In a July 2020 message to the MIT community on addressing systemic racism at the Institute, MIT President L. Rafael Reif emphasized the need “to add to our knowledge, confront our history, challenge old understandings, and listen to and learn from voices in our community that have been kept at the margins” to fight racial injustice. 

We asked the MIT GOV/LAB team what they’ve been reading and watching lately as we continue to educate ourselves through the lenses of history, literature and film. Sharing lists like this is one small way to bring these works to the forefront and try to help build awareness and support education around topics of anti-racism.

  • The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America” by Richard Rothstein (2017), documents the history of redlining and its institutional context in residential communities across U.S. cities, integrating a combination of data, legal arguments, and residents’ life stories.
  • The Tradition” by Jericho Brown (2019), winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, is a beautiful and daring collection of poems that confront life’s raw challenges, with some poems, “The Tradition”, ”Riddle”, “Good White People”, confronting the experience of racism and emotional fall-out head on. 
  • Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods(2020) and “Do the Right Thing (1989). Da 5 Bloods is a story of four Black veterans who return to Vietnam decades after the war.  Do the Right Thing, depicting rising racial tensions on a single summer day in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, deals with themes and content that are as relevant today as they were over three decades ago. 
  • Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson (2020), an examination of caste hierarchy in the United States and the underlying pillars in common with caste systems in India and Nazi Germany. 
  • Children of the Land” by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo (2020) is the author’s courageous story of growing up as an undocumented immigrant in the United States. 
  • Want to Improve Equity and Inclusion in Political Science? Address White Supremacyby Anna Meier, PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Meier proposes answers to “What could real antiracist change in the discipline of political science look like?” intended to go beyond representation and get at structural changes towards greater equity and justice. 
  • Raoul Peck’s “I Am Not Your Negro (2016), a documentary inspired by James Baldwin’s unfinished book, Remember This House, that explores connections between Black history and race in America today.

While these are just a few ideas, many organizations have put together more comprehensive lists of readings and resources. Here are a couple from our MIT colleagues: 

  • MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (SHASS): Collected Reading Lists on Racial Equity and Social Justice
  • MIT Libraries: Racial Justice and Anti-Racism Resources

Learn more about our action plan and commitment to anti-racism and Black lives. And, if you’re looking to purchase titles,
Frugal Bookstore, a Black-owned bookstore in Boston, has been one of our go-to sources. 

Photo by Kimberly Farmer on Unsplash.