So You Want to Talk about Race - Ijeoma Oluo


⭐⭐⭐⭐ (4/5) This is my introductory read into racism after the George Floyd incident. It was solid choice. The author's style of writing is very conversational and approachable. Ijeoma cleverly ties in her personal life experiences so that the audience would be able to empathize with her.

So You Want to Talk About Race book coverThis is a pretty light read and I would strongly recommend it as a first read for anyone who is looking to understand more about racism. The author is clearly passionate about anti-racism as well as feminism movements but she is also willing to examine the thought process of the "white" community towards racism issues. Throughout the book, she gives out nuggets of wisdom on how to identify if an issue is justifiably a racism issue, how to hold productive and efficient conversations about racism with people of different races, as well as how to resolve a tense situation during a discussion should it arise.

You would find this an interesting read if you...

  1. are looking for an introductory read into racism.
  2. prefer light and conversational style of writing when approaching heavy topics
  3. don't require facts and figures from various case studies to understand a certain topic (and prefer a relatable personal story to get the full context)

Key Takeaways

Key Takeaways in this post will be done in note form instead of quotes.

  1. When a colored person says or think that it is
  2. It disproportionately or differently affects a person of race
  3. It fits into a broader pattern of events that disproportionately or differently affects a person of race
Ways to hold a more respectful, effective and efficient conversations about race and racism.
  1. State your intentions.
  2. Remember your priority in the conversations and let your emotions take control. Don't blindly try to heal or defend your own pride.
  3. Do your research. It's not black people's job to be your personal google about racism.
  4. Don't make anti-racism arguments that are oppressive towards other organizations.
  5. When you start to find defensive, stop, and ask yourself why. Has your priority shifted?
  6. Do not be the tone police
  7. If you're white, watch how many time you're referring to you or I.
  8. Ask yourself, am I eager to be right, or to be better.
  9. Do not force people of color into discussions about racism.
What to do when your conversation on racism has gone very wrong?
  1. Stop trying to jump back into the conversation and take time to reflect on what went wrong.
  2. Apologize.
  3. Don't write the synopsis of this conversation as : that tragic time you got yelled at
  4. Don't expect credit for your good intentions if you hurt someone.
  5. Don't beat yourself up or escape guilt.
  6. Remember that it is worth the risk and it is worth it to keep trying.
  7. Take care of other people's feelings.
Concept of privilege in the social justice context.
  1. An advantage or a set of advantages that you have that others do not
  2. These privilege are based upon people's gender, sexuality, body type, neurological ability and yes, race.
  3. A privilege has to come with someone else's disadvantage
We need to constantly check our privilege to see where we can make real changes, especially our unexamined privilege.
  1. The belief that our social justice movements must consider all of the intersections of identity, privilege and oppression that people face in order to be just and effective
  2. Most social justice movements fail to consider the various ways our identities interact and intersect.
  3. Just as racial identity is not the only identity in our society, racial oppression is not the only form of oppression in our society, racial privilege is not the only form of privilege in our society.
  4. These identities do not occur in a vacuum, it can mix, contradict and blend with each other.
  5. Intersectionality should not just be applied to our social justice movements, but it should also be considered in our government, education, economic and social system.
Implicit bias

The belief that sits in the back of people's minds and inform people's action without your implicit knowledge

Why the word "nigga" hurts more than you know?
  1. It has a history.
  2. It was a word used to express hatred towards black slaves
  3. It was a word shouted at black men, women and children by their slave-masters while they lash their backs with whips
  4. It was a word hollered by white man in their trucks while they chase down black kids.
  5. It was a word used by men in white hood while they prepare to burn across the lawn of a black family
  6. It was a word spat at hanged black bodies.
Cultural appropriation

The adaptation or exploitation of a culture by a more dominant culture.
Ijeoma talks about this when she saw a restaurant with a big signboard that says "African Restaurant" and she walked in, thinking they served African food. She cam to realize they sold burgers and fries, it's just that the inner decor is African themed.

What are micro-aggressions?
  1. Small and subtle aggressions
  2. Micro-aggressions help hold the system of white supremacy together, because if we do not have this ways to separate and dehumanize people, we empathize with people more and we would have to care of the current system that are crushing them
  3. Racial trauma is cumulative

Closing Remarks

This book truly opened my eyes to the harsh reality that is racism and how it has permeated to every nook and cranny of our society, to the point that it has become the accepted norm.

Here is three novel insights I gained from this book: -

We like to filter new information through our own experiences to see if it computes. If it matches up with what we have experienced, it's valid. If it doesn't, its's not. But race is not a universal experience.

When we identify where our privilege intersects with someone else's oppression, we will find the opportunity to make real change.

Intersectionality helps to ensure that in helping some, will not make things far worse for others.