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Read/Watch List to Learn to be Anti-Racist

History is calling the future from the streets of protest. What choice will we make? What world will we create? What will we be? There are only two choices: racist or anti-racist.

Ibram X. Kendi, in "The American Nightmare"

Racism is a system and structure deeply ingrained in our society that is reinforced by power and authority. As a social construct into which everyone is born, racism permeates through every aspect of our lives reinforcing the superiority of White people and oppressing Black people, Indigenous people and People of Color. Living our lives within this system and not questioning the system, not learning about the system, and not challenging the system – this upholds the system. Because the system is set up to benefit White people and give them power and authority while taking it from Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color, dismantling racism requires White people to act and do the necessary learning about what it means to be not just “not racist” but actively anti-racist. This learning must be followed by action.

Because the landscape architecture discipline is primarily White and exerts a large influence on how people experience and are impacted by the built environment, we have a significant opportunity to apply this learning to be anti-racist not only in our personal lives and communities, but in the profession at-large and in how we shape the physical environment. It is imperative that we as a discipline commit to the long work of dismantling racism. We can begin this work by learning and understanding the role we have played in upholding racism and how we have (perhaps unintentionally) reinforced it through our work, and by listening to, promoting, and supporting our Black, Indigenous, and other colleagues of color.

The read/watch list below is meant as a starting point for learning about racism and anti-racism generally and about the Black American experience in particular. It is not exhaustive but is a selection from what we have read and found useful in our own learning. Soon LAF will be launching a larger Justice, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Resource Guide with resources that touch on a broad range of topics relevant to landscape architects.

A note on purchasing books: While Amazon is convenient, please consider ordering your books from a local Black-owned bookstore or independent bookstore as able.


Beginning Books

There are many books that one could read to learn more about the issues but the three below are a good place to start in building a foundation.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Start with this book as it is accessible and explains many core concepts and ideas that are necessary to understand for moving forward.

White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi


Movies to Watch

Two very important movies to watch in order to understand the role that incarceration plays in upholding the oppression of Black people and People of Color:

This 2016 documentary by director Ava DuVernay explores the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States. Available on Netflix.

Just Mercy
Directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, screenplay by Destin Daniel Cretton and Andrew Lanham, this 2019 drama is based on the life work of civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson. For the month of June, this movie is available to rent for free on multiple streaming platforms in the U.S.


Additional Books

Again, there are many books that could be included, but here are some to further your learning:


Stony the Road: Reconstruction, White Supremacy, and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Nobody Knows My Name by James Baldwin

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How are Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The Autobiography of Malcom X as Told to Alex Haley by Alex Haley and Malcolm X

The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin

Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur


Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Beloved by Toni Morrison


Additional Resources

Many people are answering the call to help others learn, unlearn, and relearn by pulling together resources. Here are a few of these compilations:

Good Good Good Anti-Racism Resources

Anti-Racist Resource Guide by Victoria Alexander, MEd

Anti-Racism Resources for White People complied by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein

LAF is grateful to the many individuals and organizations that provide financial support towards fulfilling our mission to support the preservation, improvement, and enhancement of the environment.

Much of what LAF is able to accomplish would not be possible without the thought leadership and financial investment of our major supporters, including ASLA, which provides over $125,000 of in-kind support annually.