So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
In this breakout book, Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today’s racial landscape–from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement–offering straightforward clarity that readers 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. (Read more on goodreads)
I first heard about So You Want to Talk About Race from a person I follow on Twitter, who used it as part of his own anti-racism reading in the past. It is a book that addresses, chapter by chapter, common questions/concerns that people (often white people) have when it comes to talking about race. I think this book is really good because it takes the questions seriously and answers them honestly, with great detail, without forgetting BIPOC frustration that comes with having to answer these questions in real life.
Ijeoma Oluo has clearly had to deal with questions relating to race, sex, affirmative action, workplace harassment and equal opportunity in places of work. Her feelings on this topic are always clear – a mix of frustrations, exhaustion and determination – and yet she addresses issues with a level of professionalism I wish I could have when I talk about these sensitive topics in my own life.
I would recommend this book to anyone, even though it IS directed at white people more than anything. As a person of colour, reading this I was able to still learn more about BIPOC struggle and the unfairness that exists in this world. There were times when she explained some of these struggles with such eloquence that I actually felt validated because I related to them as well.
I remember saying once that if I stopped to feel, really feel, the pain of the racism I encountered, I would start screaming and I would never stop.
If you are white, there is a good chance you may have been poor at some point in your life, you may have been sick, you may have been discriminated against for being fat or being disabled or being short or being unconventionally attractive, you may have been many things – but you have not been a person of colour.
I live in a world where if I have a ‘black sounding’ name, I’m less likely to even be called for an interview. Will I equally benefit from raising minimum wages when I can’t even get a job?
We’re still waiting. We’re still hoping. We’re still left behind.
This book is a great place to start if you want to learn about anti-racism. It’s beginner friendly, as Oluo uses tons of examples, anecdotes and straight to the point lists to effortlessly explain more “complicated” topics such as: privilege, systemic discrimination, tone policing, and affirmative action.
Even as someone who reads up on about social justice, I still learnt a lot and I will continue to reference this resource. I highlighted a lot of its passages because she just has such a way with better explaining how I feel when it comes to this discourse or my own experiences.
The realities of race have not always been welcome in my life, but they have always been there.
There is a good chance that you, regardless of race, have tried to have these conversations in the past. There is also a good chance that they have not gone well. So “not well” that perhaps you have been afraid to ever have these conversations again.
We couldn’t talk about the ways in which race and racism impacted my life, because he was unwilling to even acknowledge the racism that was impacting my life and he was unable to prfioritize my safety over his comfort – which meant that we couldn’t talk about me.
Racial oppression should always be an emotional topic to discuss […] But it upsets us because it exists, not because we talk about it.
Discussion Questions (taken from the book)
- The chapter about privilege is placed right before the chapter on intersectionality. The author has stated in interviews that she placed those chapters in that order because it is impossible to fully understand intersectionality without first comprehending privilege. How do the concepts discussed in the chapter “Why am I always being told to check my privilege?” help deepen your understanding of intersectionality and help implement intersectionality into your life?
- The final chapter, “Talking is great, but what else can I do?,” discusses some actions you can take to battle systemic racism using the knowledge you’ve gained from this book and from your conversations on race. What are some actions you can take in your community, your schools, your workplace, and your local government? What are some local antiracism efforts in your community that you can join or support?
You can pick up a copy here.