The Color Line In Books About America

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This is a few days old, but the Atlantic asked eleven people to recommend three books each “to help make sense of the state of U.S. democracy.” Aside from one child’s book that I discarded, they ended up with 33 books. The recommenders included five people of color and six white people. Since I’m a chart guy, I have summarized the recommendations in the chart on the right.

I don’t have a big ol’ essay in me about this, but it’s pretty remarkable. If you want to understand America, people of color apparently think you need to read about race and people of color, but nothing much else. White people think you need to understand class, poverty, religion, and so forth, but nothing much about race or people of color. And these are all pretty high-IQ folks who are well read and presumably understand perfectly well the complexity of American history, culture, and politics.

I wonder what books I’d choose if I were limited to three?

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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