Recommended Reads on Systemic Racism

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06/19/2020 June 2020 Perspectives
Images: Courtesy of the publishers.

Many Arts & Sciences faculty study issues related to race and racism in their research. Explore their books (and several by other UW colleagues) on topics related to race and activism, politics, the criminal justice system, historical oppression, privilege, and more.


Race and Activism
Politics and the Criminal Justice System
Race, Racism, and Oppression Through History
Race and Privilege



Race and Activism

Postracial Resistance: Black Women, Media Culture, and the Uses of Strategic Ambiguity (NYU Press, 2018)

by Ralina Joseph, Communication; American Ethnic Studies; Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

Postracial Resistance explores how African American women celebrities, cultural producers, and audiences employ postracial discourse — the notion that race and race-based discrimination are over and no longer affect people’s everyday lives — to refute postracialism itself. In a world where they’re often written off as stereotypical “Angry Black Women,” Joseph offers that some Black women in media use “strategic ambiguity,” deploying the failures of post-racial discourse to name racism and thus resist it.


Dr. Sam, Soldier, Educator, Advocate, Friend: An Autobiography (UW Press, 2013)

by Samuel E. Kelly (deceased), founding vice president for the UW Office of Minority Affairs, with Quintard Taylor, History

When he was seventeen, Sam Kelly met Paul Robeson, who asked him, “What are you doing for the race?” That question inspired Kelly to devote his life to helping others. His story intersects with major developments in twentieth-century African American history, including the rich culture of the Harlem Renaissance, the integration of the U.S. Army, the civil rights movement, and the political turmoil of the 1960s.


Union by Law: Filipino American Labor Activists, Rights Radicalism, and Racial Capitalism (University of Chicago Press, 2020)

by Michael W. McCann, Political Science; Laws, Societies & Justice, with George I. Lovell, Divisional Dean of Social Sciences; Political Science; Laws, Societies & Justice 

Union by Law analyzes the broad social and legal history of Filipino American workers' rights based struggles, culminating in the devastating landmark Supreme Court ruling, Wards Cove v Atonio (1989).  Reclaiming a long legacy of racial capitalist domination over Filipino and other low-wage or unpaid migrant workers, the book tells a story about aspirational of human rights advocacy over several generations and the many ways that law was mobilized both to enforce and to challenge race, class, and gender hierarchy at work. 


Civil Rights and the Making of the Modern American State (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

by Megan Ming Francis, Political Science; Law, Societies, and Justice

Through a sweeping archival analysis of the NAACP's battle against lynching and mob violence from 1909 to 1923, Megan Ming Francis examines how the NAACP raised public awareness, won over American presidents, and secured the support of Congress.This book demonstrates the importance of citizen agency in the making of new constitutional law in a period unexplored by previous scholarship.


Fighting for Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2010)

by Christopher Parker, Political Science

Fighting for Democracy shows how the experiences of African American soldiers during World War II and the Korean War influenced many of them to challenge white supremacy in the South when they returned home. Focusing on the motivations of individual Black veterans, this groundbreaking book explores the relationship between military service and political activism.


Radicalizing the Ebony Tower (Teachers College Press, 2008)

by Joy Williamson-Lott, College of Education

This examination of Black colleges in Mississippi during the civil rights and Black power movements offers a unique opportunity to understand how institutions are transformed into liberatory agents. The book examines how campus constituents negotiated and clashed over local, state, and national pressures against the backdrop of the highly contentious conflict between those determined to protect racial hierarchy and others equally determined to cripple white supremacy. 

More publications by Joy Williamson-Lott:



Politics and the Criminal Justice System

Captive Nation (UNC Press, 2014)

by Dan Berger, History; UW Bothell Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

The prison shaped the rise and spread of Black activism, from civil rights demonstrators willfully risking arrests to the many current and former prisoners that built or joined organizations such as the Black Panther Party. Berger engagingly demonstrates that such organizing made prison walls porous and influenced generations of activists that followed.


Get A Job: Labor Markets, Economic Opportunity and Crime (NYC Press, 2014)

by Robert Crutchfield, Sociology

Robert Crutchfield offers a nuanced understanding of the links among work, unemployment, and crime. He draws on his first-hand knowledge of growing up in a poor, Black neighborhood in Pittsburgh, and later working on the streets as a parole officer, as he explains how people’s positioning in the labor market affects their participation in all kinds of crimes, from violent acts to profit-motivated offenses. Get a Job tells a powerful story of one of the most troubling side effects of economic disparities in America. 


A Pound of Flesh (New York: Russell Sage, 2016)

by Alexes Harris, Sociology

Over seven million Americans are either incarcerated, on probation, or on parole, with their criminal records often following them for life and affecting access to higher education, jobs, and housing. Court-ordered monetary sanctions that compel criminal defendants to pay fines, fees, surcharges, and restitution further inhibit their ability to reenter society. Alexes Harris analyzes the rise of monetary sanctions in the criminal justice system, and shows how they permanently penalize and marginalize the poor, further perpetuating racial and economic inequality.


Change They Can't Believe In: The Tea Party and Reactionary Politics in America (Princeton University Press, 2015)

by Christopher Parker, Political Science; Matt A. Barreto (former faculty)

This book reveals that the Tea Party is driven by the reemergence of a reactionary movement in American politics that is fueled by a fear that America has changed for the worse. Providing a range of original evidence and rich portraits of party sympathizers as well as activists, Christopher Parker and Matt Barreto show that the perception that America is in danger directly informs how Tea Party supporters think and act.


Freedom with Violence (Duke University Press, 2011)

by Chandan Reddy, Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies; CHID

Chandan Reddy develops a new paradigm for understanding race, sexuality, and national citizenship. He examines a crucial contradiction at the heart of modernity: the nation-state’s claim to provide freedom from violence depends on its systematic deployment of violence against peoples perceived as nonnormative and irrational.



Race, Racism and Oppression through History 

Closer to Freedom (UNC Press, 2005)

by Stephanie M. H. Camp (deceased, 2014), History

Recent scholarship on slavery has explored the lives of enslaved people beyond the watchful eye of their masters. Building on this work and the study of space, social relations, gender, and power in the Old South, Stephanie Camp examines the everyday containment and movement of enslaved men and, especially, enslaved women, extending our recognition of slave resistance and revealing an important and hidden culture of opposition.


Patient. (Black Lawrence Press, 2014)

by Bettina Judd, Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies

“Sophisticated, complex, haunting, Patient. beckons readers to remember, to feel, to think deeply, to discover, to probe. Slavery’s stench, the bodies of Black women, death, scientific racism, memory — these themes link the poems in extraordinary ways. Judd is a masterful new poet.” -Beverly Guy-Sheftall, founding director and Anna Julia Cooper Professor of Women’s Studies, Spelman College.


The Rising Tide of Color: Race, State Violence, and Radical Movements across the Pacific (UW Press, 2015)

Copublished with Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest; Edited by Moon-Ho Jung, History; American Ethnic Studies 

The Rising Tide of Color challenges familiar narratives of race in American history that all too often present the U.S. state as a benevolent force in struggles against white supremacy, especially in the South. Featuring a wide range of scholars specializing in American history and ethnic studies, this powerful collection of essays highlights historical moments and movements on the Pacific Coast and across the Pacific to reveal a different story of race and politics.


The Forgetting Tree: A Rememory (Wayne State University Press, 2017)

by Rae Paris, English

Rae Paris remembers her father’s life and death within an assemblage of past and present racial violence and resistance to terror in the settler colonial nation state known as the United States. A perfect blend of prose, poetry, and images, The Forgetting Tree is a unique and thought-provoking collection that argues for a deeper understanding of past and present so that we might imagine a more hopeful, sustainable, and loving future.


Real Folks: Race and Genre in the Great Depression (Duke University Press, 2011)

by Sonnet Retman, American Ethnic Studies

Diverse artists and intellectuals — including the novelists George Schuyler and Nathanael West, the filmmaker Preston Sturges, and the anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston — illuminated the fabrication and exploitation of folk authenticity in New Deal and commercial narratives. By illuminating the subversive satirical energy of the 1930s, Retman identifies a rich cultural tradition overshadowed until now by the scholarly focus on Depression-era social realism.


Silencing Race: Disentangling Blackness, Colonialism, and National Identities in Puerto Rico (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012)

by Ileana Rodriguez-Silva, History; Geography

Silencing Race provides a historical analysis of the construction of silences surrounding issues of racial inequality, violence, and discrimination in Puerto Rico. Examining the ongoing racialization of Puerto Rican workers, it explores the 'class-making' of race.


Saltwater Slavery: A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora  (Harvard University Press, 2014)

by Stephanie E. Smallwood, History; CHID

Stephanie E. Smallwood’s story gives us a startlingly graphic experience of the slave trade from the vantage point of the slaves themselves, and details how African people were transformed into Atlantic commodities in the process. Smallwood takes us into the ports and stone fortresses where African captives were held and prepared, and then through the Middle Passage itself. Arriving in America, we see how these new migrants enter the market for laboring bodies, and struggle to reconstruct their social identities in the New World.


The Forging of a Black Community: Seattle’s Central District from 1870 through the Civil Rights Era (UW Press, 1994)

by Quintard Taylor, History

Recently featured in The Seattle Times as a must-read book to learn more about Black history, racism, and social justice, this book explores the evolution of Seattle's Central District — a four-square-mile section near the geographic center of the city — from its first few residents in the 1870s to a population of nearly forty thousand in 1970. With events such as the massive influx of rural African Americans beginning with World War II and the transformation of African American community leadership in the 1960s from an integrationist to a “black power” stance, Seattle both anticipates and mirrors national trends. Thus, the book addresses not only a particular city in the Pacific Northwest but also the process of political change in Black America.

More publications by Quintard Taylor:


The Afterlife of Reproductive Slavery (Duke University Press, 2019) 

by Alys Eve Weinbaum, English

Engaging with a broad set of texts, from Toni Morrison's Beloved and Octavia Butler's dystopian speculative fiction to Black Marxism, histories of slavery, and legal cases involving surrogacy, Alys Eve Weinbaum shows how black feminist contributions from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s constitute a powerful philosophy of history — one that provides the means through which to understand how reproductive slavery haunts the present. 



Race and Privilege

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism (Beacon Press, 2018)

by Robin DiAngelo, College of Education

Antiracist educator Robin DiAngelo deftly illuminates the phenomenon of white fragility and “allows us to understand racism as a practice not restricted to ‘bad people’” (Claudia Rankine). In this in-depth exploration, DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.


Troubling the Family: the Promise of Personhood and the Rise of Multiracialism (University of Minnesota Press, 2012)

by Habiba Ibrahim, English

Troubling the Family argues that the emergence of multiracialism during the 1990s was determined by underlying and unacknowledged gender norms. Opening with a germinal moment for multiracialism — the seemingly instantaneous popular appearance of Tiger Woods — Habiba Ibrahim examines how the shifting status of racial hero for Black and multiracial communities makes sense only by means of an account of masculinity.


The Psychology of Multiculturalism in the Schools (NASP, 2009)

by Janine M. Jones, College of Education

Understanding the diverse cultural, linguistic, and educational needs of students is essential to creating genuinely inclusive and effective schools where all children can thrive. This includes embracing individuality in diverse children and their families, as well as understanding the cultural foundations of learning and behavior. Jones's book provides school professionals the tools necessary to become culturally responsive practitioners, enhance student progress, and close the achievement gap.


Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World (Between the Lines, 2019)

by Anu Taranath, English; CHID

In Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World, storyteller Anu Taranath begins at home, unpacking our baggage about who we are, where we come from, and how much we have. She takes us on a journey through engaging personal travel stories and thought-provoking questions, providing us with tools to grapple with our discomfort and navigate differences with accountability and connection. Yes, travel! But be mindful. Be present.


Awakening to Race: Individualism and Social Consciousness in America (University of Chicago Press, 2012)

by Jack Turner, Political Science

The election of America’s first Black president has led many to believe that race is no longer a real obstacle to success and that remaining racial inequality stems largely from the failure of minority groups to take personal responsibility for seeking out opportunities. Often this argument is made in the name of the long tradition of self-reliance and American individualism. Turner upends this view, arguing that it expresses not a deep commitment to the values of individualism, but a narrow understanding of them.

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