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Black books you must read to reverse brainwashing

October 28, 2012

I firmly believe that because people willingly or unwittingly consume a diet of media that is mostly conceived, manufactured and delivered by a white European or American tradition, the difficulties faced by black and minority groups in being heard, self-represented and understood by those who occupy the hegemonic levels society are great.

Breaking down the cultural exoticism through which works by black or minority artists are viewed will help white society take black intellectualism and creativity for granted, in the way they take their own. It would also serve to empower our own intellectual and cultural self-sufficiency.

I propose the breaking down of this exoticism through consumption. In the same way consumption of ‘white’ television, newspapers, literature, films, music and so on have contributed to our racial malaise, consumption of ‘alternative’ forms will contribute to our salvation. This should be prescribed until, in the eyes of the consumer, they stop being ‘alternative’ at all.

I recommend starting the path to cultural enlightenment with the following books (in no particular order):

A Memoir of My Ordinary, Extraordinary Family, and Me, Condelezza Rice

How to become black Republican whilst maintaining a strong, meaningful link to your roots at the same time. A memoir of strong family values, empowerment through education and persistence in the face of uncertainty. This transformed my view of race debates in America today.

The Bridge, David Remnick

How Obama became president because and in spite of, American history. America’s chickens did come home to roost, eventually. This book is a gripping biography  that  conveys how far America has come, and how far it has to go. Best read after reading…

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe

Abolitionist literature fascinates me. Firstly because it challenges the kind way in which abolitionists have been treated by history, and secondly because it’s hard to imagine these would have been seen as abolitionist at the time of writing. They would surely have been received as fantastical as Lord of the Rings. Whether Stowe was being ironic in her sweeping generalisations of black people, I will never know (she makes no sweeping generalisations of her white characters). After the first few chapters, you do tire of Negros with shiny faces, fat hands, big and good natured hearts, who are good in the kitchen. It’s an insightful read and a brilliant example of the complexity of prejudice; all the white characters, whether cruel, caring, considerate or brutal, carry a deep seated prejudice against their African American compatriots. They simply display it in different ways.

Long Walk to Freedom, Nelson Mandela

Because we are born equal, it is impossible for anyone to bestow equality on to us. You have to fight for it, by any means necessary. Mandela’s an exhilarating story. Read it, even though you know how it ends, because you probably have no idea how it started.

The Lonely Londoners, Samuel Selvon

London was shit in the 50s and it’s still shit! But bwoy, read this book and you’ll see what was endured so we can get jobs Footlocker. Once read, you will never look at a fat pigeon in the same way again.

Black Skin, White Masks, Franz Fanon

Fanon clearly has a problem with black women. He describes black women who date white men as treacherous but describes black men who date white women as  emancipated. Even so, his brain is in the right place when it comes to understanding the politics of power and the symptoms of post-colonial sickness we suffer from to this day. This book is an eye-opener.

The Devil that Danced on Water, Aminatta Forna

Sierra Leone tore itself apart in spite of the talent it had within its midst. Forna’s father, who met her mother as student on Scotland, returned to Sierra Leone determined to shape a better post-colonial nation. This is the story of a political murder, an exile and a return. It’s an important memoir because it is a story of how disasterous western influence was on young African nations, how self destructive the quest for power becomes and how important people like Aminatta Forna are, because they unwaveringly fight for the truth. This book records a history that is essential for an understanding of modern century Africa. It’s a great study of a nation’s conflict.

The Beautiful Ones are Not Yet Born, Ayi Kwei Armah

A book sent in Ghana in the immeadiate days and weeks after the death of Kwame Nkrumah. It’s easy to ready this book and think how ridiculous the characters sound when they refuse Ghanaian products in favours of European ones and relinquish African hair in favour of European styles. Yet t it’s the same corruption black people suffer from all over the world today. A depressing story, but don’t let you put that off!

Beloved, Toni Morrison

A mother is so distraught about her impending recapture into slavery, she kills her youngest daughter before she can become a slave too. In time, her home becomes haunted by her ghost. This is the book that Uncle Tom’s Cabin should have been. This book is rightly considered a modern classic and will be in the cannon of American education forever. Toni Morrison believes that once  people understand their past and how their past has shaped them, they can understand themselves. Her writing helps African America on that journey.

The Black Jacobins, CLR James

Haiti was once led by a black man who wasn’t a murderous stain on the island. History records a man who defeated the British, the Spanish and the French, and instilled Marxist principles (though he didn’t know it at the time) on his people understanding prosperity was the path to peace. He freed Haitians from slavery at around the same time of the French Revolution. Without CLR James, this history would have been lost.

Stephen and Me, Duwayne Brooks

Duwayne Brooks was second victim of the attack that ended Stephen Lawrence’s life. This book contains the truth about race, class and policing in the UK. By the end of the first chapter I was in tears on public transport, by the end of the book I was in shock. The police never admit, they never apologise. A must read book.

Noughts and Crosses Trilogy, Malorie Blackman

Woop! The shoe is on the other foot! But it doesn’t feel better. It actually, in so many ways, feels worse. Blackman’s world cleverly reverses the roles of black and white people in society and I think these books do more to eradicate racism than any anti-racism organisation that has been in existence. Written for a teenage audience, they are dramatic, pacey and a thrill to read.

Imperial Reckoning, Caroline Elkin

What the British did in Kenya is disgusting. This book is a thorough investigation into the torture camps, the cover ups and the legacy of the suppression of the Mau Mau uprising in colonial Kenya. It’s a vile British history that only Niall Ferguson could be proud of. So you know it’s bad.

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2 Comments leave one →
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