Want to be a stronger ally? Learn from this book list.

Published on June 17, 2020
A stack of books sits next to an open book with fanned pages.

Recent events have sparked a conversation about racial justice across our nation and the world. Many people, both within and beyond the veterinary community, have expressed interest in learning more about racial equity, discrimination, and related issues.

AVMA’s director of wellbeing, diversity and inclusion initiatives, Jen Brandt, Ph.D., put together the following book list for those interested in expanding awareness and understanding of the experiences and perspectives of members of marginalized communities, and the issues being debated in the media and in society. She recommends each of these books as a starting point for individuals who want to become stronger allies in pursuit of racial justice and equity.

Descriptions of each book are excerpted from the publishers’ websites unless otherwise indicated.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism

By Robin DiAngelo

“Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. … DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.”

So You Want to Talk About Race

By Ijeoma Oluo

“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.”

Waking up White

By Debby Irving (Description excerpted from the author website)

For 25 years, Debby Irving “sensed inexplicable racial tensions in her personal and professional relationships. … Then, in 2009, one ‘aha!’ moment launched an adventure of discovery and insight that drastically shifted her worldview and upended her life plan. In Waking Up White, Irving tells her often cringe-worthy story with such openness that readers will turn every page rooting for her-and ultimately for all of us.”

I’m Judging You: The Do Better Manual

By Luvvie Ajayi (Description excerpted from the author website)

“Hilariously wry social commentary, delivered as a guide to modern manners … I'm Judging You dissects our cultural obsessions and calls out bad behavior in our increasingly digital, connected lives. With a lighthearted, rapier wit and a unique perspective, it’s the handbook the world needs now.”

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in The Cafeteria and Other Conversations about Race

By Beverly Daniel Tatum

“Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see black, white, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides.”

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michelle Alexander (Description excerpted from the book website)

“The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.”

Navigating Diversity and Inclusion in Veterinary Medicine

Edited by Lisa M. Greenhill, Kauline Cipriani Davis, Patricia M. Lowrie, and Sandra F. Amass

“The book lays out the history of diversity in the veterinary profession, in the context of historical changes and actions within U.S. society. An overview of selected strategies from dental, pharmacy, and (human) medical schools is then offered. … A systems approach to diversity and inclusiveness in the veterinary profession is called for in a manner that frames barriers as opportunities for improvement and progress. There is much that needs to happen to achieve professional inclusiveness and cultural competency, but the path to achieving this is clear. System-wide commitment, planning, execution, and continuous assessment will position the profession to better suit the population of the nation and the world that will be served. This book is a call to action for consistent championship and cohesive approaches, and it provides a road map to building a sustainably inclusive future.”

How to Be an Antiracist

By Ibram X Kendi (Description excerpted from the author website)

“Kendi's concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America--but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. Instead of working with the policies and system we have in place, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it. 

White Rage

By Carol Anderson

“Acclaimed historian Carol Anderson reframes our continuing conversation about race, chronicling the powerful forces opposed to black progress in America. … Since 1865 and the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, every time African Americans have made advances towards full participation in our democracy, white reaction has fueled a deliberate and relentless rollback of their gains. The end of the Civil War and Reconstruction was greeted with the Black Codes and Jim Crow; the Supreme Court's landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision was met with the shutting down of public schools throughout the South while taxpayer dollars financed segregated white private schools; the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965 triggered a coded but powerful response, the so-called Southern Strategy and the War on Drugs that disenfranchised millions of African Americans while propelling presidents Nixon and Reagan into the White House, and then the election of America's first black President, led to the expression of white rage that has been as relentless as it has been brutal.”

Blind Spot: Hidden Biases of Good People

By Mahzarin R. Banaji and Anthony Greenwald

Banaji and Greenwald “explore hidden biases that we all carry from a lifetime of experiences with social groups – age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, social class, sexuality, disability status, or nationality. “Blindspot” is a metaphor to capture that portion of the mind that houses hidden biases. The authors use it to ask about the extent to which social groups – without our awareness or conscious control – shape our likes and dislikes, our judgments about people’s character, abilities, and potential.”

Reflection questions

While more efforts to address racism need to be organizational and systemic, individual efforts can make a difference, too. Whether you choose to read these titles on your own, or ask colleagues or friends to join you for discussion, Dr. Brandt offers these questions to consider as you read and turn your thoughts into action steps.

  • What does this have to do with me?
  • How could I explain these concepts to my friends, family and colleagues?
  • What emotions am I mindful of as I read?
  • How does this connect with things that I’ve learned?
  • What will I choose to do differently as a result of what I’ve read?

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