8 Must-Read Racial Equity Books for Leaders

By Kevin Bryant 

At Edgility, when we look for executive leadership candidates, we look for leaders who can offer compassion and understanding and are equipped with a racial equity lens that allows them to minimize the adverse effects of their work in the communities where they serve. We aren’t solely focusing on minimum education requirements, nor on the amount of years of experience. We are looking at candidates as a whole and the impact they will have on social change.

Many of our clients serve communities that have historically been underserved and deeply impacted by systemic racism. These social impact organizations require leaders who embrace and understand the subtle nuances of being part of marginalized communities. We believe it is imperative that leaders have an understanding of the root causes of systemic racism and how to practice anti-racism to lead equitable teams.

Reading the eight books below is a good start to help leaders understand their own blind spots. Additionally, they can improve a leader’s self-awareness when they navigate the complexities of dismantling long-held systems of oppression that have specifically targeted the communities where many Edgility placements serve.

1. How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi

There is a difference between being ‘not racist’ and being ‘anti-racist.’ In Ibram Kendi’s groundbreaking book, the best-selling author shares the difference between the two. He also offers a proactive approach to deconstructing personal biases to becoming an anti-racist in the spaces where you live and work.

2. Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson

From its inception, the United States has operated within a caste system. While it may not be as apparent as a country like India, this Pulitzer-prize winning book demonstrates the ways we unwittingly engage in an unspoken hierarchy every day.

3. The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Government Segregated America by Richard Rothstein

The Black community in America has long been targeted and discriminated against by legal systems and policies that are pervasive to this day. These practices contributed to the racial wealth gap and inequitable housing practices that still persist today. Through meticulous research, Rothstein uncovers how racial segregation doesn’t just happen, it is made possible by explicit local, state and federal government polices.

4. White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo

Author Robin DiAngelo, a racial and social justice trainer, explains how white folks lack awareness around the impacts of race in our society. Then when presented with this information, they become “fragile” and claim victimhood rather than helping to push back on these oppressive systems. This book encourages white people to confront their privilege and take action to dismantle white supremacy.

5. Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World by Anand Giridharadas

Anand Giridharadas unpacks the lengths the wealthy go to maintain their privileged positions by creating the illusion that they’re solving the world’s ills. He breaks down the elite’s use of influence to protect their status while stifling social progress.

6. Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong

Cathy Park Hong provides deep insight into the second-generation Korean American experience and helps dispel the model-minority myth. She poetically and powerfully captures the inexplicable feelings of being a Korean American that are often pushed aside or overlooked.

7. So You Want to Talk About Race? The Beginners Manual by Ijeoma Oluo

As the social justice movement moves forward, it becomes more important to have difficult, but effective, conversations about race and how it impacts every aspect of our lives. Ijeoma Oluo’s book is a great starting point for those who need a step-by-step guide on approaching conversations about racial equity.

8. How the Word is Passed by Clint Smith

How the Word is Passed details how some of America’s most commonly told stories and well known landmarks have hidden the most unsavory parts of its history to downplay or eliminate the brutality of enslavers and the impact of enslaved men, women, and children on our country to this day.

In conclusion, this list is only meant to be a starting point on the way to becoming an inclusive and equitable leader. Do you have a book that you like to recommend to colleagues and friends seeking to develop their social justice lens and become better, more equitable leaders? Email us your suggestion at info@edgilityconsulting.com.


Put your values to work. Act on equity.

We believe equity isn’t a box to check. It’s a daily action. Someone’s unique identity isn’t something to overcome–when paired with the right opportunity, it becomes one of their greatest professional assets. We exist to empower social impact organizations to recognize and overcome unconscious bias, racism and sexism so they can build a workforce that reflects and strengthens the communities they serve.