We’re excited to be releasing our second Book Club post. This month, we have selected works curated by VBI staff members Christian Quiroz and Darius White focusing on works of racial justice. We are quite happy with the works we’ve selected and hope you enjoy them as much as we did. Due to the in-depth nature of this topic, we have elected to suggest two books and one article/podcast to better cover the issues at hand. Feel free to leave comments or questions about the works we’ve selected at the Reddit thread!
Book: The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter
The History of White People is a must read for any student trying to grapple the problem of whiteness and racism. Nell Irvin Painter traces the historical progression of racial ideology, critiquing the structures of whiteness that permeate science, politics, and aesthetics. Indeed, the novel begins from the earliest times in Western history to pinpoint the ways in which ancient ideologies influence and culminate into a misguided racial theory in modern times. I strongly recommend this book because it is easily accessible and is a compelling account of the ways in which whiteness has manifested itself historically. Painter’s novel is integral for readers trying to cross the gap between whiteness being merely skin tone and whiteness as social power and domination.
Pick up a copy of the book here.
Book: The Racial Contract by Charles Mills
Charles Mills’ book The Racial Contract is an excellent read when one is starting to dive into critical race theory. His book describes the nature of social contract theory as a “Racial Contract” that “is intended as a conceptual bridge between two areas now largely segregated from each other: on the one hand, the world of mainstream (i.e., white) ethics and political philosophy, preoccupied with discussions of justice and rights in the abstract, on the other hand, the world of Native American, African American, and Third and Fourth World political thought, historically focused on issues of conquest, imperialism, colonialism, white settlement, land rights, race and racism, slavery, Jim Crow, reparations, apartheid, cultural authenticity, national identity, indigenismo, Afrocentrism, etc.” Mills’ theorization of the Racial Contract reveals that the social contract created to establish governance “is not a contract between everybody (“we the people”) but between just the people who count, the people who really are people (“we the white people”).” Mills’ analysis allows us to see that it is the social contract that allows even for the exclusive of Native and Black people from the genealogy of history, the category of the “Human”, and the American constitution itself. This book will serve as an excellent critical interrogation of the social contract, challenge traditional race-blind theories, and help students understand critical race theory.
Pick up a copy of the book here.
Article and Podcast: The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The Case for Reparations is considered a must-read and at the time of its release generated immense amounts of public conversation. The cover piece is thousands of words long, deeply moving, and well-written. Regardless of whether one agrees with the conclusion, it is impossible to deny the power this piece has. It urges readers to consider racial injustice beyond merely slavery and examine the legacy of Jim Crow as it continues to the modern day. The powerful call to action forces readers to consider their ethical and political views as it relates to racism, desert, and inequality. This piece brought racial justice issues into the public spotlight and forced intellectuals and the average American to think critically about ways to redress racial inequality. It is difficult to sum up this piece and give it its due credit, so instead I urge all debaters to read this piece. I think it is near impossible to consider oneself an advocate for equality and justice without having read this piece.
Read the article here and listen to the podcast below: