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So You Want to Talk About Race

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In this New York Times bestseller, Ijeoma Oluo offers a hard-hitting but user-friendly examination of race in America

Widespread reporting on aspects of white supremacy--from police brutality to the mass incarceration of Black Americans--has put a media spotlight on racism in our society. Still, it is a difficult subject to talk about. How do you tell your roommate her jokes are racist? Why did your sister-in-law take umbrage when you asked to touch her hair--and how do you make it right? How do you explain white privilege to your white, privileged friend?

In So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to "model minorities" in an attempt to make the seemingly impossible possible: honest conversations about race and racism, and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.

256 pages, Paperback

First published January 16, 2018

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About the author

Ijeoma Oluo

16 books2,393 followers
Ijeoma Oluo is a Seattle-based writer, speaker, and Internet Yeller. She’s the author of the New York Times Best-Seller So You Want to Talk about Race, published in January by Seal Press. Named one of the The Root’s 100 Most Influential African Americans in 2017, one of the Most Influential People in Seattle by Seattle Magazine, one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Seattle by Seattle Met, and winner of the of the 2018 Feminist Humanist Award by the American Humanist Society, Oluo’s work focuses primarily on issues of race and identity, feminism, social and mental health, social justice, the arts, and personal essay. Her writing has been featured in The Washington Post, NBC News, Elle Magazine, TIME, The Stranger, and the Guardian, among other outlets.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 11,248 reviews
Profile Image for Gary Moreau.
Author 9 books236 followers
January 18, 2018
What author would write a book with a target audience that is likely to consider reading it, much less paying for it, akin to wishing for a root canal? Apparently, Ijeoma Oluo.

I am a white, sexagenarian, male, and former CEO. I am, therefore, a r#cist. (And yes, I am being sensitive to the censors who will look at this before posting it.) And I accept that because this isn’t about me. My personal tolerance is irrelevant. If a picture says a thousand words, an action is worth ten thousand pictures. That is how we should judge each other.

From my very privileged position in America, I have had a bird’s eye view of the systemic, institutional privilege (which in the negative is discrimination) that currently defines virtually all Western institutions today, including virtually all corporations.

Women have not shattered the corporate glass ceiling because the corporate institution was designed and built by men. Blacks have not achieved equity in the economic arena because it was designed by white men. Which is why, as Ijeoma points out, it really doesn’t matter if the man in charge is a racist or a misogynist or not.

The #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements are all about gender and racial bias. What has enabled misogyny and racism, however, is the definition and allocation of power in our institutions and our society. Tolerance is great, but it’s nowhere near enough. Until we challenge the structure of power, we will not address the underlying cause of social and economic injustice.

Here are the main takeaways I got from this book:

- It’s not about me or Ijeoma. This is about structural injustice.
- It’s not about the tone of the discussion. This is about structural injustice.
- It’s not about intent. This is about structural injustice.
- It’s not about who is right and who is wrong. This is about structural injustice.
- It’s not about who can use what words. This is about structural injustice.

In the end, the great strength and the great weakness of our political economy is our over-riding emphasis on the individual and his or her opportunities and rights. There’s nothing wrong with that per se. But in this crowded, technologically enabled world we live in, it’s not enough. We can live individually but we can only be judged collectively. Our insistence that every conversation be about me, or you, or Ijeoma, or that person over there, is blinding us to the degree that we really are all in this together.

Scientists used to view the environment as a collection of independent and discrete parts. There was a prairie here, an Arctic ice field there, and a rain forest someplace a long way away. They now realize, however, that there is only one ecosystem and what happens in the rain forest is just as important as what happens in the Iowa corn field.

Other scientists have discovered the same thing about the other hard and soft sciences. Biology and economics don’t cut it any more. We have to think in terms of evolutionary biology and behavioral economy. Real knowledge lies not just within a functional discipline, but also in the spaces that separates them and the overlaps that interconnect them.

So, I go back to my original question. Why did Ijeoma write this book? I won’t pretend to know the answer but it is clear that she has a genuine desire to see us face the issue. And after reading this book it is clear that the desire is genuine. And while it is theoretically true that if she is successful she will have to find something new to write about, so what? That is exactly the kind of binary, digital thinking that is at the heart of the problem. Life is not either/or. It is, with tolerance, and/but.

Ijeoma has a perspective. And the tone is sometimes a bit harsh. But how could it not be? In the end I think the most amazing and laudable thing about her language is that she obviously worked so hard to keep a lid on her passion. If she were white, we would elect her to high office.

Am I appropriating Ijeoma’s book by writing this review? Yes. But that’s irrelevant. I am not her. And my appropriation is going to paint racism with a white brush and, potentially, demean that pain. But that is the thinking of a binary thinker—either/or. And that, in the end, is what we have to overcome. Tolerant people are not binary thinkers. Tolerance is not a function of embracing the other side of the binary issue. It is about eliminating the binary divide. Ultimately, the racism talked about here is about institutional models of power that disadvantage one group over another. (And, as Ijeoma points out, there are many.)

In the end, I won’t say this was the most pleasant read. It was, however, a good read. It made me think. And for that I am grateful to the author. I won’t say, “well done,” because that would be an appropriation, as if I could evaluate how well she had represented her pain. I can’t. It’s hers, not mine. I will say, however, that “I listened.” And I listened because you were clear and authentic. And I do thank you for that.

A must read. Period.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,923 reviews1,259 followers
August 17, 2020
Do you ever accidentally inhale a book? Like, you meant to read it with your eyes, but, whoops, suddenly there it is, lodged in your esophagus and now you have to go to the hospital and explain, in various gestures, how you breathed in an entire book? This happens to me more often than I would like to admit. So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo, is just the latest instance. Thankfully, this was an eARC from NetGalley (thanks Perseus Books) and not a physical volume—though I’m certainly going to need to buy one, or maybe two, when it comes out.

This book is the first in what will hopefully be an avalanche of books to plug an embarrassing hole in my ongoing education. I’m trying to ride the intersectionality train, but if I’m doing an honest accounting of things, I have not been doing a great job of reading books by Black women when it comes to issues like feminism and race. It has literally been a whole year since I read Roxane Gay’s amazing short story collection Difficult Women. More recently I did read Between the World and Me , and Coates obviously touches on some of the same issues that Oluo does here. But the two books are very different, both in terms of audience and purpose.

So You Want to Talk About Race is clear and upfront about what it is and what it is trying to do. Oluo is uncompromising (emphasis mine):

So a good question to ask yourself right now is: why are you here? Did you pick up this book with the ultimate goal of getting people to be nicer to each other? Did you pick up this book with the goal of making more friends of different races? Or did you pick up this book with the goal of helping fight a system of oppression that is literally killing people of color? Because if you insist on holding to a definition of racism that reduces itself to “any time somebody is mean to somebody of a different race” then this is not the book to accomplish your goals.

Each chapter title is a question, the chapter being Oluo’s answer: “What if I talk about race wrong?”, “Why am I always being told to check my privilege”, “What is cultural appropriation?”, “What are microaggressions?”, “I just got called racist, what do I do now?”—there seventeen, so I won’t list them all here, but they are, every single one, fantastic. I could go on, chapter-by-chapter, for quite some length about all the wonderful parts of this book. Instead, I’ll highlight some of her explanation of cultural appropriation:

Cultural appropriation is the product of a society that prefers its culture cloaked in whiteness. Cultural appropriation is the product of a society that only respects culture cloaked in whiteness. Without that—if all culture (even the culture that appropriators claim to love and appreciate) were equally desired and respected, then imitations of other cultures would look like just that—imitations. If all cultures were equally respected, then wearing a feathered headdress to Coachella would just seem like the distasteful decision to get trashed in sacred artifacts….

… because we do not live in a society that equally respects all cultures, the people of marginalized cultures are still routinely discriminated against for the same cultural practices that white cultures are adopting and adapting for the benefit of white people.

I’ve had the cultural appropriation conversation with fellow white people before, and I’ve struggled to explain it sufficiently (the best I can do is link to this explainer from Everyday Feminism). Oluo’s chapter has helped me to realize that, often, I make the mistake of letting the conversation fall back into the unproductive territory of discussing specific examples (“well what about X, is X cultural appropriation?”) when (a) I can’t answer that because I’m not a member of that culture and (b) that’s not actually what cultural appropriation is about. Cultural appropriation, as Oluo explains here, is about the wider trends and power imbalances within our society. It’s why, to certain parts of white society, Macklemore is an artist while Tupac was a thug. But my conversations would often divert away from these crucial parts of the discussion, straying towards the more defensive territories (see Chapter 16: “I just got called racist, what do I do now?”).

This book is full of so many useful ideas, tips, and strategies—particularly for white people who want to be allies to racialized people. The aforementioned chapter 16 and chapter 4, which deals with privilege and “checking” it, are both essential reminders, even for someone like myself who has already been engaging with social justice for a while now. I’ve carefully avoided using the word “primer” to describe this book. It’s accurate, but I don’t want to pigeonhole it as some kind of introductory text. Certainly, if you are a newcomer to these issues, this book is accessible. But there is so much here for readers of every level of familiarity with the issues. If you are truly open to learning more about social justice and how to dismantle institutionalized racism, you are going to find useful ideas here, in plain language you’ll understand, and in a tone that helps you hear her frustration but also her intense empathy for humanity, and her hope for a better future (because you don’t write a book like this if you think dismantling racism is a lost cause). Oluo’s writing style never wavers from being confrontational and candid—she is not trying to appease anyone—but it’s also witty and incisive.

A few parts of this book get a little bit into specifics of American anti-Black racism, but by and large, almost all of the topics for discussion are relevant to a wider audience. As Oluo herself points out, Canada has its share of problems with racism. (A lot of it is directed much more vociferously towards Indigenous people—if you want momre information on that, check out Chelsea Vowel’s Indigenous Writes , or Tanya Talaga’s Seven Fallen Feathers , about the intersection of racism and violence in my own city of Thunder Bay. For writing on anti-Black racism in Canada, particularly state-sponsored racism like carding and brutality, I’ll point you towards Desmond Cole.) Moreover, Canada absorbs (whether we like it or not) much of its cultural fare from our neighbours down south, so even if policies like affirmative action or United States Supreme Court decisions don’t quite affect us in the same way, the attitudes seen in media and the language being used still does. I never felt like Oluo was losing me by spending too much time talking about American-specific concerns.

So I can make a few guarantees, here. First, if you read this, you’re going to learn something—hopefully lots of things. Oluo will crystallize notions that might already be forming in your head or introduce you to ideas and show you a new way entirely of looking at things. Second, if you read this, you will come away with a praxis for actually doing the work—it isn’t enough to read books like this and then pat yourself on the back for being “woke”. That’s what the final chapter is all about, and boy, are there ever some practical tips. That’s why I’m going to be buying a copy of this book since I received a review copy for free—because we need to pay Black women when they do the work of educating us.

So You Want to Talk About Race is everything I’d look for in a book on social justice issues. It’s informative, educational, and thought-provoking. It is topical in the post-Trump sense of the word. It hits that sweet spot of being academic and smart but also accessible—this is by far one of my favourite non-fiction books I’ve read all year, and probably the best I’ve received on NetGalley ( Beyond Trans and The Radium Girls are close runners-up).

If you are at all interested in social justice, in dismantling racism, in making our world a better place, this is a must-read. Show up. Do the work.

For more of my reviews or to subscribe to my review digest newsletter, check out Kara.Reviews!

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for Monica.
594 reviews622 followers
November 27, 2019
I have a huge interest in race, diversity, inequality and how it applies in America. I wanted to discover a book that I could recommend to friends and to people that I think are genuinely interested in understanding how people of color often think and feel and to be able to inhabit/formulate/grok a point of view that might be different from their own. On the whole, I expected to understand the points of view Oluo was presenting from the beginning and I didn't anticipate that the book would have much to broaden my own horizons.

I am an African American woman in the middle of my 50s. I gotta tell you at my age it feels like I've seen enough systemic race and gender discrimination to last a lifetime (and it has). How could Oluo possibly possess the depth of experience my 15 + more years of life have yielded? Then she said this:
"But as I got older, as the successes I had reached for slowly became a reality, something inside me began to shift. I would try to make my voice quieter in meetings and I couldn’t. I would try to laugh off the racist jokes and I couldn’t. I would try to accept my boss’s reasons for why I could have my promotion but not my raise, and I couldn’t. And I started talking."
and this:
"I had started to see myself, and once you start to see yourself, you cannot pretend anymore."
OK, so she was in my brain last week. She gets how I feel. But why write a book to white people about POC feel?
These are very scary times for a lot of people who are just now realizing that America is not, and has never been, the melting-pot utopia that their parents and teachers told them it was. These are very scary times for those who are just now realizing how justifiably hurt, angry, and terrified so many people of color have been all along. These are very stressful times for people of color who have been fighting and yelling and trying to protect themselves from a world that doesn’t care, to suddenly be asked by those who’ve ignored them for so long, “What has been happening your entire life? Can you educate me?”
And there you have it. These are within the first 15 pages of the book. The book is divided into 15 sections each addressing various points about white privilege. The sections explain things like defining race, cultural appropriation, intersectionality, microaggressions, systemic oppressions, school to prison pipelines, police brutality, cultural stigmas, checking one's privileges etc.

Overall I enjoyed it and thought it was a good book. It was like the documentation one encounters when starting a new prescription drug. A guide for folks to try to engage on the matters of race in an enlightening and productive way. It describes the problem and a solution with accompanying steps and also lists some side effects. Yes, I know this is an imperfect analogy, but a deep analysis of the book would be a book of roughly the same length and basically I agree with her on all her points. To me being able to understand race, talk about race, talk about privilege etc is not going to be in just one book. This book is one tool for the tool bag when engaging on the subject. Because the differences are systemic and ingrained and cultural in every facet of our lives; race looms large over almost all of the problems that exist today. It will probably be a large issue 100 years from now. It most certainly was 100 years ago as it was 200 years ago and so on. James Baldwin wrote
"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
The race problem cannot be solved unless we address it. And we are just now in the the 21st beginning to open an honest conversation about race. And of course talking about it is hard because it doesn't allow one to pretend it doesn't exist. If there is one thing that describes the American psyche today, it is the word "uncomfortable". We are in an uncomfortable state. As Anonymous once said
"When one is accustomed to privilege, equality can feel like oppression"
And frankly even this middle-class, Black woman has become accustomed to privilege and Oluo reminds me to check myself.

The whole book is an education though admittedly more for white people who have taken the first step in acknowledging that they don't understand racial issues and that they need to. But also for anyone who has been the target of systemic oppression. Oluo reminds us that
Systemic racism is a machine that runs whether we pull the levers or not, and by just letting it be, we are responsible for what it produces. We have to actually dismantle the machine if we want to make change.
Agreed. Another thing we agreed upon is this:
In a hostile world, people of color have the right to cut off contact with people who have harmed them. They do not have to stick around to see all the progress you’ve made.
It is seriously difficult for people to understand the amount of pain and hurt and genuine disgust that I feel in many ways about the systemic racism, its violence and injustice and it's affect on my life and the people I care about. This includes my white, lifelong friend who would hang the moon for me if she thought it would make me happy. She didn't think she saw color until Obama. That time frame illuminated issues that we are still trying to overcome (both my friend and I and all of America). Racism is ugly and persistent and silent and sinister and it destroys everything. Until we all can learn how to address it, there will always be social unrest. Absolutely no one (of any race) gets a pass. Oluo points out that even through intersectionality we are all perpetrators of racism in some form. Every generation thinks they are better than the one before them, only to grow to age 40 50 and find out those systemic, cultural elements/stigmas/mores are still there, very pervasive and persistent and they are within us. Oluo is trying to help uncover a path. Tall order.

4+ Stars

Read on kindle
Profile Image for Youp.
122 reviews88 followers
January 1, 2021
Short version:
Probably the biggest crap I have ever read.

Longer version:

So You Want To Talk About Race is a waste of time, money and brain cells for anyone who comes into contact with it. Anyone with the smallest ability for critical thinking will find no need for this garbage, and those infected with the intersectionality virus are the proverbial choir being preached to. Every page is filled with hypocrisy, nonsensical jibberish and logical fallacies. Some of the 'gems':

- The 'lived experience' of a person of color (POC) is unimaginable for non-POC's. This makes a POC always right when claiming something is racist, since white people cannot possible fathom what it means to be non-white. Somehow, however, it's perfectly possible for a POC to understand the lived experience of a white person. I'll give you a hint of that experience: it's a non-stop ride on the wave of white privilege from cradle to the grave.

- The author, in chapter 2, speaks about discussing an issue with her friend. When that friend doesn't share her viewpoint, the author realizes this is not someone she can talk to, because she cannot truly be herself. That's what true friends are: they share all of your opinions, else why would you want to interact with them?

- Racism is defined by a system of power, whatever that means. In practice, it means that only white people can be racist, since they own the power monopoly. POC are just poor, helpless victims. So if you call someone a cracker, it's okay, as opposed to calling someone the N-word. Calling someone the N-word could literally get them killed. If someone accuses you of being racist against white people, they are simply feeling guilty or confused. They are trying to shut you down. Just walk away, because these people don't want to have a productive conversation in which you can educate them.

- It's super important to make more friends of different races. Because that's how you make friends: look for them based on racial quota. It's unclear to me if the author wants POC to find more white friends.

- The author's mother, God bless her heart, is a white person. She is very kind and nice (according to the author). BUT, she is also white. To quote the author: "She is exhausting. My mother does not think before she speaks". Here's another quote about her mom: "I love my mom dearly, but I've been rolling my eyes at her for 36 years". It speaks volumes of someone's character when they're willing to talk about their mother like this. It hilariously hypocritical when the author is annoyed at her mother for wanting to talk about race with her daughter ("Why does my mom want to keep talking about race with me?"), only to state several paragraphs later that she cannot stop herself from talking about race ("I HAVE TO TALK ABOUT RACE").

- Racism is also, apparently, when something bad disproportionally affects a certain group. For example: racism is when teachers only want to have meetings during school hours. Don't they know that POC are so busy working that they can only meet after school hours? It's also racist when your employer doesn't allow ethnic hairstyles, like for example the military. I'm not making this up. These are actual examples from the book.

There are plenty more examples of idiocy to be found spread throughout SYWTTAR, mixed in with recycled Marxistic claims of power and oppression. It's tiresome, and could easily pass for satire to those unfamiliar with the intersectionalist mindset. There is not a single original thought in this book, just the same tedious repetition of ill-defined phrases such as 'white privilege', 'micro-aggressions' and 'lived experience'. The author is simply a spokesperson for her radical hivemind, instead of an individual with ideas and concepts of her own.

Perhaps the worst thing about this work is the 'solutions' it offers. It comes down to 'educate people about this. If they have a different opinion they are part of the problem'. It's exactly this behavior that makes it harder and harder to distinguish between actual problems in society and the claims of ideologues. Because when borderline everything is racist, actually nothing is.

Don't buy into the nonsense of SYWTTAR or similar books. Arguments should be valued by their logic, not by the arbitrary characteristics of the person making the argument. If we judge So You Want To Talk About Race by that standard, it's a worthless waste of words.
Profile Image for emma.
1,823 reviews48.6k followers
January 19, 2022
i am not going to review this beyond saying that this is an absolute must read book. for everyone.


as i finish up my month of reading Black authors, this one's for all my white people out there: if you think the solution to ending racism is reading a certain book or combination of books, you have a lot more work to do! this is only the start.


i am spending this month reading books by Black authors. please join me!

book 1: The Stars and the Blackness Between Them
book 2: Homegoing
book 3: Let's Talk about Love
book 4: Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race
book 5: The Sellout
book 6: Queenie
book 7: Red at the Bone
book 8: The Weight of the Stars
book 9: An American Marriage
book 10: Dear Ijeawaele
book 11: Sing, Unburied, Sing
book 12: Real Men Knit
book 13: All Boys Aren't Blue
book 14: Piecing Me Together
book 15: My Sister, the Serial Killer
book 16: So You Want to Talk about Race
Profile Image for Mehrsa.
2,234 reviews3,657 followers
March 24, 2018
Everything she says is true and necessary, but it comes off more as a shallow lecture than anything new or different. I think it could be useful as a primer or to those who don't spend a lot of time reading about race.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,416 followers
February 19, 2018
People of every race are going to read this book—at least I hope they are. It is not written just for people still denying that racism exists in America today, but for people who know it does but do not recognize the myriad ways it manifests. Oluo writes so clearly and simply, this book just a pleasure to read, despite addressing emotionally sensitive material. It is so well-conceived and executed that one could use it as a handbook for group discussion, one or two chapters a meeting, talking over what she has presented.

Those discussions can be within one's own group, and do not need to include people outside one's race unless they want to be there, e.g. white people should be talking to white people. We have a lot to discover about ourselves, our culture, how our political and economic systems affect racist ideas. She gives us the tools to begin that work, and suggests that we not make black people the sounding boards for our own anxieties—anxieties about how we are perceived, or mistakes we may have made or…whatever. It's not about us.

Oluo’s book builds on earlier books on this theme in the best way possible: You Can’t Touch My Hair by podcaster Phoebe Robinson, and Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race by British journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge, were both enormously helpful in raising some of the issues Oluo addresses with such clarity. Oluo organizes the material so that we are focused on behaviors or questions we will recognize if we have thought about these issues at all, such as "How do I talk to my mother about racist jokes she makes?" "Is police brutality really about race?" "What are microaggressions?" "Is it race or class that separates us?" "What is intersectionality?" "I was called out for being racist but I don’t know what I did wrong."

Oluo suggests ways to approach these questions, and tells us what is not okay. She says there are basic rules, which we might understand to be immutable rules:

--It is about race if a person of color thinks it is about race.

--It is about race if it disproportionately or differently affects people of color.

--It is about race if it fits into a broader pattern of events that disproportionately or differently affects people of color.

While Oluo will concede that in the context of the points made above, “just about everything is about race…” Pause here. This is such a critical point that is too easily missed. White people do not generally talk about race, do not think about race because they are in a white supremacist society. Understand this to mean that white is privileged in our society, and until recently was the largest population group, using their own means of measuring “white.” White is a race, like other races. We just haven’t had to think about it as such.

Oluo goes on to say “…almost nothing is about race.” Pause again. That would be true also. Race doesn’t even show up genetically. White Americans have more genetic difference with other Europeans than we do with Black Americans. It’s culture and context that rubs us differently. But Oluo goes through all this carefully, spending some time defining what racism is. She warns us that talking about race will make us uncomfortable. We need to forgive ourselves if we make mistakes, but we also have to forgive others who are trying to understand what they do not now understand.

“You’re going to screw this up,” Oluo tells us, but you can prepare, and try to lessen the amount of times you get it wrong. She helps by talking this out. This is not easy stuff. Racial justice activist Debby Irving agrees. Just when we think we understand what privilege is, we might discover we don’t know how to explain it, or give examples of it, or even recognize it immediately. We need to change something so basic as our vocabulary, and everyone who has learned a new language knows how hard that can be. Our behaviors are often habituated, learned when we were children, and some need to change. Change is hard, but not impossible.

Oluo sticks with the practical ways she has lived with and uncovered her own lack of understanding around race--for instance, not making enough effort to understand what underlies the term Asian American. That particular chapter, “What is the model minority myth?” is enormously informative. We learn the large number of sub-groups fall under the category of Asian American, and how they are doing in our economy.

It seems hard to believe this book came out only a month ago, in January 2018. I am so thrilled there is such useful material now to help us with our own conversations with family, friends, and colleagues about race. I recommend buying this one. You will be grateful for this resource. You will probably need to refer to it again and again, or pass it around, when your conversations raise some of the questions Oluo deals with here.

Profile Image for Tucker  (TuckerTheReader).
908 reviews1,597 followers
September 4, 2020
The following is partly a review but mostly a discussion of racism and privilege because, yes, I'd like to talk about race:
Am I racist?

This question hit me as I was sitting on my phone scrolling Instagram. Around the end of May 2020, George Floyd's death took the world by storm. Within hours, my feed was filled with #BlackLivesMatter and black screens. I got a message saying "[Removed for privacy] tagged you in a story". Said story was a story chain where someone tags a few other people and each of those people tag people and so on. The story said #blacklivesmatter and tagged a few people, me included, who "you know won't break the chain". I reposted the story but immediately thought this isn't right.

There was a nasty feeling in the pit of my gut. It was guilt and a little bit of confusion. You see, reposting a story and tagging more people... feels disingenuous, to me. This isn't a comment on reposting in general. I personally enjoy being tagged in bookish bingos, Q&A's, etc. In this case, though, I felt like I wanted to post something more than a reposted story chain but then the deluge of posts came. Soon, there were so many posts in my feed and I still hadn't posted anything. And then Kosoko Jackson posted this.

I was even more confused. That couldn't be fair, right? I was frustrated but I was afraid to say anything because what if I said something wrong? And then it occurred to me. I don't know much about racism and that was a huge problem. And so, I picked up this book.

This book, aside from being well-written and emotional, gave me a lot of perspective that I hadn't previously had and was truly eye-opening.

This book made me realize and confront the fact that I often forget to check and appreciate my privilege. I also realized that, whenever the topic of racism and white supremacy is brought up, I often get defensive. I would think "okay, but..." or I would make it about myself which is crazy because it's not about me. It's uncomfortable to face one's flaws. We all, deep down, want to tell ourselves that we have no biases or advantages. But we can't keep hiding.

This is why I read this book and this is why I am going to read more books like it. I need to face the fact that I do have privilege and advantage over people of color simply because I'm white which sucks. I need to hear these voices and learn their stories so that I can have empathy. I need to learn what I, as a white person, can do to help.

The author did an excellent job explaining her story and explaining things that are hurtful and how to avoid further hurt. She explained why these things hurt. I found most of the points within this book very helpful because, to put it simply, I am not a person of color and I never will be so the next best thing I can do is listen. And that's why I am here.

I have listened and I will keep listening. I am going to strive to do my very best to face my flaws, privilege, and implicit biases. It's going to be uncomfortable and it may sting but it's needed. I'm going to make mistakes but I am going to acknowledge them and keep going. I am going to strive to do my level best to help destroy these systems of hatred while being open and kind to all involved.

This is not the end of my journey. Reading this book has not made me instantly woke. I am going to hear new voices and learn new things, all the while doing my best to open, honest, and kind.

Tl;dr - this book gave me an eye-opening new perspective on people of color and the lives they live and the racism they have to face on a daily basis. This book was also, basically, a handbook on what I am currently doing that may be hurtful and what I can do to stop. It is worth a read if you want to learn more about race, racism, or if you've ever asked the question Am I racist?

Be kind, stay safe, and happy reading.

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Profile Image for Jenna ❤ ❀  ❤.
789 reviews1,187 followers
April 14, 2020
"You are either fighting the system, or you are complicit. There is no neutrality to be had towards systems of injustice—it is not something you can just opt out of."

Sometimes you read a book so powerful and so important that you wish everybody would read it. ​So You Want to Talk About Race​ is one of those books. I highlighted so many sentences and entire paragraphs that I'm glad it's a Kindle version and not a print book. It is such a compelling and thought-provoking read and I learned a great deal from it. ​Ijeoma Oluo​ writes passionately about racial issues and racial injustice​,​ about systemic racism in America and the horrible effects they have had and continue to have on people of colour.​ She provides clear explanations of exactly what racism is and shows why all white people are guilty of it, no matter how insistent we are that we are not. She discusses intersectionality, showing the complex ways in which people either have privilege or do not. For instance, I am a cis-gender white woman. As such, I have benefits and opportunities that are not available to transgender people and people of colour. She encourages us not to focus on the identities that give us less privilege, but to always look for and be aware of the things that grant us privilege and unfair advantage over others. I found Ms. Oluo's definition of privilege to be very helpful: "Privilege, in the social justice context, is an advantage or a set of advantages that you have that others do not. These privileges are not due 100 percent to your efforts (although your hard work may indeed have helped), and the benefits of these privileges are disproportionately large or at least partially undeserved when compared to what the privilege is for.​

I loved this book because it made me think and encouraged me to look more deeply into myself. It made me more aware of the ways in which I might be showing my racism without even knowing it. Cultural appropriation is ​another topic that I found to be very helpful. It reminded me of how, back in my 20s (many years ago!), I used to wear a bindi on my forehead because I thought they were very beautiful. Once, an Indian woman let me know that she was offended that I was wearing it. I was shocked. I didn't understand why she wouldn't be pleased that I liked something in her culture enough to adopt it for myself. I wondered if maybe it was just because she was elderly that she was offended. Thankfully, though I didn't understand at the time, I had enough sense to go home and throw them all away. I figured that even if she was just being over-sensitive (she was not, but in my ignorance I thought that at the time), I still did not want to do something that would cause another person offense or harm. Ms. Oluo helped me see why I was wrong and why this woman was offended and had every right to be. As she explains, cultural appropriation is "is the expectation that a dominant culture can just take and enjoy and profit from the beauty and art and creation of an oppressed culture, without taking on any of the pain and oppression people of that culture had to survive while creating it​."

There are several instances in this book where I had to pause for awhile to take it all in, ponder it, look unflinchingly and honestly at myself. Is it fun? Nope. Does it feel good to see where I am wrong? Absolutely not. However, "the alternative to not being made aware of your privilege (no matter how it may sting) is your continued participation in the oppression of others.​" . Discomfort on my part is nothing compared to what people of colour suffer every day in this country. ​

If we truly are against racism and want to change the system, if we truly do want equality for everyone, then we must start with ourselves. And talk. And be open to criticism from others. Listen to people of colour (and other minorities). Stop being so defensive and insisting that our intentions are good. If you hurt someone, you hurt them. That does not change even if you had good intentions.

​So, yes, examine yourself and talk about race, but also act. If we truly want change, we will not be content to sit on the sidelines and allow injustice to happen. Ms. Oluo concludes the book with ways in which we can each do our part to put an end to racism. I am so grateful that there are books like this and commend the people of colour who are bravely speaking out and about these issues, who are putting themselves out there to help us learn. This book is a must-read for white people, but I think people of colour may find it helpful as well, particularly the parts on intersectionality. There are so many other things I could write about this book but this review has become lengthy and I would recommend that you who are reading this (if any have stuck with it this long!) read the book instead. If you find yourself balking at the notion that you too are racist (white reader), then perhaps you could start with reading White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism and then move on to this book. Both are extremely important and I'm glad I read White Fragility first. However, I think So You Want to Talk About Race​ is even more important and I learned even more from it. If you find yourself balking or digging in your heels and muttering to yourself all the reasons you're not racist or have good intentions, stop and "Ask yourself: Am I trying to be right, or am I trying to do better?" . If you are trying to do better, then this is the book for you.
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
797 reviews3,631 followers
December 7, 2019
This work goes deep to the core of the problems and dismantles the grievances that are still causing an unnecessary separation in many of the wealthiest nations on earth.

The book should be read by everyone but is especially useful for white people who want to try to avoid making mistakes in getting active and to especially realize blind spots that could stay undetected. That just a few decades ago all Western institutions were racist, white supremacists that build a world for their people and that this dominance formed the face of the earth as we know it today is something that gets forgotten far too easy.

Realizing this shocking fact that I am a part of an elitist, in its old core very evil system, was quite an eyeopener, because white people tend to prefer to think that certain groups are racist, but not the whole system they live and participate in. It´s much more comfortable to avoid thinking about the real problems and to be angry about some flag wielding, right extremists, the disgusting uncle, stupid neighbor but never about one´s own guilt in this whole dilemma.

People denying that racism (still) exists in democratic countries and their institutions in such massive amounts are another problem because they prevent change by neglecting their duty, sugarcoating anything controversial and doing as if it would be rare cases in an always better society and not omnipresent problems.

Helping to deal with those two grievances is one of the main goals of Oluos' book and to lose the fear of doing something wrong when talking to others about problems with racial injustice. One should neither demonize nor downplay any aspect of this all-permeating topic to open a mature and genuine conversation of how all aspects affect each other and how just avoiding one element could sabotage the whole endeavor of helping to build a fairer society. This begins with knowing what goes wrong.

Structural violence and injustice is not just the active incarceration and prison industry and discrimination in jobs, with housing, promotion prospect, etc. but a state that fails to distribute wealth in a way that each citizen born in a country has the same chance of a good education and a happy life free from the fear of marginalization and exclusion. This goes hand in hand with the permanent weakening of the social security a state can offer his citizens and as the Scandinavian states show, a strong state makes happy people.

Distributive justice is the missing key element in many societies that magnify the already existing problems that are the repercussions of centuries of slavery, racism and separation. The poverty doesn´t just hit the minorities or discriminated groups but produces more people willing to be racist, homophobic, islamophobic, sexist and hate-filled and this vicious cycle keeps rotating in the spirit of the old saying "divide et impera".

Cultural imperialism and domination are always the same, no matter if it is with an economic, belief or political system and its latest consequence is an economical and media focus on the interest of white people, garnished with a bureaucratic system that enables to expand this dominance all over the world. Be it all kinds of trends, clothes, education, science,.. everything is focused on pleasing the white preferences.

All these factors together, garnished with police brutality, redlining, etc., restrain a quick change to a fairer society and it certainly seems intimidating to stand in front of those behemoths of cultural and public grievances. That´s the reason why the great combination of both showing the problems in all details and cross-connections and giving real-life tips for becoming a better and more effective activist against all kinds of injustices makes Oluos book a masterpiece.

A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real-life outside books:
Profile Image for Gabby.
1,236 reviews26.7k followers
June 29, 2020
“Being privileged doesn't mean that you are always wrong and people without privilege are always right. It means that there is a good chance you are missing a few very important pieces of the puzzle.”

I am so glad I finally got around to reading this book this month, I listened to the audiobook and I feel like that is the best way to consume this book. Ijeoma Oluo has such an incredible way with words and this book is very powerful and reminds me how much words matter. This isn't my first anti-racism book and it definitely won't be my last because I feel like I'm genuinely learning so much about systemic racism and white supremacy that I just never really thought about before.

I feel like this should be required reading for everyone, it is very important and it's a great discussion about race.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,462 reviews8,568 followers
March 28, 2020
An amazing book of essays about race. Ijeoma Oluo strikes an impressive balance between writing bold, uncomfortable truths about racism as well as crafting her essays so that they feel approachable and digestible. She covers a wide range of topics in this collection, including affirmative action, police brutality, the problem with touching black women’s hair, the model minority myth, and more. Some themes I felt across essays include the importance of actually acknowledging race (a bare minimum yet something so many people feel afraid to do), how people minimize the role of race to alleviate their own guilt, and how we can all do more to check our own privilege and power.

Two aspects of this collection I especially loved included Oluo’s vulnerability and her call to action. In quite a few essays she shares personal anecdotes, such as how she and her brother got called the n-word by a bunch of white kids on a school bus, or how her white coworkers made brazen, racist comments about her hair, her competence, and more. She ties these personal stories into broader sociopolitical commentary about race and racism with intelligence and passion. Furthermore, toward the end of the collection she provides a list of several tangible, easy-to-enact actions we all can take to fight racism and white supremacy, ranging from voting in local elections to speaking up in your unions to supporting media by creators of color. These actions provide me and other readers with the next steps to advocate for racial justice so our outrage at injustice does not just become weightless talk.

Overall, highly recommended for those who care about or want to learn more about race (though of course, if you do not about race or want to learn more about it, this book is for you too.) While I don’t know how much someone with a lot of knowledge about race would learn from this book, Oluo’s clear writing style is a pleasure to read, both smart and straightforward. Yay for iconic books about race!
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.5k followers
June 13, 2020

There are timeless books. Ta-Nehisi Coates' Between the World and Me is a timeless book. Then there is another category of books I would call “books for our time.” And Between the World and Me is that kind of book too.

But consider Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race. It is definitely a book for our time, yet I doubt many people—me included—would ever consider it a timeless book. Yet paradoxically, Oluo’s book may be an even more important book for certain people to read than any of Mr. Coates’ timeless books.

When I say “certain people” I mean mean old farts like me (I’ve earned the adjective “old” by recently turning seventy; “fart” I earned a long time ago): that is, individuals who aspire to be racially and culturally sensitive but who end up offending people anyway, principally because they grew up in a world where people’s sense of humor was in some ways cruder and harsher, where—except for a classroom now and then—they rarely interacted with black people socially, and that even when they did they never gave a thought to the fact that white people might not always be on top of the world.

But these days the social world—especially of younger people, which, for us old farts is almost everybody—is different than it used to be. Everywhere we go we hear new terms and phrases: intersectionality, check your privilege, microagression, cultural appropriation, the school-to-prison pipeline, etc. What do they mean, and how do they apply in this new, scary multicultural world?

And there’s another, more immediate reason too. Some of these old farts—I’m one of them—wish they could understand black people better, yet although they may be friendly with a black person or two, they have the good sense to appreciate that continually engaging in such dialogue with clueless old white farts must be exhausting, to say the least.

What to do? Well, they could read this book. So You Want to Know About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.

I know I learned a lot reading it. Oluo is frank about her own experiences, as a woman of color whose mother is white, as a middle-class writer with a privileged position, as a lover of women and as mother of a black son. She talks about many things which well-meaning white people habitually do that drive her and other black people crazy (saying “Can I touch your hair” being near the top), and she explains in great detail—with excellent examples—not only what those words and phrases listed above mean, but how they describe things you encounter every day.

I learned things about myself too. I learned why some comments I’ve made on the internet were met—mercifully, I’m sure—with silence. And checking my privilege has taught me other things too, that have nothing to do with relating to black people. For example, I now know that when my woman friends talk about how they have been wounded by the Catholic Church, that, instead of saying how I too have been wounded by the Church, I should instead just nod sympathetically, and say absolutely nothing.

So, if you are an old fart like me, I think you need to read this book. Maybe you young farts need to read it too. Come to think of it, most of you could maybe stand to read it. Particularly if you’re white.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews33 followers
August 3, 2020
Audiobook....narrated by Bahni Turpin

This was an incredibly valuable book — clear, direct, informative, educational, insightful, easy to understand, intensely personal and full of captivating advice in a graceful and easily accessible prose. As we manage ourselves — engage in the conversations about race and confront the challenges we face — this book will help all of us with much-needed common sense.

Ijeoma Oluo, Nigerian American author, ( named on of the most influential people in Seattle), has given us a much needed gift— both practical and vastly compassionate.
She is also sooooo likable!!!

This book overflows with delicate suggestions for approaching with greater clarity what we most fear and feel less confident about doing— having the important conversations.
Almost all of us will find it valuable and gratifying to read this book and to consult it again and again to remind us what it really means to be here for another person.

This is a very wise, encouraging, and essential guide to navigating the complex terrain of race!!!

My personal suggestion. If you are a white person and want to expand your perception about race - look at the privileged - (our own), from angles not even thought about - [not to beat ourselves up- or anyone else] - but seriously be part of a movement that is needed right now more than ever —
Black Lives Matter....
and have not picked up any racism book yet by an African American activist....
choose ‘this’ one!!!
Great place to start!!!
I feel blessed to have read this book.

The audiobook was fantastic.
I felt like I was in the same room with the voice narrator, Bahni —as if she was speaking one-on-one with me.

A warm, serious, funny at times, wonderful book!!!

Oluo’s writing covers misogyny, intersectionality, online harassment, the Black Lives Matter movement, race, economics, parenting, feminism, and social justice.
I’m left wanting to follow Oluo more.
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,977 followers
June 5, 2020
I stayed up late into the night reading this.

I was engaged. I loved the writing, the well-formulated arguments, and especially the focus on everyday micro-aggression. Intersectionality is pretty obvious.

So is the institutional racism.

It's not a trigger word. It's a fact.

Add this to soooo0 many small things in our everyday lives whether in conversation or news or even in our own assumptions DESPITE our best intentions, and we will be forced to realize that the institution is within us all.

Stereotyping. Of all kinds.

Then add that to the fact that people of color are quite literally abused with all kinds of microaggressions every day and then compound it with actual abuse, loss of opportunities, and being stuck in a system that insists that you must fail, and it's not hard to realize that, as a whole, the people are SKITTISH.

I mean, I was trained in psychology. All the things that Ijeoma Oluo warns about and asks of her readers are the same things that any professional psychologist would do when they want to heal someone who has been in a long-term abusive relationship complete with many fractured bones and a severe distrust for anyone in authority. Because the authority failed them.

So here I am, a white male who always espoused an open mind and who is pretty dedicated to using critical thinking. I don't WANT to be a ***ing racist. I hate everything it stands for. I believe in the concept that what we do to the least of us defines us as a people. The whole damn thing is wrong.

Seeing the riots, seeing all the horrible disinformation flying about, feeling the frustration, the anger, the senseless hate, the fear, the aggression... it's really polarizing.

So I turn to books to give me objectivity in a storm of media chaos and opportunism. Those who know, know to look at tactics and who benefits from such tactics. Fact-checking is also absolutely essential.

So what did I get out of this book?

Tears, mostly.

It's true. For such a bright, strong voice, Ijeoma Oluo held me throughout the book and even told me this was for my own good... to tell me that I am a racist.

Of course, I'm supposed to suppress my natural reaction to being called a racist and accept it because it's institutional racism that NONE of us can escape. I even agree with it.

But you know what? I walk away from this book feeling a bit hopeless. I'm not going to give up the fight. I'm going to remain aware of my own s**t. But f**k.

I'm just going to put this out there:

If there's anyone who wants to talk to me about race, just do it. I promise I'll keep my ears and eyes open. And my mind.

I'm willing to do the best I can. It's not much, or perhaps it's everything, but more importantly, I'm PUTTING MYSELF OUT THERE. I'm not remaining silent. I care. That's it.
Profile Image for Stacie C.
332 reviews63 followers
December 25, 2017
So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo

I loved this book. I finished it in a day simply devouring Oluo’s word. I can relate to so much of what Oluo was sharing and in so many ways it was validating but also depressing. I feel better knowing that I’m not the only person experiencing these microaggressions, working through these issues and surviving day to day but at the same time having these similar lived experiences makes me very well aware of how far we have to come in the U.S. when it comes to dealing with race, racism and equality.

So You Want To Talk About Race is a really well written, comprehensive look at the issue of race and how race relates to inequality, success, poverty, education and much more. When I took a look at the contents of the book I was blown away because I could recognize immediately that these topics were geared towards having a thorough conversation about race and not just placating people who want to feel like they are putting in the work. She included topics like intersectionality, privilege, affirmative action and addressed them head on, pointing out the arguments in each and encouraging readers to recognize and acknowledge where they stand on these different issues. I was hooked from the first page of the introduction. Oluo has a very straightforward writing style and she is extremely well grounded in herself and her voice. That assuredness allowed Oluo to expose herself and her personal experiences in ways that I could never imagine.

I hope this book speaks to you. I hope this book challenges you and makes you rethink your past experience. And that goes for every person regardless of race, gender, religion or anything in between. There were people that I had in mind while reading this book. Mostly people whose friendships I had to reevaluate in the last year because I realized how much of me they didn’t see and how much of my experience they didn’t recognize. Oluo’s book saw me and saw the struggle taking place right now. I am so thankful for this book and the effect that it could have on those willing to learn, willing to talk and willing to make a change when it comes to race.

Thank you Netgalley for this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Leonie.
66 reviews35.3k followers
June 22, 2020
this is gonna be one of my 'non-fiction-books-i-listened-to-on-audio-but-want-to-buy-a-copy-of-for-future-reference'
Profile Image for Cynthia.
103 reviews12 followers
January 3, 2018
This book is largely for non-POC who wish to be allies or POC who are in denial of, not aware of or unfamiliar with the systemic racism prevalent in American society. Unlike many other scholarly works on race, this book uses language that is accessible and could even be used in an AP Language course. Actually, it would probably be a great addition to an AP Language course.

Most importantly, it needs to be read far and wide by teachers especially or anyone who works with POC.
Profile Image for J.L.   Sutton.
666 reviews869 followers
June 24, 2019
Ijeoma Oluo doesn’t simply want us feeling better about ourselves for having read her book; So You Want to Talk About Race is also a call to action. Most compelling is Oluo’s discussion of the damage caused by ‘everyday racism,’ the kind of racist attitudes or behavior that many don’t think really matters. What one person might see as small inconsequential actions have the cumulative weight of life experience. Words and behavior matter. Everyday racism also feeds into an acceptance of the systemic institutional racism that continues to oppress minorities.

That said, I think Oluo wants to be provocative by calling on all white males to view themselves as racists. While there is plenty of guilt for being part of a system that oppresses people of color, women, other minorities etc., saying all white men are racist and owe an admission of guilt and apology to anyone who asks does not, in my opinion, make anything better. I believe it shuts down rather than opens up the much-needed discussion on race in this country. While I understand the argument, as well as Oluo’s statement to the effect that racism is not necessarily about racist intentions, I think such an all-encompassing approach devalues individuals.

Oluo’s views on cultural appropriation, especially in relation to rap music, seem the least developed. However, how cultural appropriation plays out in her own life and speaking engagements is both interesting and spot on. So You Want to Talk about Race acknowledges institutional oppression, white privilege, and cultural appropriation, but is at its best when it confronts everyday racism.
Profile Image for zuza_zaksiazkowane.
348 reviews31.1k followers
August 19, 2020
Absolutnie nie odważyłabym się oceniać tej książki w skali gwiazdkowej. Pozycja na pewno bardzo edukująca, szalenie mądra i ważna. Czy czułam się komfortowo podczas słuchani audiobooka? Totalnie nie. Jest nieco pasywno-agresywna i dla słuchacza sprawia momentami wrażenie ataku. Ale prawdopodobnie to był cel autorki, żebyśmy nie zapomnieli i wyciągnęli z tej książki jak najwiecej. Jeśli chcecie się doedukować na temat rasizmu i różnic rasowych - pozycja jak najbardziej obowiązkowa.
Jest na storytelu 😊
Profile Image for Gregory Eakins.
654 reviews18 followers
July 20, 2021
I thought I would get more out of this read than I did based on the strong recommendations. Instead, what I received was the same load of absurdity that spews fourth daily from the social justice hivemind. I was unable to find a logical argument or sensible course of action from this text.

How do you know if something is about race? Oluo's answer: It is about race if a person of color thinks it's about race.

So she shuts down any sensible discussion right from chapter 1. Nice.

Even Oluo's own mother isn't safe from this tirade. She labels her a racist and goes on to complain about her white mother and how she always wants to talk about race. What on earth is Ijeoma doing in this book if not talking about race?

She wastes an entire chapter talking about how people want to touch her hair. Is this seriously the level of tragedy we're addressing? A claim that came particularly close to me is her assertion that haircut standards in the military are racist. Excuse me? I served with hundreds of black Marines and soldiers. Four out of the last six Sergeants Major of the Marine Corps were black, and they are the most aggressive enforcers of hair cut standards in the world. I have never heard of anyone taking issue with the Marine Corps grooming standards. Go to the base barber and tell them you want a medium reg. They don't give a shit what color you are. You'll come out of there with a haircut Sergeant Major would approve of.

Her chapter on cultural appropriation is wrought with even more frustrating white blaming. She expresses her frustration at the lack of authentic African restaurants in this country. Nearly every one of the problems she mentions has been solved by Asian and Latino immigrants opening successful restaurants. Why are they successful? Why aren't African-Americans opening more restaurants? Did she consider that most African-Americans have never been to Africa and the color of their skin doesn't grant them profound knowledge of African food any more than my eyes qualify me to cook Chinese food? Could it be that African-Americans are just Americans?

She goes on to claim that the white man stole black music (rap), and a white person only needs half the talent of a black person to go multi-platinum. Just because he's white. Has she been living under a rock for the last 40 years? Take a quick look at the best selling rappers of all time, and it's obvious that other than Eminem, black rappers absolute dominate the genre. Only about 3 of the top 50 rappers of all time are not black.

This book absolutely fails to bring up substantiated, logical, or original arguments that support the claims and accusations constantly thrown around in today's racially charged social world. Instead, she spits an emotionally charged and ridiculous pile of word vomit.

If you want a read that actually provides hard evidence and substantiated claims on racial issues in the United States, I recommend picking up The Color of Law.

If you'd like to engage in quality discussions with other people with different viewpoints rather than the divisive and insensitive babble in this book, I recommend looking at We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter.

Unless you are devoid of critical thinking ability and prefer a mob to think for you, I would recommend passing on this book.
Profile Image for Safa.
146 reviews158 followers
June 7, 2020
This is not a review. I’m not in the mood to read or review books in light of recent events. All I want to say is that all lives don’t matter until black lives matters. The way George Floyd was murdered is horrifying and heartbreaking. I can’t imagine the pain and suffering his loved ones are going through. It warms my heart that people care enough to march during this pandemic. I hope this movement doesn’t lose momentum and meaningful change finally happens. And if you’re tired of hearing about discrimination and racism, be thankful you don’t have to experience it.

I’ll leave you with this quote:
“If you live in this system of white supremacy, you are either fighting the system or you are complicit. There is no neutrality to be had towards systems of injustice, it is not something you can just opt out of.”
Profile Image for Truman32.
344 reviews100 followers
January 31, 2018
So You Want to Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo’s new book asks. I thought I did, but after reading several chapters I realized no, no I very much did not want to. I think I’d rather talk about my receding hairline, my cholesterol levels, the abnormally large size of my physician’s fingers (the yearly physical is coming up and it will be time once again to check out that ole prostate), just about anything really, because talking about race is uncomfortable, uncomfortable, uncomfortable.

So You Want to Talk About Race can be considered a manual for white liberals who fret about not working more to end racism as they peruse the shelves at Wholefoods for camel milk, emu eggs, and Kale ice cream. People like me who feel woke but maybe aren’t to the degree they think, and anyway should never be using the word woke in adult conversation under any circumstances.

Oluo goes through a number of racial concepts: white privilege, systemic racism, police brutality, etc. Some of these arguments were complex and eye opening while others I found more remedial (Chapter 9: Why can’t I say the “N” word?, or Chapter 11: Why can’t I touch your hair? ). Overall, the arguments were well thought out and honest if more than a little difficult to digest (who wants to know that they are in fact not carrying their share of the workload in this important fight? As Oluo writes, “If you live in this system of White Supremacy you are either fighting the system or you are complicit.”) And it is frustrating knowing that not living the life of a person of color, I am limited in my understanding of the effects of systemic racism.

While the subject and content in So You Want to Talk About Race is important and essential to our current climate, I struggled with Oluo’s writing. I felt on numerous occasions I was reading a dry textbook and finishing the 250 pages was a struggle. As I read, the words on each page seemed to multiply and I found my mind wandering and then having to reread what I had labored to get through the first time in an exhausting Sisyphean effort. I agreed with almost everything Oluo wrote, and the few ideas I struggled with I still understood the logic of her viewpoint, I just could not get into this book.

Feeling guilty, I was going to add an additional star or two solely for the pressing subject matter, but that seemed a little self-indulgent. So three is what we have.

Profile Image for Kelsey.
40 reviews
July 13, 2020
I mean...I DID want to talk about race. I WAS going to write a thoughtful and fair review. But according to Ijeoma, if I’m white—I don’t get it—and therefore don’t get an opinion or place in the conversation. Awkward.

Bothered me that she said people asking to touch her hair is a racist micro aggression and the result of white supremacy. I’m white. I’ve rocked naturally curly hair for years. You don’t have claim over this America-prefers-straight-hair-and-therefore-is-racist idea.

Nope. Not everything is about race just because you say so. A lot of the issues she illustrates happens to everyone, regardless of race.

“If you’re white in a white supremacist society—you are racist. If you are male in a patriarchy—you are sexist. If you are able-bodied—you are ableist. If you are anything above poverty in a capitalist society—you are classist. You can sometimes be all of these things at once.” -Ch 16
Um...what? Is she for real?

Was really looking forward to this book but ended up disappointed. 1 Star.
Profile Image for Mari.
705 reviews5,085 followers
July 6, 2020
An excellent primer in talking about race and anti-racism. It is concise, well organized and well thought out. I felt all of the care that Oluo put into patiently and clearly laying out the basics of racism in the US. My main takeaways are the ways she advises responding to racist thoughts and actions, simple easy ways to reframe conversation. I'm finding it harder and harder to not just give into frustration and emotion, so I appreciated this book for its perspective of "this is very hard, and it hurts a lot, but we need to talk about it and here is how."
Profile Image for Valeria Lipovetsky.
19 reviews7,174 followers
June 3, 2020
For someone who never talked about race in their household, this is a great starter book.
It will require you to leave ur ego aside (if you're white) and LISTEN. Not everything will resonate but some things will make you question ur deeply engrained views and understanding of how the system is failing POC.

Profile Image for Antoinette Scully.
133 reviews55 followers
June 21, 2018
Go. Read. This. Book. Well written, informative, and concerned with the reader learning, not just the author being right.

You should read this:
• If you want to talk about racial topics better
• If you’re great at talking about race
• If you never want to talk about race

Everyone should read this book. This should be the very next book you read.

2 reviews
June 12, 2020
I decided to read this book based on its high Goodreads rating. I was hoping the book would canvass the complex issues surrounding race and challenge readers to empathize with others they wouldn’t normally interact with. Unfortunately, this book appears intended for white people hoping to “check their privilege” and focuses solely on race as if only black and white people exist except for a cosmetic chapter on model minorities. The book’s arguments rarely rely on facts or statistics and in the few instances where statistics are cited the author often confuses correlation with causation. This book really isn’t an analysis of race issues.

I finished the book, after a struggle, feeling badly for the author. Not because she experienced racial bias (as opposed to her complaints of systemic racism) but because she has lived her life angry at the world.
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