"A current, constructive, and actionable exploration of today's racial landscape, offering straightforward clarity that readers of all races need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide. In So You Want to Talk About Race, Editor at Large of The Establishment, Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the "N" word. Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions readers don't dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans. Oluo is an exceptional writer with a rare ability to be straightforward, funny, and effective in her coverage of sensitive, hyper-charged issues in America. Her messages are passionate but finely tuned, and crystalize ideas that would otherwise be vague by empowering them with aha-moment clarity. Her writing brings to mind voices like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay, and Jessica Valenti in Full Frontal Feminism, and a young Gloria Naylor, particularly in Naylor's seminal essay "The Meaning of a Word.""--
If you are a white person who wants to develop greater understanding of the experience of being a person of color living in the US, read this book.
If you are a white person frustrated by the current focus on racism, read this book.
If you are a white person who doesn't understand the Black Lives Matter movement, read this book.
If you are a white person who believes, no, who *knows* that you are a good person but still feel nervous about being called "racist," read this book.
If you are a white person who wishes people of color would stop complaining and recognize the damage they are doing by focusing on race, read this book.
If you are a white person who has attended rallies, worked on anti-racism initiatives, and dedicated significant time, energy, or money to addressing racial injustice in the US, read this book.
If you are a white person who feels totally on board to fight racism but doesn't understand the current application of the term "white supremacy" to everyday disparities, read this book.
If you are a white person who wants to learn more about how racism works in the US, read this book.
If you are a white person living in the US, read this book.
Ijeoma Oluo has given us a gift. We should take full advantage: open our minds, leave our defensiveness at the door, take a deep breath and commit to feeling the discomfort of learning more about how racism works to sustain the white supremacist system in the US, and read this book. It's not always easy to read/listen to (I listened to the audiobook narrated by Bahni Turpin). I think of myself as falling in several categories I listed above: a white ally, someone who wants to learn more about the experience of being a person of color, someone who wishes I were more comfortable and confident engaging in discussions about race and racism in the US. This book wasn't a total revelation to me but I learned a lot and developed even greater empathy for the experience of living as a person of color in the US. Deeper empathy of what it feels like to fear engagement with the police, to greet microaggressions day in and day out, to grow up feeling isolated and alone in a predominantly white school, to be called names and laughed at simply for the color of one's skin.
Oluo's work is academic but it is also deeply personal. Absolutely recommended.
This is an excellent introduction to a challenging topic. And don't get me wrong, the book is challenging as well. If you're a white person (like me), it probably challenges your assumptions at least once, and invites you to live with the discomfort and really think about issues that don't affect you, personally, on a day to day basis. This is a book I would reread several times before I really felt I could entirely grasp it, and even then I know in a sense I never can because as a white woman I do have privileged status in this country. I'm sure a person of color would have a completely different experience reading this book than I ever could. The paperback version of the book (and the e-book I read) has a discussion guide for the book, as well as guidelines to use when discussing. Highly recommended.
I've been working to read more from authors of color and to follow the writings (from twitter, to articles, to books) of the voices explaining the experience and history of various minority groups, so some of what Oluo is saying are things I'd heard before. But there was a lot new in there, as well as Oluo's remarkable ability to explain concepts clearly. Among the things I took away from this book was that the conversations about race that need to be happening are between white people. We need to talk about the impact of racism among ourselves; it's not the job of any person of color to walk us through the basics of any of this, and that when we do have questions, google is an excellent source of information. Oluo also has an interesting chapter on the specific issues facing Asian Americans, and how the 'model minority' stereo-type can do real harm, just as our assumptions about the teachability of black boys does.
All in all, this was an excellent and well-organized primer on the basics every American needs to understand if we are going to move forward together.
However, it is a dense read, requiring a second, slow, thoughtful going over and then possibly a third just to review what you've learned. I started out with a library copy and quickly realized that I needed one for my reference shelf.
As a supporter of noncommercial communities, I also winced when Oluo recounted declining participation as an uncompensated speaker at a woman’s march because women of color shouldn’t be asked to take on the “emotional and mental labor of discussing their racial oppression to a majority white audience for free …. I was very careful in my explanation of why I felt that this ask was problematic, and how important it is for us to not further exploitation and oppression within our movements. It wasn’t long before I got a message in response from a white woman I didn’t know…. Could I please take the time to explain to her further, personally (and, I’m assuming, for free), so she could understand?”
Olua states that if a black person says it's about race, it's about race. Accepting this supposition, is a major hurdle; by arguing with it, you are minimizing the black person's experience; by agreeing – or at least accepting even if you don't fully understand – you are acknowledging the experience and continuing the conversation.
I loved Olua's analogy that being constantly exposed to racism is like being continually and randomly stung by bees. It may seem like someone is overreacting to one specific incident, but it's cumulative and changes how one regards bees.
Olua has many examples showing what covert and institutional racism looks like in America. Many were eye-opening. Some I am still pondering and am not sure I yet have my mind wrapped around them enough to fully understand. Perhaps that means I still have more growth to work towards.
I feel this is an eye-opening and important book – one that should be widely read and discussed.
Is it really about race?
What is racism?
What if I talk about race wrong?
Why am I always being told to "check my privilege"?
What is intersectionality and why do I need it?
Is police brutality really about race?
How can I talk about affirmative action?
What is the school-to-prison pipeline?
Why can't I say the "N" word?
What is cultural appropriation?
Why can't I touch your hair?
What are microaggressions?
Why are our students so angry?
What is the model minority myth?
But what if I hate Al Sharpton?
I just got called racist, what do I do know?
Talking is great, but what else can I do?
The focus of the book is on systematic racism and how even if a person does not consider themselves racist, there is a lot more to racism than how we treat minorities because we are all a part of a system that has been in place for hundreds of years that has a tendency to give whites the upper hand and suppress many minorities, especially blacks. I found the book engaging, interesting, and easy to read as it was broken down into chapters by discussion topic. It is a very relevant read for today's environment, and I feel much more knowledgable about racism in the US, how to appropriately discuss many controversial topics, and some steps I can take.
I can understand some of what she says. Other things I can't because I have not experienced it nor lived with those who have. At times I got mad. Other times I just got sad as she relates her experiences. I appreciate that it feels like she is a friend just talking to us on the porch. She does not preach but she gets her point across--sometimes through plain speaking, other times through humor. I never felt like I wanted to walk away from this talk. I wanted to learn--not sure how much I did. Time and re-readings will tell.
In 17 chapters, Oluo addresses common questions about race, like “Is police brutality really about race?”, “What are microaggressions?”, or “Why are our students so angry?” In each chapter, she begins by explaining her perspective on the question with personal reflections. Then she brings forth ideas for action in bulleted format before concluding. The whole production reads like 17 blog posts masquerading as chapters. The tone is engaging – never pretentious nor didactic.
A particular strength lies in its applicability to the American political climate. Oluo studied political science in college, and she possesses much skill in translating talk into action. Though clearly liberal, she spends her words advocating for better relations among the races rather than just advocating for a party or an ideology. She wants real action for a better world, and she wants it now.
The main weakness of the book is that so much of it is based on the author’s personal experiences as an African American in Seattle, Washington. This limits its applicability. Oluo acknowledges this shortcoming in a chapter on the Asian-American experience. This book’s greatest strength lies in its practicality from experience, but such practicality is also its main limitation.
This book was first published in 2019 before the global pandemic and ensuing racial discord in America after George Floyd’s unnecessary death. Thus, it is in a prime position to address current concerns without being opportunistic. Those who follow American politics in the truest sense – how neighbors relate to one another – will benefit from reading her account. It focuses not on how to police one’s own talk but on how to really build a better world through our actions. As the world comes out of a pandemic, one can only hope that Olou’s work can bear much fruit.
I think the best part of this book is that Oluo explains things in accessible language that makes it easier to have conversations with people. For example, before I read this book, I knew that cultural appropriation is wrong but I didn’t have the language to articulate why simply and coherently. Or trying to explain to a white person why they can’t use the N-word, even if they are just quoting rap lyrics. These are just a couple of examples. This book is not just for white people to learn how to talk about race; she addresses people of color as well. Highly, highly recommended.
For the white person: It is an examination of white privilege. It defines the multitude forms of racism. It will make you uncomfortable. It won't treat you as unworthy. It won't lecture you on your many deficiencies. But it will point out the mistakes you have made and the work you need to do.
This book has been on my radar for a while but I wasn't sure I wanted to have this "conversation" with myself. It also wasn't available in my library so didn't even make it to my wish list. Like many I've been roller coasting recently looking at the obvious pain of my fellow Americans, seeing the hope in the youth coming together, seeing police behave abhorrently in some cases and empathetically in others. I've been searching for answers. So You Want To Talk About Race was recommended by many as a book to read now. I recommended it to my library and had my copy within a day or two.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in racial justice. I recommend this book to anyone interested in interacting with others.
Audiobook note :excellent narrator