Experiences of Black Americans: A Reading List

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 11.21.17 AM

As a white woman, my role in conversations about race is to listen and learn. This week, I wanted to include pieces about empowerment, stereotypes and intersection in the realm of race. One reading list cannot encompass the vast array of experiences of black Americans; this is not meant to be exhaustive. Send me your suggestions, if you’d like. Or comment below.

1. “The Myth of the Absent Black Father.” (Tara Culp-Ressler, ThinkProgress, January 2014)

Black dads are indisputably present and involved in the lives of their children. Don’t believe the stereotypes spewed by the media, or insinuated by President Obama, or written in all caps on Facebook by your Tea Party neighbor.

2. “The Impossibility of the Good Black Mother.” (Tope Fadiran Charlton, Time Magazine, January 2014)

Charlton relates the struggles and stereotypes of being a young, black mother in predominantly white spaces: “The curiosity that strangers are so often eager to satisfy when they see me with my daughter is profoundly shaped by stereotypes of Black womanhood. Am I the babysitter? The nanny?”

3. “Growing Up Black in the Whitest City in America.” (Mitchell S. Jackson, Salon, March 2014)

Historically, Portland’s black population has not exceeded 5%. What this means, writes Jackson, is gang warfare inevitably claims the lives of people you know intimately.

4. “I Am, I Am, I Am: Writing While Black and Female.” (Vanessa Willoughby, The Toast, January 2014)

Willoughby slays in this wonderful piece about identifying as a black, female writer in a white-dude-dominated industry. She’s working on a novel, and if this incisive, insightful essay is any indicator, you won’t be able to miss her.

5. “Homeward Bound: Searching for the Island of Black Queer Mixed Femmes.” (Kim Katrin Crosby, Autostraddle, December 2013)

“I have always been a traveler, particularly as an immigrant and as a person with family hailing from Venezuela to Dominica to South India, ‘home’, ‘family’ and ‘belonging’ have always been complicated concepts. But as femme genius Yumi Tomsha says, we mixed folks are ‘layers, not fractions.’ These complications find their solace in my bones, my laugh, my irreverent queerness and my sensitive stomach without even trying.”

***

Image from “The Residue Years” Documentary By Mitchell S. Jackson

Become a Longreads Member for just $3 a month and help us keep going.

Emily Perper writes, reads, and edits in the DC 'burbs. She devours longform journalism, particularly those pieces involving faith, feminism and queer things. She is the editor-at-large of The Annual, a bimonthly humor magazine, and she contributes weekly to Longreads. Ask her to write a thing for your publication, or edit something, or walk your dog.
Get the Longreads Weekly Email

Sign up to receive the Top 5 Longreads of the week, delivered every Friday.