Anti-racism books flying off the shelves: Here’s how you can educate yourself

The documentary <i>13th</i> has been topping the most-watched list on Netflix in the past fortnight.

The documentary 13th has been topping the most-watched list on Netflix in the past fortnight. Photo: Netflix

As the Black Lives Matter protests continue worldwide, the push for community education around issues of racism, white privilege and systematic oppression has never been so prominent.

And it seems Australians are embracing the message loud and clear, as books exploring race climb the best-seller charts across the nation.

Books like Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo, Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe and Layla Saad’s Me and White Supremacy are sitting in Australia’s top 10.

Mark Rubbo, managing director of Australian book retailer Readings, said books with anti-racism content have been flying off the shelves since the protests began.

Layla Sadd’s book offers a 28-day challenge to help ‘change the world’. Photo: Hachette

“Since the death of George Floyd and obviously the attention that has got we have been inundated with orders for books about those issues and how people can understand it better,” Mr Rubbo told The New Daily. 

“It’s been very difficult because a lot of those books, the American books are published overseas and because of COVID-19 they have been very difficult to get.

“But we have been able to manage to work with publishers to get local printings done for a couple of the most important ones like Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad and White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People To Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo.”

“Also books about the Australian experience, people have been really interested in that, too. It’s all incredibly heartening.”

Mr Rubbo said watching the public demand grow for informative books about racism has been a touching experience.

“Five weeks ago our best sellers were jigsaw puzzles, and now they’re important books about race relations – it makes you feel good about being a bookseller,” he said.

As well as books, there has been an explosion of interest in documentaries that share stories of social injustice, and how we can help change our world for the better.

Here’s a short list of the most compelling and informative documentaries you can watch to best understand the Black Lives Matter movement, both overseas and in our backyard.

13th (2016)

Ava DuVernay’s documentary is titled after the 13th amendment in the US constitution that abolishes slavery and involuntary servitude – except for when it is punishment for conviction of a crime.

Exploring the widespread effects of racism, mass incarceration and over-policing of African Americans, 13th has been heralded as one of the most powerful docos in the BLM movement.

Nominated for an Academy Award, streaming giant Netflix felt sharing this informative film was so important that it was released for free on YouTube.

Where to watch: Netflix, YouTube

Who Killed Malcolm Smith?  (1992)

While the Black Lives Matter movement continues to illuminate the plight of people of colour elsewhere, the state of our Indigenous people is often eclipsed and overlooked.

Who Killed Malcolm Smith tells the story of Malcolm Smith, just one of the 99 cases investigated by the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody.

This documentary deep dives into the failings of welfare and education systems, and the effects of institutionalisation on incarcerated Indigenous Australians.

Where to watch: SBS on Demand

Dark Girls (2011)

Skin bleaching, lightening creams and chemical hair straightening are increasingly popular trends throughout the world, but why?

Dark Girls sheds light on the deep-rooted racial biases that dark-skinned women (and men) experience in their day-to-day lives.

This film illustrates the pervasive and nuanced nature of ‘colourism’ and how skin bleaching has become a booming industry.

Featuring interviews from familiar faces including Viola Davis, Dark Girls tackles uncomfortable prejudices and doesn’t shy away from tough questions.

Where to watch: Amazon Prime

Cold Justice (2017 -2018)

Cold Justice is a thrilling and engaging Indigenous true crime series.

Walkley Award and Amnesty Media Award nominee Allan Clarke delves into unsolved murders and cold cases of Indigenous Australians and the barriers to justice they face.

This series does a remarkable job in giving voice to victims who have been largely forgotten or ignored by mainstream media, and should be mandatory viewing for all Aussie true crime fanatics.

Where to watch: SBS on Demand

Burn Motherf—er, Burn!  (2017)

As protests continue, you might be questioning why some are demanding the defunding of police departments – this doco will spell it out to you.

Burn Motherf—er, Burn! chronicles decades of tension, violence and police brutality towards African-Americans, culminating in the 1992 Los Angeles uprising.

With eerily similar scenes to today’s riots, this film perfectly articulates the driving force behind Black Lives Matter protesters – both historic and current.

Where to watch: SBS on Demand

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