6 books that brilliantly tackle issues of racism, white privilege and more


Our 27-year-old democracy was hard-fought and hard-won. While we strive every day to live in a society that is at harmony, and which provides opportunities that ensures the fair treatment for all, there are still many things we have yet to overcome.

On the surface it’s easy to pretend we are living in the society that comrades and activists like Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, Winnie Mandela and co fought for, but underneath it all, there are points of contention proving harder to combat.

The legacy of racism isn’t just something that forms a part of our history.

The plight of marginalised groups are worse than ever – particularly in America, where you can’t even walk into Starbucks without being racially profiled, or where you’re shot when unarmed, just for being black.

Unless we actively educate and resist efforts to promote the idea that one race is superior over another, it’s not going to get better soon.

It starts with activism, but activism is not just about making your voice heard. It’s about listening to marginalised groups and educating yourself about their experiences (without taking offence or assuming that calling out groups of people for racism means a) we hate you and b) we’re accusing you as an individual of being a racist).

These books are a great place to start if you want to understand how the impact of racism affects us on a local and global level:

READ MORE: I married a white woman and many call me a traitor

A Long Way from Home by Peter Carey

The Booker Prize winner is back with an ambitious novel that explores the fraught and brutal history of racism in Australia.

It’s a novel that uses the backdrop of a long-distance car-rally to delve into the history of the Indigenous People of Australia and is a story, that Carey says is one that he, as “a beneficiary of genocide” had to write.

Our reviewer says: “Carey’s unexpected, vivid and at times unsettling story is written with all the mastery of a writer with a lifetime of creative and critical success behind him. The characters and relationships are unforgettable, and their struggles will resonate with many.”

Read our full review here

We Are Not Such Things by Justine van der Leun

This is a South African story that recounts the story of how American scholar Amy Biehl was murdered. It’s a story of hope and reconciliation and it’s one that our reviewer, says, quickly becomes more than just a story about murder. It delves into township life and the Apartheid system, while also about South Africa in general.

Our reviewer’s selling point: “For a privileged white South African, parts of this book are uncomfortable to read, which is exactly why the book should be read.”

Read the full review here

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

This is one of those books, that even after a year of having read this, still makes me think.

It’s a book that tackles police brutality in America and while it’s gritty, heartbreaking and delves into the everyday reality black people in the US, it’s also an uplifting read filled with humour, family drama and the kind of revolutionary activism that will make you go out and find out how you, too, can become a better ally.

Read more about 16-year old Starr’s journey as she battles to find her voice when she witnesses the shooting of her unarmed best friend.

Writing What We Like edited by Yolisa Qunta

This collection of essays features a variety of young voices who tackle subjects like black tax, colourism, whitesplaining and about the awkwardness of being black and privileged.

In this excerpt we featured a while back, Yolisa talks about the subtle forms of racism that exist in everyday life but that we’re completely oblivious to.

From the saleswoman who ignores the black woman trying to enquire about pricing to the narrative about dancing blacks that advertisers keep pushing, this excerpt is written with a lot of subversive humour but packs a mighty punch.

Read the excerpt here:

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

“When I talk about white privilege, I don’t mean that white people have it easy, that they’ve never struggled, or that they’ve never lived in poverty.”

What started as a viral blog post quickly become one of the most talked about books on an international scale. Tackling issues of black history, intersectional feminism and structural racism, this book is an uncomfortable read, but an important one since it also addresses white identity, white anxiety and goes into detail about how white privilege in itself is “an absence of the consequences of racism.”

Read an excerpt from the book here:

The Love Diary of a Zulu Boy - A Memoir by Bhekisisa Mncube

The prolific journalist and author’s memoir delves into a topic that many people are still uncomfortable with – love across the colour line.

In his memoir, The Love Diary of a Zulu Boy, Mncube relates his various experience with racism and the challenges of facing discrimination because he is married to a white woman.

Race and identity form the trademark of this book, but there’s plenty of heartwarming, irreverent and funny snippets  that makes this book a perfect vessel for delivering life lessons that can only serve to help bridge the gap.  

We recently featured a delightful excerpt from the book (I married a white woman and many call me traitor) which resulted in many of you sending in your responses about your experiences with interracial relationships and marriage.

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