Ah, 2018. Angry people are cutting logos off of socks that they already own and burning shoes that they already paid for because an athletic apparel company rolled out a TV ad featuring a man who peacefully protested for racial justice.
When Colin Kaepernick was recently announced as the face of a new Nike campaign, a certain sector of Americans became nothing short of apoplectic. But aside from Nike’s decision to feature the controversial figure being a good business move, their support of Kaepernick — and, by proxy, his protest — is something all Americans should get behind. It is, as Life editor Steve Bramucci wrote, “A motor that pushes society along in its gradual arc toward justice for all.”
In order to help push this movement forward, we’ve put together a list of 10 books to help you better understand why Colin Kaepernick took a knee.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
If you want to understand how police brutality against black Americans works, pick up Thomas’s novel.
What happens when an unarmed black person is shot by an officer of the law? It depends on who you ask: there are those who will defend the officer, saying that the teen probably deserved it for one reason or another. And then there’s Angie Thomas, who started writing The Hate U Give when Oscar Grant was shot and killed in Oakland in 2009.
One night, Starr Carter’s friend, Khalil, who is black, is driving the protagonist home from a party when they’re pulled over by a white police officer. Khalil is asked to step out of the car, and when he reaches for a hairbrush, the officer shoots and kills him. What follows is a raw and emotional whirlwind of action and devastation, with national outlets portraying Starr’s friend as a gangbanger and twisting the narrative in favor of the officer. And we follow Starr as she grapples with the reality of the shooting and its consequences.
Thomas’s young adult novel is considered the “Black Lives Matter novel” by publishers, and while it does follow 16-year-old Starr’s life as an activist with Just Us for Justice—Thomas’s nod to BLM—it also shows the life of a girl who lives in two worlds. Starr is both a student at a swanky, mostly-white private school and a resident of a majority black neighborhood. She navigates the differences between these two worlds, showing readers the ways in which white privilege and systemic racism mix and try to dictate who Starr is.