resolving not only to survive, but find a way to live on death row. Over the next 27 years he transformed his own spirit and those of fellow inmates, 54 of whom were executed mere feet from his cell. He won his release in 2015 thanks to a good lawyer. (RB + 364.6609 HIN + ER) (LM) (R)
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace. Jeff Hobbs (2014)
The trials and tribulations of the male up-from-the-ghetto are recounted about Robert Peace by his college roommate, the author Jeff Hobbs. The book elucidates the cost of living between the world Peace was born into and the one his potential and a degree from Yale University allowed him to enter. His life is described in great detail, including the decisions he made for himself and the ones that life forced upon him. Importantly, the sheer complexity of his existence is revealed. (RB + B PEA + ER) (LM) (R)
Blinded by the Whites: Why Race Still Matters in 21st-Century America. David Ikard (2013)
The election of Barack Obama gave political currency to the (white) idea that Americans now live in a post-racial society. The book discusses the persistent challenges faced by most African Americans - racial profiling, economic inequality between blacks and whites, disproportionate numbers of black prisoners, and disparities in health and access to healthcare. The shifting discourse of white supremacist ideology is surfaced in these discussions - including post-racialism and colorblind politics - that frustrates black self-determination, agency, and empowerment in the 21st century. (RB + ER) (LM) (R)
Something So Perfect. Janel Lee (2013)
This fictional story about an interracial couple explores some of the real-life issues that such relationships experience on a daily basis. Their relationship deteriorates, not because of the disapproving opinions of others, but rather because of Delilah's (an African American) defensiveness about their situation. Frustrated by Delilah's actions, James (a Caucasian) decides to end the relationship. Delilah finally realizes that she spent more time defending their love than she spent actually being in love. (RB + ER)
40 Ways to Raise a Nonracist Child. Barbara Mathias (1996)
The only way to rid our society of the evil of racism is to teach our children, while they're still impressionable, that color is not an indication of a person's worth. Unfortunately, many parents are at a loss as to how to do this effectively. Mathias provides helpful and practical ways parents can teach this important lesson, and offers specific advice addressing the unique concerns of both white parents and parents of color. (RB + ER)
So You Want to Talk About Race. Ijeoma Olu (2018)
This book provides both white people and people of color a language to engage in clear, constructive, and confident dialogue with each other about how to deal with racial prejudices and biases. A series of questions are addressed that typically emerge in daily interactions, whether they are raised explicitly or implicitly throughout society, especially since the 2016 U.S. election. Systemic racism built over centuries and baked into our culture, rather than individual acts of oppression, is responsible for the manner in which African Americans and whites interact with each other. (RB + 305.8009 OLU) (LM) (R)
The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. Richard Rothstein (2017)
Rather than being an accident of privately held prejudice, the book argues that 20th century segregation was a product of federal, state, and local housing and land-use policies that directly and intentionally led to the suppression of black family wealth and well-being. These patterns began in the 1920s with racial zoning, all the way to current-day patterns of economic and political disenfranchisement. To support his argument, Rothstein draws on extensive historical research that documents government efforts to create and enforce segregation. (LM) (R)
Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North. Thomas Segrue (2008)
This book contains a mountain of evidence on the varied battles and myriad figures of the northern civil rights movement along with extensive documentation of racial injustice and segregation in the North. The intense northern struggle for racial equality in states from Illinois to New York was inspired by the fight down South, although differences between the movements are explicated. Writings of obscure African American journalists and the records of civil rights and black power groups are reported to create a detailed history of American civil rights activism. (LM) (R)
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? Beverly Daniel Tatum (2003)
This book addresses two questions: what is this self-segregation all about?; and, should we see this as a dilemma needed to be addressed or a coping method to be supported? By examining what Blackness means in a White context, reasons are explored as to why a black person is socialized to think he or she is inferior or at least “not normal” in American society. The manner in which Black people develop self-identity is described, and practical advice is offered on how parents can shape a child’s thinking at an early age to value themselves. It is further argued that American society by default considers White people “the norm”. Therefore, Whites need to embrace their Whiteness and develop a healthy, positive self-image without assuming superiority. (RB - 305.8009 TAT + ER) (LM)
Race Matters. Cornell West (1993)
In eight brief essays that address tough issues (e.g., sexuality, affirmative action), the book delivers innovative analyses of moral authority and racial debates concerning skin color in the U.S. Treatment of the racial issues is unique because they are viewed from both political and spiritual perspectives. Theological sensibility is brought to bear on secular problems. West is insistently moral, criticizing racial hierarchy and black leaders, both liberal and conservative, who cannot transcend race to fight for fundamental social change. (RB + 305.8 WES) (LM) (R)
Part IV: Videos About Race
We are fortunate that many of presentations dealing with race have been video recorded, and many of these have been archived on the internet. Below is a sample of these recorded events, the actual videos of which may be viewed using the links provided.
Grounded in the 160-year legacy of the magazine, AtlanticLIVE brings the journalism of The Atlantic to life through staged event experiences. On April 20,2018, AtlanticLIVE hosted an in-depth panel discussion on the 50th anniversary of the Fair Housing Act. Subjects addressed by the three speakers include the success of the Act in meeting its goals, the important impact of credit-granting agencies in facilitating home ownership by African Americans, and the effect of discriminatory online advertising of available residential properties.
This video describes a student-centered approach to creating safe spaces for people to discuss race and their experience of difference with people who are different from them. "Sustained dialogue" is a practice that promotes “listening deeply enough to be changed by what you learn”, and that is widely used on college campuses with support from the Sustained Dialogue Institute. The video is a great warm-up for any group that wants to discuss race, even if the group is not using the Sustained Dialogue approach. By watching people talk about race and truly listening to each other, people get more comfortable discussing things they may never have discussed with others before.
This is a lecture given by Prof. Patricia Rose (skip the first 7 minutes). Structural racism – the normalized and legitimized range of policies, practices, and attitudes that routinely produce cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color, especially black people – is the main driver of racial inequality in America today. Structural racism is contrasted with color blindness. The evolution of these concepts in the U.S. is discussed.
David R. Williams gives a TED Conference talk in which he discusses the shorter life expectancy of African Americans than their White counterparts. Williams developed a scale to measure the impact of discrimination on well-being, going beyond traditional measures like income and education to reveal how factors like implicit bias, residential segregation, and negative stereotypes create and sustain inequality. In this eye-opening talk, Williams presents evidence for how racism is producing a rigged system -- and offers hopeful examples of programs across the US that are working to dismantle discrimination.
A compilation of 9 Ted talks that offer an honest look at the far-reaching effects of racism experienced by African Americans on a daily basis. Among these everyday realities are discrimination suffered when trying to rent a house, the hard truths about the American justice system, the special problems of trying to raise African American children, and the need to increase conversation about racism. A synopsis is provided for each of the videos.
Dr. Robin DiAngelo focuses on the oppressive behavior that is born out of white privilege. The lecture tries to make white people understand how race functions in their lives, and how often manifests itself in explicit and implicit biases. In addition to describing the most obvious and explicit aspects of racism and white privilege, the lecture reveals biases that lurk beneath the surface of racism.
Produced by The Stream (a national daily championing freedom, smaller government and human dignity), this video presents examples of dangerous and unsavory living conditions experienced by both poor and minority populations due to pollution stemming from industries that are situated close to their residential neighborhoods. Also apparent is the frustration of aggrieved residents caused by failure to promt various governmental agencies to eliminate or mitigate the sources of the environmental degradation.
Speech given by Senator Elizabeth Warren at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate (skip the first 11 minutes). Her remarks began with a review of the history of the conditions under which African Americans lived through out the 20th Century. Her focus then turns to the 50 years since the presidency of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King’s civil rights movement. She concludes that violence against African Americans has become manifest in the brutality of police actions against unarmed black men, and the political, social, and economic injustice imposed on them. Relief from these conditions is dependent upon political activism in the African American community.
Part V: Movies About Race
Race is an issue that has inspired filmmakers to create significant movies about the triumphs of unforgettable leaders, the struggles of ordinary African American families, and the wrenching violations of civil rights. Whatever a family's racial background, movies can be a starting point for conversations about race. For example, movies can illustrate the importance of diversity and acceptance, and serve as the basis for discussions about the manner in which different racial groups are depicted in film.
The movie sources below all contain lists of films dealing with racism. The Wikipedia source is the most comprehensive, but does not offer opinions about the relative importance of each film. The remaining sources have selected and ranked the films that they consider best. In each case, if you follow the links within the source, you will be able to get at least a synopsis of each film’s content. You can stream some of the movies identified on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime.
Wikipedia. This is a list of approximately 200 films that deal with the topic of race or racism. The film title is followed by country and year of release, some of which are as recent as 2017, the earliest of which is 1915 (Birth of a Nation). Almost all of the titles serve as links to both a brief synopsis of the film and a more detailed description of the movie contained in a separate Wikipedia entry (e.g., identification of the cast and description of the plot).
Bustle, March 26, 2018. Although these 19 movies are unlikely to erase racism overnight, they are likely to provide every viewer with a new perspective on how to think and talk about the subject. There is a very brief synopsis of each movie as well as a video trailer. The list was compiled for Bustle, an online American magazine designed for women that positions news and politics alongside articles about beauty, celebrities, and fashion trends.
TheCinemaholic, August 9, 2018. Hatred and violence are the underlying themes of these 12 movies, most of which are dated prior to the year 2000. A short synopsis is provided for each film. TheCinemaholic is an entertainment website that covers cinema by making lists, reviewing movies, and expressing opinions.
Common Sense Media, February 2, 2018. This collection of films is intended for children. Each movie is described in detail, and guidance is offered to parents about important content and appropriate methods for starting a conversation with children about the underlying themes depicted. Common Sense Media improves the lives of kids and families by providing independent reviews, age ratings, & other information about all types of media.
Part VI: Organizations that Promote Racial Amity
The organizations described below share a common objective: to promote access, equity, social justice and harmony among racial groups. Many of these organizations have literature, videos, or webinars on their websites that present their ideas and describe activities and events designed to challenge racism each and every day. A link to the website of each organization is provided.
A group of concerned citizens came together to save the home of T. Thomas Fortune, a National Historic Landmark in Red Bank New Jersey. Fortune was a newspaper editor and civil rights activist. His restored home is intended to expand and diversify his contributions to race relations, and to bring forth the history of communities of color in Red Bank and Monmouth County.
The Amistad Commission ensures that the Department of Education and public schools of New Jersey implement materials and texts which integrate the history and contributions of African-Americans and the descendants of the African Diaspora. The Commission ensures that New Jersey teachers are equipped to effectively teach the revised social studies core curriculum content standards by creating and coordinating workshops, seminars, institutes, memorials and events which raise public awareness about the importance of the history of African-Americans to the growth and development of American society.
CITIZENS FOR A DIVERSE AND OPEN SOCIETY
"Making Race Relations an Integral Part of Society"
Red Bank group meets monthly (third Thursday), 7PM
Pilgrim Baptist Church, 172 Shrewsbury Ave., Red Bank (Annex Bldg., entry at rear)
Founded February 12, 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s foremost, largest, and most widely recognized civil rights organization. Its mission is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination. As a prominent advocate for civil rights, the NAACP leads grassroots campaigns for equal opportunity, conducts voter mobilization, and maintains an active docket of Civil Rights legal cases.
The National Urban League (NUL) is a nonpartisan civil rights organization that advocates on behalf of African Americans and against racial discrimination. It is the oldest (founded in New York City in 1910) and largest community-based organizations of its kind in the nation. The mission of the NUL is to enable African Americans and other underserved urban residents to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power and civil rights.
The Stand Up Pledge is now part of the mission of the Muslim Jewish Solidarity Committee. The goal of the Committee is building bridges of understanding and creating harmony among diverse groups and communities. Success will be determined when people begin to confront in their own inner circles any bigotry and hate toward other groups by signing and adhering to this pledge. "While interacting with members of my own faith or ethnic community, or with others, if I hear hateful comments from anyone about members of any other community, I pledge to stand up for the other and challenge bigotry in any form." To learn more about the organization and to sign the pledge online, visit the organization’s website.
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, the goal of the National Center for Race Amity is bridging the racial divide through amity and collaboration which lead to access, equity, and social justice. It develops Race Amity Conferences and initiatives to advance cross-racial and cross-cultural amity that impact the public discourse on race. Race Amity Day is celebrated throughout the U.S. on the second Sunday in June.
The primary purpose of Raising Race Conscious Children is to support parents and teachers who are trying to talk about race and diversity with young children. The goal of these conversations is to prepare young people to work toward racial justice. The archives contain links to numerous conversations about difficult interpersonal and social issues.
Our mission is to help teachers and schools educate children and youth to be active participants in a diverse democracy. Teaching Tolerance provides free resources to educators—teachers, administrators, counselors and other practitioners—who work with children from kindergarten through high school. Educators who care about diversity, equity and justice use our materials to supplement the curriculum, to inform their practices, and to create civil and inclusive school communities where children are respected and welcomed participants.
Part VII: Videos of Previous "Let's Talk About Race" Events
The “Let’s Talk About Race” program is held monthly at the Red Bank Public Library — you can check our calendar page for the next installment — and is videotaped for members of the public who were not able to make it.