We have experienced a lot as a collective in recent months, and especially in the past two weeks.
Systemic racism and oppression is at the forefront of our collective mind.
At The Rao Institute, we are eager to contribute to the healing of hearts in our community, as well as in our world.
One of the ways we believe we can be of service is by sharing resources for individual growth. After all, it is through deeper understanding, awareness and empathy that we first heal and transforms ourselves from within. From this place, we are able to show up and do our part to transform our world.
Toward this shared vision of a more unified, equal, just, loving world, we’d like to share this reading list we believe to be helpful in fostering understanding of the roots of systemic racism and oppression.
This is not a comprehensive list – and reading is not complete on its own.
We hope the wisdom and insights shared in these books, however, provide inspiration for further action as your heart calls.
We each have a role to play in the creation of the new world – a world in which structural racism is dismantled and each individual has the freedom and opportunity to manifest their full potential.
Some of us will educate and teach, others will march on the streets, others will heal hearts, while others will support emerging leaders and budding entrepreneurs, pass new laws, raise conscious children, and every role in between.
We welcome your ideas on how we can be of service to you. What would you like to see or hear from us? What would you like to learn? Please feel free to respond via email with suggestions you may have. Thank you, in advance.
Martin Luther King’s classic exploration of the events and forces behind the Civil Rights Movement—including his Letter from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.
In 1963, Birmingham, Alabama, was perhaps the most racially segregated city in the United States. The campaign launched by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights movement on the segregated streets of Birmingham demonstrated to the world the power of nonviolent direct action.
In this remarkable book—winner of the Nobel Peace Prize—Dr. King recounts the story of Birmingham in vivid detail, tracing the history of the struggle for civil rights back to its beginnings three centuries ago and looking to the future, assessing the work to be done beyond Birmingham to bring about full equality for African Americans. Above all, Dr. King offers an eloquent and penetrating analysis of the events and pressures that propelled the Civil Rights movement from lunch counter sit-ins and prayer marches to the forefront of American consciousness.
Since its publication in the 1960s, Why We Can’t Wait has become an indisputable classic. Now, more than ever, it is an enduring testament to the wise and courageous vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.
In this New York Times bestseller, Ijeoma Oluo offers a hard-hitting but user-friendly examination of race in America
Widespread reporting on aspects of white supremacy–from police brutality to the mass incarceration of Black Americans–has put a media spotlight on racism in our society. Still, it is a difficult subject to talk about. How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair–and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend?
In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.
“Oluo gives us–both white people and people of color–that language to engage in clear, constructive, and confident dialogue with each other about how to deal with racial prejudices and biases.”
–National Book Review
“Generous and empathetic, yet usefully blunt . . . it’s for anyone who wants to be smarter and more empathetic about matters of race and engage in more productive anti-racist action.”
–Salon (Required Reading)
Hailed by Toni Morrison as “required reading,” a bold and personal literary exploration of America’s racial history by “the most important essayist in a generation and a writer who changed the national political conversation about race” (Rolling Stone)
In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis. 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—bodies exploited through slavery and segregation, and, today, threatened, locked up, and murdered out of all proportion. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all honestly reckon with this fraught history and free ourselves from its burden?
Between the World and Me is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer these questions in a letter to his adolescent son. Coates shares with his son—and readers—the story of his awakening to the truth about his place in the world through a series of revelatory experiences, from Howard University to Civil War battlefields, from the South Side of Chicago to Paris, from his childhood home to the living rooms of mothers whose children’s lives were taken as American plunder. Beautifully woven from personal narrative, reimagined history, and fresh, emotionally charged reportage, Between the World and Me clearly illuminates the past, bracingly confronts our present, and offers a transcendent vision for a way forward.
If you believe that talking about race is impolite, or that “colorblindness” is the preferred approach, you must read this book. Race Talk and the Conspiracy of Silence debunks the most pervasive myths using evidence, easy-to-understand examples, and practical tools.
This significant work answers all your questions about discussing race by covering:
- Characteristics of typical, unproductive conversations on race
- Tacit and explicit social rules related to talking about racial issues
- Race-specific difficulties and misconceptions regarding race talk
- Concrete advice for educators and parents on approaching race in a new way
“Sue’s book is a must-read for any parent, teacher, professor, practioner, trainer, and facilitator who seeks to learn, understand, and advance difficult dialogues about issues of race in classrooms, workplaces, and boardrooms. It is a book of empowerment for activists, allies, or advocates who want to be instruments of change and to help move America from silence and inaction to discussion, engagement, and action on issues of difference and diversity. Integrating real life examples of difficult dialogues that incorporate the range of human emotions, Sue provides a masterful illustration of the complexities of dialogues about race in America. More importantly, he provides a toolkit for those who seek to undertake the courageous journey of understanding and facilitating difficult conversations about race.”
―Menah Pratt-Clarke, JD, PhD, Associate Provost for Diversity, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Here is a book as joyous and painful, as mysterious and memorable, as childhood itself. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings captures the longing of lonely children, the brute insult of bigotry, and the wonder of words that can make the world right. Maya Angelou’s debut memoir is a modern American classic beloved worldwide.
Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.
Poetic and powerful, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings will touch hearts and change minds for as long as people read.