Stocking Up on Black Authors? You Need to Bookmark the Racial Justice Bookshelf

Helping woke dollars enrich Black booksellers

Since Black Lives Matter exploded across the nation and the world, books about the Black experience, and the insidious nature of white supremacy, have dominated The New York Times' nonfiction bestseller list.

This is heartening. You know what's less so? All that enlightenment over systemic inequality helping Jeff Bezos become a trillionaire. The Amazon CEO is among a literal handful of men who've enjoyed a massive wealth transfer—to the tune of half a trillion dollars—in their favor (thanks, coronavirus!) as 42.6 million Americans filed for unemployment.

None of those guys are Black, and all that job loss disproportionately affects Black Americans, further widening the racial wealth gap.

To put a stop to this terrible irony, we give you the gorgeously designed Racial Justice Bookshelf.

The site was created by design and tech professionals Maya Man, Leah Rajaratnam and John Soat.

"I was excited to see anti-racist books dominating bestseller lists a couple of weeks ago, but I couldn't help wondering where the money from those sales was going," Rajaratnam says. "We wanted to make it easy for anti-racist education to go hand in hand with supporting the Black-owned bookstores who have been spotlighting Black voices and stories for years."

The trio also understood that, in a culture fueled by Instagram Stories, curation is everything. In a couple of scrolls, you'll find recommendations for activism, environmental policy, intersectional feminism, essays and poetry, and even kids books and cookbooks.

Clicking on a book sends users to its summary page, and from there, ways to order straight from a Black-owned bookshop. That way, people can help make our communities better and fairer even before cracking the books open! 

Bookstores will ship anywhere within the U.S. You can also browse Black-owned shops in your state.

This isn't as simple as hitting "Buy now" on your conglomo website of choice, but the Racial Justice Bookshelf makes discovery, and the patronage of Black-owned shops, a pleasing experience with little friction. For the rest—filling out an actual form—auto-fill does most of the heavy lifting.

Remember, this is just step one in Dismantling Oppressive Systems! Mindless ease of use is a nice opiate, but people adapt surprisingly fast, especially with designers like these.

The Racial Justice Bookshelf was designed for the long haul. It will evolve and grow over time, and readers can suggest new books or bookstores at intuitive touchpoints. Ultimately, the creators hope it will showcase books of all genres by BIPOC authors, which would help support equal representation and pay in the publishing industry—itself an anti-racist effort.

"Lots of people were sharing lists of books and bookstores via an Instagram post or a Google Doc, but those can sometimes get lost in the constant flow of content," Man says. "We hope this website can be a home for those resources that people can easily return to again and again."

Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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