Emmanuel Acho’s anti-racist reading recommendations

In Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, former NFL player and viral video sensation Emmanuel Acho tackles the questions about race that many white people are afraid to ask, yet which everyone needs the answers to. Here he recommends just a few of his favourite books on the topic of race and racism.

12/11/2020
5 minutes to read

The death of George Floyd on 25th May 2020 sparked protests across America which soon spread around the world. Conversations about systemic racism and police brutality took on new urgency in the wake of these events, and many people were asking: what can I do to help? Ex-NFL player and Fox Sports analyst Emmanuel Acho’s answer? ‘Let your guard down and listen.’ 

Emmanuel wanted to create a safe space to address the questions about race that so many people are scared to ask, and to tear down the barriers to honest conversation. And so he launched his video series Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. As Emmanuel explained in the first episode: ‘this is made for you my white brothers and sisters, to increase your level of understanding so that you can increase your level of compassion and lead ultimately to change.’ 

The first video went viral with over twelve million views on Instagram, and subsequent episodes featured celebrity guests including Matthew McConaughey and Chelsea Handler discussing everything from implicit bias and white privilege to how to actively be anti-racist. 

In his first book, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, Emmanuel expands on his video series to provide a guide to the truths we need to know to address systemic racism. Each chapter addresses a particular topic, including cultural appropriation, reverse racism and how to be an ally.  

In this video, Emmanuel tells us more about his book, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man:

As Emmanuel says, one of the most important things we can do in the fight against racism is to listen. Here, he shares just a few of his favourite books on race and racism. 


If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

This novel has the biggest heart, in its head-on portrait of how black families endured in the ’50s and ’60s against stacked odds. A classic for a reason.
Emmanuel Acho

If Beale Street Could Talk

by James Baldwin

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 James Baldwin’s classic novel was adapted into a film of the same name by award-winning director Barry Jenkins. Set in 1960s Harlem, If Beale Street Could Talk is the story of the deep love between Tish and Fonny, and their families’ fight to win justice for Fonny after he is falsely accused of rape and arrested based on the lies of a racist white police officer. 


How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev

A brilliant investigation of how race was invented in America – for white people as well as black people. 
Emmanuel Acho

How the Irish Became White

by Noel Ignatiev

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When the Irish came to America in the eighteenth century, they were fleeing prejudice and a homeland under foreign occupation by the British. In America they found that social hierarchy was very different, and dependent on the colour of your skin. This is the story of how the oppressed can become the oppressors, and how Irish immigrants only achieved acceptance  by embracing ideas of white supremacy. 


The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why, by Jabari Asim

I know what some of you are thinking: this book could be two sentences. (Who can say it? Black people. Who can’t? White people.) But it’s all in the why, my friends. Asim takes us through the tangled 400-year history of the N-word, which is also the history of racism.
Emmanuel Acho

The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn't, and Why

by Jabari Asim

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Jabari Asim explores the history and meanings behind the racial slur. He argues that using the word keeps Black people at the bottom of America’s socioeconomic ladder, but also that the word can still be used by those that understand it’s history.  This important book helps the reader understand the legacy of this slur and the grip it has on the American psyche. 


The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Another classic for a reason. It’s Toni Morrison. Just read it. 
Emmanuel Acho

The Bluest Eye

by Toni Morrison

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Pecola lives with her foster parents and their daughters after her house was burned down by her alcoholic, abusive father, who left her pregnant after raping her. Regarded as ugly because of her dark skin, each night Pecola prays for blue eyes like those of her white classmates so that she will be as accepted and loved as they are. Slowly she sees the behaviour of those around her change, but this change is due to her disintegrating mental state following the loss of her baby. Toni Morrison’s first novel tackles questions of race, class and gender in a powerful exploration of our society’s obsession with beauty and conformity. 


White Rage by Carol Anderson

Anderson, the head of African American studies of Emory University, really delves into the feeling of anger white people have had over black equality and how that anger has manifested over the years.
Emmanuel Acho

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide

by Carol Anderson

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White Rage chronicles the history of the powerful forces that have opposed any advances African Americans have made towards full democratic participation.  From the post-Civil War Black Codes to the Jim Crow law, this compelling history is a vital contribution to the conversation about race in America. 


Stamped by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds; Woke Baby by Mahogany L. Browne

A twofer of sensitive yet honest introductions to race and racism for kids and young adults. We got to start the youngins out right.
Emmanuel Acho

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You

by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

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This adaptation of Ibram X. Kendi’s award-winning book for ages 12+ speaks to young readers on their level, shining a light on the many insidious forms of racism, and how we can all be empowered to combat racism in our daily lives. 

Woke Baby

by Mahogany L. Browne

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This empowering board book by Mahogany L. Browne is illustrated with bright, playful art by Theodore Taylor III. This celebration of what it means to be woke will show your little one that they can grow up to change the world. Woke Baby wakes up bright and early and learns what it means to be a revolutionary.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man

by Emmanuel Acho

Book cover for 9781529064063

Emmanuel Acho’s timely book is an essential guide to systemic racism and how to address it. Emmanuel takes on all the questions, large and small, insensitive and taboo, that many white people are afraid to ask – yet which everyone needs the answers to, now more than ever.