Unlearning: 100+ Unlearning Prompts, Anti-Racism Resources & More

The following text and list of unlearning prompts and anti-racism resources were compiled for a newsletter I sent out in July 2020. Because...

Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter.

I wanted to give the list a proper and permanent home because they are unlearning prompts and anti-racism resources, including podcasts, books, videos, and newsletters that I hope to refer to again and again, and I also expect that I will update them once I find more brilliant prompts, materials and resources. 

Please do also feel free to leave your own suggestions in the comments below so I can find out what you are reading, studying and doing to do the all-important unlearning we must all do.

100+ Unlearning Prompts & Anti-Racism Resources for White People

A few things I want to state from the offset. As a white person, I am also absolutely writing this with white people in mind, but it's very true that all people have a certain amount of unlearning to do and I do not mean for this list to be exclusive to white people.

However, it's certainly my opinion and that of many anti-racism educators and experts that everyone has a certain amount of unlearning to do. It is also the opinion of my own anti-racism educator Nova Reid (I am doing her online Anti-Racism & White Privilege Course) that part of this process involves communal and collective healing so I try to keep this in mind too when recommending unlearning prompts and anti-racism resources that will also provide solace and healing to Black people and POC.

Why White People Need to Be Actively Unlearning

I hope I can talk about this from a similar place to where you find yourself right now, a place where you are actively doing anti-racism work internally and to varying degrees, externally too. It will look different to all of us, but it is work that needs to be done, especially by white people. I say this because if I've learnt anything on this journey, it's that not doing active, intentional forms of anti-racism work is what allows racist thoughts, systems, ideologies and institutions to continue to exist. Even if that is everyday consciously committing to being curious about and confronting of our own racism (because spoiler alert: it's there, in all of us), and being proactive in our unlearning, and inviting other white people around us to unlearn.

Because there are many better educated, better placed, and better versed minds out there - most of them importantly are Black, Brown or non-white - to lead and educate us all on doing the essential inner work we need to do, below is a list of books, resources, social media accounts, TED talks, Netflix shows and podcasts that have helped me over the years and in recent weeks. Also on my Instagram Stories you can find some highlights of Stories I recently did sharing great books by Black authors as well as some great UK Black businesses to support with your cash. Buying the books and/or buying from the Black businesses listed here or elsewhere is an act of allying in itself. 

DISCLOSURE: YES, this post does contain affiliate links but because I do not want to profit off anti-racism work in any form, I will be donating all affiliate sales from any products on this list to Black Minds Matter UK

A Daily Unlearning Reminder and Prompt for Anti-Racism Work

The Anti-Racism Daily email by Nicole Cardoza is just that. I usually save mine up and open them two or three times a week and there is always something for me to think on, act on and I save them all in a separate folder. They are written specifically for white folx and cover a wide range of topics from terminology to use (or not use) to specific aspects of systemic racism and white supremacy that need untangling and dismantling in all kinds of circles. 

It's free to sign up but you can (and should) donate some money to support the creator if you are able to. Here is Nicole's Patreon where you can access additional resources.

Non-Fiction Books for Unlearning

Below are my recommendations for non-fiction, in-depth guides on anti-racism, white supremacy and more. The last five or six are UK-specific, but ALL have much to offer us white people.

Fiction Books for Unlearning

Truth be told, my awareness and understanding of racism and its effect on Black people (as well as Indigenous and Brown folx too) comes reading fiction. It's also where I feel most inspired, moved and connected with the issues at hand and the responsibility on my shoulders to do more. Below are books I've read that I think about often on my anti-racism journey.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker (currently just 99p or 99c for Kindle)

And this thread is a great list of books by Black female authors, many of which are NOT about racism or anti-racism and this is very, very important because if we only listen to Black voices when they speak about racism, that is de-humanising, and yup, racist. Let's read ALL their books. Let's listen to ALL their stories.

Netflix Shows for Unlearning

The following films, shows and documentaries are all available on Netflix right now - at least they are in the Netherlands! My apologies if they aren't in your region or if you don't have Netflix. 

Disclosure - An important, eye-opening documentary about the depiction of transgender people in films and TV that raises valid questions about Blackness too. Urgent and essential viewing.

13th - Award-winning director, Ava DuVernay's documentary about the history of racism in the US prison system.

When They See Us - A dramatisation of the story about the Central Park Five which exposes so much about implicit bias in the US justice system and in white upper class communities.

Dear White People - A fast-paced comedy-drama that focuses on Black characters navigating racism in many forms in higher education.

LA92 - A documentary looking at the wider picture surrounding the so-called LA race riots of 1992. Painfully relevant to today.

All Day and a Night - A powerful film that again takes on the racial oppression of US's prison system while also exploring the (Black) father and son relationship.

The Death and Life of Marsha P Johnson - A documentary about the death of Marsha P Johnson, a Black trans woman who was a co-founder of Pride as a result of the Stonewall riots she and other trans women of colour were part of. 

What Happened, Miss Simone? - An in-depth documentary looking at the life of musician Nina Simone from her training as a classical pianist through to her activism and her family life.

Time: The Kalief Browder Story - A story that could and should break anyone, Kalief Browder died after spending two years in solitary confinement while detained for a crime he did not commit nor was he charged for. 

Who Killed Malcolm X? - A six-part documentary looking at the murder of activist Malcolm X through the eyes of an investigative journalist who looks at the contributing factors and figures involved.

Moonlight - One of my favourite films from the last few years, this is a cinematographic-ally stunning work of art that follows three stages in one young boy and man's life as he comes of age.

Becoming - A Netflix documentary that follows Michelle Obama as she tours her book Becoming, and thus tackles many of the topics the book does including racism, politics and feminism.

Self-Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C. J. Walker - A fictional series about the USA's self-made Black milliionaire with the wonderful Octavia Butler in the lead role.

TED Talks for Unlearning

I collated these TED and TEDx Talks for myself and you to peruse when you have 10 or more minutes to listen and learn about racism, anti-racism, white supremacy, white privilege, white fragility and the critical thinking we all need to constantly be putting into practice right now. 

There are over 80 videos here so please do save it or bookmark it and come back again and again to further your learning. I've only watched maybe 30 or so, so far, but they've all given me information, education, inspiration and hope. Hope is very important right now.

Anti-Racism Courses

I recently completed a short online course with Nova Reid on building courage for allies, and I am doing her full anti-racism course right now. Both are providing me with prompts, facts, guidance and direction as I dig deeper into my own internal racism and bias, and build resilience to the discomfort and shame it brings up, and also helps me better communicate and 

Podcasts on Unlearning and Anti-Racism

Brene Brown's Unlocking Us podcast was already helping me get through the early weeks and months of the global pandemic, but her recent episodes have been great accompaniments to ongoing anti-racism work. Here are the ones you should listen to, if you haven't already, compiled in an order I think would be most logical listening:

Other podcasts I recommend for unlearning and anti-racism work are Conversations with Nova Reid podcast (her chat with her father is really special) and The Good Ancestor Podcast with Layla F. Saad.

I also recently listened to White Lies podcast which was produced in 2019 but touches on many of the issues that have brought us to where we are at. It's a great listen (along the lines of other true crimes that podcasts have shed light on) ALTHOUGH I do feel I have to highlight how problematic I found some of the angles taken by the production team, not least the fact it was an investigative dig into the death of a white man and was presented by two white men, and (semi-spoiler alert) when culpable people were interviewed there was no questions asked about remorse, about regret, about apologising.

Tips for Visiting Amsterdam and Unlearning

What!?! I can't even go on holiday and take a break from unlearning and anti-racism work?

Yes, of course, you can... when Black people can take a break from experiencing bias and racism. So yeah, that'll be a no then.

But honestly, I think this is exactly the change that needs to happen in the world; we need to weave anti-racism work and thinking into everything we do, travel included.

In fact, as we travel around the world - which most of us do (or rather have done - thanks pandemic!) by exercising huge white and/or passport privilege - we should do so with conscious awareness of the places we are visiting, the people living there, and their history.

Travel should always be a learning opportunity, but because we also see it as a recreational activity we often just focus on the "fun" we can have. Again this is a privilege and a luxury. We also deny ourselves important learning opportunities if we allow our bias to guide what we learn about a place. And then there are the times when we know or have an inkling that finding out more would be unsettling or upsetting personally. Too many times I have turned a blind eye into finding out more about a place's history and culture, because it reflected badly on my own home nation, culture and skin colour. 

I have even done this in the country and city I now call home, choosing to not dig deeper into understanding colonialism and its lasting impact on people, communities, industry, culture and society.

Not anymore.

Unpicking this is a vast undertaking and will take years of reading, listening, and reflecting. But I have made a start by going on a Black Heritage Tour of Amsterdam, and by reading three accompanying books looking at the slave heritage of Amsterdam, the Netherlands and Dutch New York (the first settlement of NYC).

Because it definitely bleeds into my work as a travel writer who writes mostly about Amsterdam, I will be writing more about understanding Amsterdam's and the Netherlands' colonial history as you travel here on the blog soon so stay tuned, but other places you should think about going to find out more include the Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam Museum, and the Slavery Monument in Oosterpark.

You can also find further reading (mostly in Dutch) about Black life, people and history in the Netherlands at The Black Archives.

And if you live in Amsterdam, you should be actively seeking out Black businesses, communities and culture to support. Here is a great list to start with.

Again, feel free to leave a comment with other resources you think should be on this list.

Frances M. Thompson

Londoner turned wanderer, Frankie is an author, freelance writer and blogger. Currently based in Amsterdam, Frankie was nomadic for two years before starting a family with her Australian partner. Frankie is the author of three short story collections, and is a freelance writer for travel and creative brands. In 2017, she launched WriteNOW Cards, affirmation cards for writers that help build a productive and positive writing practice. When not writing contemporary fiction, Frankie shops for vintage clothes, dances to 70s disco music and chases her two young sons around Amsterdam.
Find Frankie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

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