“You cannot fix a problem you do not know you have.” So begins Emmanuel Acho in his essential guide to the truths Americans need to know to address the systemic racism that has recently electrified protests in all fifty states. “There is a fix,” Acho says. “But in order to access it, we’re going to have to have some uncomfortable conversations.”
In Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man, Acho takes on all the questions, large and small, insensitive and taboo, many white Americans are afraid to ask—yet which all Americans need the answers to, now more than ever. With the same open-hearted generosity that has made his video series a phenomenon, Acho explains the vital core of such fraught concepts as white privilege, cultural appropriation, and “reverse racism.”
In his own words, he provides a space of compassion and understanding in a discussion that can lack both. He asks only for the reader’s curiosity—but along the way, he will galvanize all of us to join the antiracist fight.
Emmanuel Chinedum Acho is a Nigerian-American former linebacker who played in the National Football League and is currently working as an analyst for Fox Sports 1. He played college football at Texas before being drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the sixth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
"For all of you who lack an honest black friend in your life, consider me that friend. My arms are open wide, friends. My heart, too."
With these words, Emmanuel Acho invites us to the table, invites white people to pull up a chair and join the conversation about race and racism, knowing we won't get anywhere until we have these uncomfortable conversations.
Mr. Acho takes questions white people have asked on his video series of the same name and answers them gently, openly, and honestly.
Some of the questions he addresses are:
•How do you bring up race with minorities?
•Should I say Black or African American?
•What are some of the best ways to find and get rid of your implicit bias?
•What about reverse racism? Is it real?
•I'm poor. How can you say I have white privilege?
•What systems are racist that need to be changed now?
•Why are so many African American communities plagued with poverty, crime, and the lack of a father figure in the home?
•How can I be an ally?
•Can we end racism in America?
This book examines three types of racism: individual, systemic, and internalized. Mr. Acho also explores topics like cultural appropriation, the best ways we can make impactful contributions to dismantling institutional racism, defunding police, and how police respond to Black Lives Matter protests versus how they respond to White Supremacist riots (we all witnessed that difference this last week, remembering how peaceful BLM protesters were faced with police in riot gear when they were near the U.S. Capitol last summer vs. how police reacted to the violent Trump supporters seditiously trying to take control of the Capitol).
Mr. Acho is down-to-earth and affable. He knows that these are uncomfortable things for most white people to talk about, and he doesn't want to scare anyone away. He holds your hand and tries to make this as easy as possible.
Personally, I prefer a more direct, "in your face" approach but a few years ago, this is the approach I would have needed and I encourage anyone who's having a difficult time confronting racism in themselves or in the system to read this book.
For me, much of what was written here are things I've read elsewhere. However, that's only because I read a lot of books on this subject. I think it's important to constantly refresh the things I've learned, so I don't mind that I didn't learn much new. And I appreciate the few historical things I did learn in this book, as Mr. Acho provides a lot of examples, both from the present and the past.
It is important for every white person to read books like these. As Mr. Acho says, "you’re responsible for your biases, if for no other reason than that there are ways to make them more conscious. And when an idea is conscious, you can change your mind.".
He also informs us, "you don’t even have to know you’re racist for the damage to be done." It's long past time white people joined the conversation, uncomfortable as it might be, and did the work of dismantling racism, in ourselves and in our system.
I think this book is a really wonderful resource for those who have just begun doing the work. I would be comfortable recommending this to my family members who don’t understand why they can’t sing the n word in songs, who disagree with the concept of cultural appropriation, and who firmly believe in reverse racism. I think that if anyone went into this book with an open mind (which I assume they have if they’ve picked it up to begin with) they’ll walk away with a firmer understanding of these issues and many more.
Now if you’ve already been educating yourself on systemic racism and have listened to podcasts, read books, and watched the many documentaries, I would call this book a refresher. You likely aren’t going to learn anything you didn’t already know. But Emmanuel Acho is eloquently spoken and clearly very knowledgeable so I enjoyed listening to the audiobook immensely. If you’re interested in reading this, I definitely recommend the audiobook!
If we can truly integrate white people and black people together, working in tandem, that’s when our world will make its joyful noise.
My non-reading husband was actually the one to turn me on to this title last week when it was released. Unfortunately for him, the wait list for the hard copy is about eleventy trillion long, but yay me I got first dibs on the Kindle version : ) He has settled for watching the videos (on You Tube???? me = old timer so I have no idea) while I ploughed through this sucker in one day.
Like most books regarding the subject matter at hand, the people who really need to read it will be the ones who absolutely don’t due to the fact they are too busy picking out the perfect madras shirt to match their tiki torches while gathering in the town square in order to wave their confederate flags with their knuckle dragging brethren.
As for the rest of us who aren’t super busy like those snowflakes (hehehe, turned the tables on ‘em didn’t I?), inside this book you’ll find nearly every topic you could possibly have questions about when it comes to the current state of race relations in America. From white privilege to “reverse racism” to implicit bias to the “N” word and “thugs” and “angry black men” to gangs and black on black violence to cultural appropriation to “Karens” to systemic racism when it comes to racial divides as far as income, housing, the criminal justice system, etc., this is a book that does not shy away from any uncomfortable conversation.
As far as I’m concerned, it should be required reading. What puts Uncomfortable Conversations above some others is that it not only encourages you to talk the talk – and it REALLY encourages you that the talking is the first step (hence the title, duh) – but also teaches you how to walk the walk. From book and film recommendations (both non-fiction as well as fiction), to music, to websites where you can research various subjects in greater detail on your own, to reputable charities which to donate money, to civic and philanthropic volunteer opportunities, there’s really no excuse after reading this to claim ignorance when it comes to actively becoming anti-racist. And if you determine your comfort level has an ending point and you don’t want to/can’t accept the responsibility of being a true ally at least you gained some knowledge and learned the only bad questions are those that go unasked. (But really, all of us can do better than only talking – simply voting might be enough to start making changes in your neck of the woods when it comes to taxes, zoning, schools, etc.)
Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man is a book I would recommend to anyone looking for answers on the topic of race. Listening to Emmanuel Acho talk felt like talking to a friend. I think this would specifically be great for people who are new to this topic and want more education. Not a lot of this information was new for me, but I still found it informative and necessary.
I think this is exactly what it presented itself to be: a conversational primer. I think it was written in a very approachable way, and I appreciated how Acho took a look at each question in an almost methodical way, taking a look at history to frame the questions he'd received, anchoring the question in the present, and then offering resources and materials for further reading and information, making this an excellent introduction book.
In the interview at the end, Acho talks about how he didn't necessarily write this book for Black people, and I felt that in my reading experience. While primers like this can often help non-white readers gain language to have these sorts of conversations in their day-to-day life, this is written for a specific audience: white people just starting to engage with anti-racist ideas. Who still have to ask why they can't say the "n" word. (Why do white people want to use the n word so bad?) In that way, it was also a bit of a sad and uncomfortable experience for me as a non-white reader. Not in a way that is super different than much of my day to day experience, but still the idea that we still have to do this work to gain the most basic dignity and respect is kind of a bummer. This isn't Acho's fault or anything about his book. This is work that needs to be done, and he does it well, but I can still be sad that we still have explain to people why hundreds of years of chattel slavery had a massive impact we cannot just ignore.
I took a little peak through reviews of this book and while mostly positive, there were some pitting critical race theory against Christianity and wow. Would like to take that experience back and scrub my eyes. Do not recommend.
I do recommended this book for the very simple and approachable language about anti-racism. And for the person in your life who may just be starting to see Black people as people. That's only sort of a joke.
I want to preface this by saying I completely support the initiatives that Acho advocates for, but the quality of the writing made the book that much harder to read. I felt the need to write a review because I was hoping to read this book to gain some insight on the complexity of racism, but I was disappointed when the book's villain was virtually just white people... something we've all heard before. I'm not white and even I felt the conviction of white people in this book is strong. I think any sensible person would agree that white people are not the sole problem to racism (against any person of color) in America today and a majority of white people are not overtly racist, despite their "privilege".
What drew me to purchase the book in the first place was the fact that Acho had a psychology background, albeit sports psychology. I was expecting at least some empirical breakdown of the phenomenons that Acho talks about, but the book goes in almost the opposite direction. There's a lot of subjective correlation. I understand that it's a casual and "conversational" book, but wow it's really casual. Acho uses slang and colloquial language a little too much in my opinion. It's casual to the extent that I feel doesn't justify its price (17 dollars for a short book) and just mars its own message.
Each chapter in the book starts with questions from Acho's show that introduce the topic of that chapter. The more chapters I read, the less questions I felt like were really answered. I especially had a hard time reading a chapter called "Love Wins" where the beginning quote asked "As a father to interracial children, I fear that I cannot adequately prepare them for the future. How can I explain to my son and daughter that life could be harder for them than it was for me?" (pg.144) Acho proceeds to question the validity of interracial relationships on the basis of racism. He repeatedly asks how interracial couples come together in spite of white and black history and Acho seems genuinely surprised that such couples exist. He then proceeds to say " If you're going to be in a relationship with a black person, please don't pick them because you think they're exotic... On the flip side, take care to determine that you aren't being fetishized, exoticized, or tokenized." (pg.151-152) It was at this point where I almost put the book away for good. I don't see how Acho has any authority to say how white or black people conduct their relationships with each other. Acho makes it out to seem like the white partner has to shoulder all the risk of being rebuked in an interracial relationship. He warns people that to date a black person, the white privilege (of the white partner) needs to be understood, and that the relationship might come with two different cultures and value systems, among other things. Really? Why does the only the white partner have all these "responsibilities"? Why can't a relationship just plainly be about two people who love each other? Acho seems to warn white people of these made up racial "dangers" and there's a very evident feeling of Acho shunning such a relationship to exist. Nonetheless, he eventually claims that anyone can love anyone they want... and the chapter's quote remains unanswered.
There's another instance where Acho cites a statistic on how black people are more likely to develop PTSD than white people along with high suicide rates, particularly in men. He uses that statistic as a justification for the fragility of black families, which I can understand, but he correlates the onset of these mental disorders to the quality of families without any evidence. He just says "It's tougher to keep a family together when you're fighting for your mental health, if not your life," (pg. 139) with no evidence to follow. Acho just assumes that this is actually what's happening in reality and expects you to also. Any type of scientist (or anyone with a decent education) would know that this is a potentially dangerous correlation if made under different circumstances. Acho clearly has the ability to look up references and cite concrete evidence, but often fails to do so in critical parts of his arguments.
All in all, I disliked the book the more I read it. I aim to learn more about racism so I at least have a voice to speak against it, but I don't think this book was a good place to start. I've given it two stars because the conversation is something that I believe should be had, but the book was not enjoyable.
Emmanuel Acho takes on questions about cultural appropriation, white privilege, and more in Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man. Despite being a big sports fan, I only recently heard of Emmanuel Acho this summer when he began releasing his video series (same title as this book) following the murder of George Floyd.
“The thing is, one can never just judge racism on an individual level alone. It’s also historic and systemic — remember, white people will always have that several-century head start.”
“While you’re out there living your life every day, pay attention to how many times you hear something being touted as the first black X and how long it took for that thing to happen.”
Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man is timely, accessible, and most importantly: Real. Even if you already consider yourself an ally, this book provides an excellent perspective and a learning opportunity for all.
I came to this book after having watched some of the titular videos on YouTube. They were interesting, but not as pointed as this work. Let me be clear from the outset: Emmanuel Acho is wrong. Dead wrong. Loud wrong. He’s swallowed and digested critical race theory (see the recommendations section of this book) and regurgitated it into a mainstream title. All the lingo is here: cultural appropriation, white privilege, systemic racism, implicit bias.
As a Christian, he gives no evidence he understands that CRT is a competing worldview. That it contains its own ideas of sin and salvation, atonement and identity. Alas, there is good news! If you want to engage with this topic, there are many authors to choose from that are sensible and present well-reasoned arguments: Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, Neil Shenvi, Larry Elder, Voddie Baucham, Thaddeus Williams, or James Lindsay.
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy, the middle grade adaption of Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, inspired by the viral Youtube series "Uncomfortable Conversation with a Black Man" made my head hurt. I picked up this book after passing on the hype received by the original version, but honestly being intrigued by the fact that it made its way into a children's book. I have many feelings about the burst of new anti-racist children's literature on the market, and whether folks are actually vetting the content or just buying it to say they did. However, I gave this a chance.
1. What struck me was Acho's introduction. He speaks about not being able to identify much with the Black community growing up, Acho is Nigerian-American and attended a predominately Black church, but felt misunderstood and outcast within Black spaces— up until he played football in college with a majority Black team. So this already had me on the fence. Why does Acho feel that he can have these conversations about issues concerning the Black community (and serve as some sort of authority to inform white folks) when he himself, up until college, was unconnected to the community? He himself seems to still be finding his place. 2. It's the liberalism for me. Throughout the book Acho offers these reflective moments called "Let's Get Uncomfortable", followed by a call to action in a way. And while he calls for “diversity and inclusion” and “peaceful protest”, he offers little to no calls for anything that will lead to real substantial systemic change. He mentions the idea of defunding the police, but doesn't go as far as supporting what he calls the "radical" idea of abolition (and then proceeds to offer instructions on how Black children should act when they encounter police). 3. About 150 pages in, Acho brings up Ibram X. Kendi's claim that Black people can be racist. And while I was thankful that he seemed to understand the flaws in Kendi's claim— power is required, and Black folks simply do not hold the power to be this racial oppressor (and when Black folks in higher positions inforce racist policies that harm Black folks this is internalized anti-Blackness)— Acho backpedals towards the end of the book saying "A black person can be racist individually... but Black people as a whole don't have enough power in America to effect systemic racism." This statement is a ball of contradictions, and has to be confusing to young audiences and those who are attempting to learn. 4. Finally, what is the goal of creating these guidebooks for white audiences? What is the evidence that any of this is actually doing real tangible work to challenge the systems that oppress Black and brown folks? This books is like a pat on the wrist for a racist. Acho speaks to his "young white brothers and sisters", comforts them about how racism is "not their fault individually", tells them to have conversations, and advocate for more Black teachers at their schools etc., and while he uses words like systemic racism and white supremacy (which may feel "radical") his challenges don't feel direct or strong. In addition to this Acho sites YouTube videos, a few online articles, and YA texts for further learning, and I'm wondering what he has read beyond this? He really, as I stated earlier, feels like he's at the beginning stages of interrogating his politics himself. It feels as if he read Kendi's "Stamped: From the Beginning" as an introduction to anti-racism and felt compelled to write a book. And while he has the freedom to right what he wants, I challenge whether he is equipped to have full-flushed out conversations on race. And once again, what is his goal?
I believe that reading this has confirmed my irritation with us continuing to say "let's have a conversation about that", "let's continue this conversation", "this is a necessary conversation"— but where do the conversations end and the action really begins? When do we move beyond these same liberal talking points and begin to challenge entire systems. Children are ready for these talks. In Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam they challenge the carceral system and include characters who discuss ideas like prison abolition— and that is what we need to see more of. This is not to say that Acho is wrong about everything, but this text does a disservice to those who read this and are searching for a guide on next steps to fighting racism.
Fiction Suggestions: - Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi - Anger Is A Gift by
Non-Fiction Suggestions: - Our Prisons Obsolete by - We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom by Bettina L. Love - Race Matters by Cornel West - From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation by Keeanga Taylor
I finally got my hands on the audiobook and it was just as good as I thought it'd be!
I was a bit worried that the book would simply rehash all the conversations from Emmanuel Acho's YouTube series. While there was some overlap, Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man was written to compliment (or serve as an addendum of sorts) to the video series (but don't worry - you don't need to watch any of the videos before reading the book!).
This book is aimed primarily at a white audience (which I am not really) but I still really enjoyed it as it offered more insight into what it means to be Black in America and how to be a better ally to those in the Black community. It dives into the history of racism and discrimination and opens the floor to discussion on how that past affects our present behaviours.
I think what really sets this book apart from other books on race that I've read/listened is the incredibly engaging and conversational tone which made me feel like I was part of a real and intimate discussion. The audiobook was absolutely fantastic (highly recommend!) and was like being in an actual conversation (albeit a one-way convo) with Acho. I loved his positive, respectful, upbeat yet casual tone and was super impressed with his analogies and explanations (I'm telling you, this guy comes up with the best analogies!)
I also really enjoyed the interview at the end. Acho is such a skilled speaker and conversationalist - it's really no wonder that some people think his videos are scripted. The interviewer (like myself) was in awe of his eloquence (honestly, I would probably sound like a bumbling fool in comparison). _____________________________ July 19, 2020 Pre-Review:
I just binge-watched the Unfomfortable Convos videos and need to get my hands on this book. If you haven't watched any of these videos yet, do yourself a favour and check them out asap.
I wish every non poc person would read and absorb this book!
“If things go the way I want, you will leave this book with an increased understanding of race. You will have more empathy and grant people more grace. And if you have more empathy and are more gracious, then you’ll be less judgmental. And if you’re less judgmental, then your judgment is less likely to play itself out in racism.”
This book is by far one of the best I’ve read on the subject of racism. Emmanuel Acho has such a non threatening way of talking about these issues with understanding, caring and a loving attitude.
I see so many of my white friends so afraid to ask questions over the fear of saying things wrong or being offensive. It all comes down to this quote right here:
“And when in doubt—again, just ask.”
This book covers everything from cultural appropriation, using the “N” word—Just NO, not being a “Karen”, why the term “color blind” is not favorable, and so many other topics.
I came away with a much clearer understanding of different issues and topics concerning racism, allyship, and just history in general spoken in plain down to earth English.
“The beautiful thing about the piano is that you got white keys and you got black keys. And the only way to make the most beautiful, magnificent, and poetic noise is with both sets of keys working in tandem. You can’t just play all white keys, because you won’t maximize what the instrument has to offer. You can’t just play all black keys, because you won’t maximize what the instrument has to offer. But integrate the white and black keys together, and that is when the piano makes a joyful noise. That’s what this “we” is all about. If we can truly integrate white people and black people together, working in tandem, that’s when our world will make its joyful noise.”
Emmanuel Acho wrote this for the white folks he knows and I'm not mad at it one bit. It is the most comprehensive, non-scholarly but doesn't need to be scholarly, look into why and how white people can cut the fuckshit on this racism garbage.
Anyone who says they can't learn something out this book is a damn liar.
Maybe you won't like the way that he explains things, I think he did a phenomenal job. He sets the scene currently, takes you back in time, makes you get uncomfortable (not me, as a Black person, we been through these conversations, ad naseum) and then he makes a suggestion on how we can all do better. There are a couple of moments where his explanations got a little convoluted and seemed just slightly askew to me, his handling of certain topics, like interracial relationships and pacifying white friends - it made me side-eye sometimes, but it also was like: I understand why you wrote things this way (as a Black person, who's been through these conversations ad naseum).
I liked the way Acho labelled all the parts and chapters; he makes it incredibly accessible. You should read the whole thing, but if you don't want to read the whole book - you can go to the part you want to know about and get all the way informed. I respect that. Part 1: You and Me; compiling topics such as White Priviledge, The Mythical Angry Black Person, Why people should stop being dumb about the N-Word. Part 2: Us and Them; Examining various layers of Systemic Racism. Part 3: We; Interracial relationships & Being an Ally. It's all very accessible including some moments of Quick Talks and a plethora of Recommendations and References.
If I'm honest, I read this to see what 2K-era Black dudes are telling people, if they're including Black women's experiences in their work, etc. I got curious but Old dude did a pretty bang up job. Highly recommend.
I heard Acho interviewed by Brene Brown and decided to read his book as a follow-up. I've read a number of books detailing our continuing battle to truly become "one race, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all" (yes I changed those words on purpose), and have often learned something or been reminded of why what I do matters.
Much of what Acho shares are things covered in those previous books, but where many of them are more "academic" in nature, filled with historical references, definitions, and complex concepts, Acho's is more like his title--a conversation--written in a conversational style, in simple, everyday language. As such, it may be more accessible to those who don't want to read from a textbook. He shares perceptions about black culture and how it differs from others, including some "do's" and "dont's". He also cites books, movies, websites and other useful information for those wanting to look further into the concepts or information he provides.
I can't say I learned much new from this book (except perhaps where sagging came from), but it provided some important reminders and ways to navigate those "uncomfortable conversations". And at this point, we need all the reminders and help we can get to change this tide that needed changing so many centuries ago.
In Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, Emmanuel Acho puts himself in the ongoing bid to build a bridge in race relations. Acho is a very young, educated, professional football player who has parlayed his successes into a promising sports broadcasting career. He is also socially conscious and wants to try to broaden the conversation about race. His background is a middle class "Black" (as opposed to African American, his preference…mine too) American kid whose parents were of Nigerian descent.
Acho marks a new generation of writers. I confess that I feel like I am reading a changing of the guard. Acho is a year younger than my niece who I consider ridiculously young. The book for me felt a little light on substance but I admire what Acho is trying to do. He is opening the doors to conversation. Attempting to reach the nonconverted. This one felt like a bit of a rehash of So You Want to Talk About Race, the heterosexual male edition. Idk, I am not the target audience, but I appreciate the effort and I genuinely like the approachable, affable, and smart Acho. Worth your time if you are seeking to learn a little more about engaging people of color about race. This is primer level/101 stuff. If you are seeking something more in depth, look elsewhere. BTW Acho does tell you where to look for more information at the back of the book and at the conclusion of many of his chapters. I also appreciate that he was directing readers to great resources and advocated for Black booksellers.
3.5 Stars rounded Up
Listened to the audiobook. Acho narrated very well. It felt like a conversation.
I think this book would be the perfect starting place for someone wanting to read more anti-racism books or who have questions they need answered about anti-racism. It does a good job of answering some of the questions people have asked him (or want to as Black people generally). I think the straightforward layout of question and answer worked well. It is a bit basic, so I wouldn’t say it is a deeper dive into all of the themes, but it does what it promises, and it is does it in a readable way. I raced through this book in a single day because it was really that readable. I like that he gives the reader so many resources for where to go next to learn more or to start your activism. He has more book recommendations, things to watch, and things to do. I also really liked how he understood and made it clear he is speaking based from his experience, and can’t speak on all experiences (the Black female experience, or the Black LGBT+ experience for example). I appreciate that he made that distinction and acknowledged it. I do recommend this one.
Good intentions, horrible executions. There's really no way around it. This book was trying to include white people in 'the conversation' while simultaneously showing the ways in which they need to be better. And it failed. Miserably. For starters, and perhaps most importantly, I feel like this book tried way too hard to say "Hey White people, good, beautiful white people, racists, and your uncles too! Come to the cookout--fill your plate up with greens, BBQ ribs, Mac & Cheese, and pull up a chair! Grab a grape Shasta. And save some room for some peach cobbler! Let's talk about race!" This book tried way too hard to relate blackness to whiteness, which are both two very entirely different experiences. This book tried way too hard to say "I get you, white brothers and sisters! ('white brothers and sisters' was literally used in the first pages of this book. Seriously?!) We are a lot a like. We are actually more alike than you think! But ya'll created slavery and then there was segregation and then Travyon Martin was killed then George Floyd. Please say sorry? Pretty pleaseeee?!" Give me a break. I understand the author's intention wasn't to alienate anybody, but if his intention was to make white people 'uncomfortable', from my perspective, and granted I am a black woman, he wasn't even in the ballpark. Pun intended. White people literally know all these things. They know about slavery. They know they can't and shouldn't even WANT to say the N word. They know about police brutality--they have known about it for hundreds of years. They are well aware they shouldn't touch black people's hair. So what about these conversations is exactly 'uncomfortable'? Telling white people to go sit next to black people minding their business in public and 'strike up a conversation because you're curious about race' was about the dumbest thing I have ever heard--not only because to do so is just weird, but it's also terrible advice. If his intention was to make white readers feel 'comfortable' enough to talk about race, then he literally, once again, failed. Because all he did was give them a green light to be that purposely ditsy white person at the company party that asks, "So like, why can't I say the N word when I'm listening to Jay Z? Emmanuel Acho told me to ask you." (A real conversation I'm sure has taken place in some form or another). The biggest disappointment is that this book felt like detention for white people. It felt like less than a slap on the wrist. I in no means think all white people should be punished for racism, but I also don't think they should have their feelings coddled and told that these necessary conversations are 'uncomfortable'. I have TONS of white friends who would agree that these conversations are only 'uncomfortable' if you have bathed in ignorance your entire life. Thank GOD they even think this book was ridiculous. The worst part is that I understand his intention. I actually think his intention was rather...'great'. But he missed the mark by a long shot (another pun that is definitely intended). If you're white and genuinely curious about the conversation about America and its long history of anti-black violence and genocide (because that is what racism is--violence), I encourage you to read authors like Angela Davis and Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, bell hooks, Ta-Nehesi Coates, Michael Eric Dyson, Ibram X Kendi, and many, many, MANY more black authors and revolutionists who have dedicated their lives to giving a no-nonsense take on exactly what this author tried so desperately to coddle white people about. While Acho never said that he was an expert on these issues, and while he did quote revolutionaries and point his white audience to their texts, speeches, and work (which was arguably the only good thing this book actually did), I think this is a conversation he should sit out, indefinitely. I think he is just as daft as he tried to paint his white audience to be. But at least they are daft by their choosing--he is just like this. I know we all have to start somewhere. I know that we all have to meet each other at different points when it comes to racism in America. But distilling very troubling, traumatic, deeply rooted issues down so suburban white kids who have been screaming the N word on top of their lungs since Kendrick Lamar dropped Section .80 can feel less guilty is absolutely NOT how to do that. Maybe this book was uncomfortable for some. I am definitely not the target audience--but I wanted to give this book a chance, to see if its contents could actually...just maybe...motivate white people to be apart of a struggle that has started since 1619. I would be lying if I said it did anything other than make me roll my eyes for them. What a nice way to play Captain-Save-A-White person. Enjoy the rest of the food at 'the cookout'; I bet it tasted bland.
Still, it gets enough of the point across, and provides enough information to perhaps enable someone to start thinking a little bit more critically about race relations and Black experience in the US, and the history of how we got here. There are a LOT of factors that go into that experience, and so it takes many forms, but regardless of the various levels of success or privilege, being Black in the US is not going to be the same experience as being white in the US. There are still systems of oppression built into the fabric of our society, and until those are dealt with, we will never have a fully just society.
Definitely worth the read - or listen. I listened to the audio read by the author, and he does a great job with it, which is not something I can say for most authors, especially not first time football players turned authors. I really enjoyed hearing this in his own voice and words, and the only thing that I would change is that I wish the questions starting each chapter were differentiated a little bit more from each chapter's lead-in quote.
Anyway, I liked this quite a bit, and I liked Acho's perspective and willingness to open the door to conversation.
Emmanuel Acho’s book is full of the same rhetoric as other books I’ve read. His Instagram series was much better. There were hints in the Insta videos, but this book is full blown Critical Race Theory and identity politics. He had some good statements and recognitions, thus the 2 stars, whereas other books I’ve read in this genre received 1 star. His style is conversational and not militant like other books I’ve read. I read this entire book. He states in the introduction he hopes we will have an “increased understanding of race. You will have more empathy and grant people more grace. And if you have more empathy and are more gracious, then you’ll be less judgmental.” Agreed. In ch 2 he says that to avoid implicit bias, we should spend time with people in different social, racial and ethnic groups. Good idea. Never say the N word. Absolutely agree. He also says we should “avoid lumping people into groups in general.” In ch 5 he requests that we should “let people have emotions. See him as an individual.” Reasonable request. Can you do the same for me? For whites? Unfortunately, when he starts with the rhetoric, that is exactly what he does to whites and blacks-lumps them into groups. In Ch 3 he begins discussing white privilege and bases it on a story from 1955. Acho got all the way through college, and it wasn’t until a course for his masters’s degree that he even “realized it,” it being that white privilege allegedly exists. Interesting that he was taught about it in college. Why didn’t he see it the first, say, 22 years of his life? In Ch 5 he suggests reading White Fragility. I read and reviewed that book on Goodreads as well. How sad that her book creates division between blacks and whites. Not a good book to recommend. He ramps up the rhetoric in ch 7-8 when discussing systemic racism. He claims “white people for generations trying to indoctrinate them toward anti-intellectualism.” Before 1964, true, but not so today. If it were true, how do any Blacks succeed today? Acho asks a ridiculous question: can you trace your family tree as far back as it goes in America and claim that every single person on your family tree was an abolitionist, didn’t benefit from white privilege, etc. What does it matter what my ancestors did? I am not them, and I am not responsible for them. In Ch 8 he discusses the slogan Black Lives Matter (BLM). Let’s add the word “All” in front of that; “All Black Lives Matter,” not just the ones that fit the political narrative of being killed by a white cop. Everyone, including Acho, should hear Feminist and human rights advocate Ayaan Hirse Ali, originally from Somalia, and a true victim of oppression. She condemns BLM, cancel culture and DiAngelo’s book. Acho offers lots of stats when claiming systemic racism, but he needs to look at other stats like these: https://www.americanthinker.com/artic... Here are a few responses to his statements. (I could do this for many of them, but this review would be too long.) In Ch 9 he talks about voter suppression because many black citizens who are poor don’t have government issued IDs. He explains why he thinks they don’t have one. Then at the end of the chapter, he says “vote, vote, vote.” A photo ID is not a deterrent to voting. Examples: You need a valid photo ID to get food stamps in CA and IL. What about public housing? Again, yes, you have to establish identity. The fact of the matter is that you need valid photo identification to establish your identity in order to qualify for government programs as well. The exact government programs that are designed to help the poor require photo IDs. Of course this makes sense because the administrators of these programs want to eliminate fraud. Some states like GA make if FREE to get a valid ID. So that argument doesn’t hold up. Later in Ch 15, he calls the BLM founders “Sisters of Liberty: women who had an agenda.” Just as I am reading both sides, this article should be considered. https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/2020... Much of the BLM agenda has nothing to do with liberty. In ch 15, Acho uses the inflammatory words “seventeenth-century dudes who wanted to get rich growing sugarcane and cotton, who wanted to make sure they’d always be the class on top.” What about all the people from the north who weren’t like the slave owners, who fought against racism from the beginning? He conveniently forgets about them. There is so much more I could say in this review but just have this recommendation. Do your own research. Acho gives lots of reading recommendations at the end of the chapters, but they only fit the rhetoric of the left, BLM and cancel culture. Again, I take away from this book, like all 3 other books I read, a realization that I must be vigilant in my assessing my own heart for prejudice. Check this out: https://slowtowrite.com/how-to-be-a-r...
Acho says he is a Christian, but he is viewing the world through the CRT lens instead of the Bible. My identity is first in Christ. I can’t reconcile Christianity with Critical Theory worldview.
This book is best suited as an introduction to topics of race, class, and equity for those white folks who have ignored the conversation for much of their lives. Acho frames each chapter around a question, mixing in personal experience with a quick overview of historical context and the contemporary moment before moving to the action items. He cites and references a number of veteran authors in the space and plugs key resources to check out afterwards.
This is an excellent gift for a white friend or acquaintance who asks basic or misguided questions about race.
Considerable historical context is missing, but that isn't really the central point. It's written to be palatable to the white folks who just aren't getting with the program. Where books like Oluo's So You Want To Talk About Race and Eddo-Lodge's Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race are more effective at making their point and providing more extensive context, Acho's book waters the messaging down further to help the borderline resistant come aboard. Arguably, Acho's book may be more effective at fostering a wider adoption of behavior change, but there's still value in a better informed population.
Ideally, this would not be the only book one would read, but may instead be a gateway for those who are resistant to seeing the truth about race in America.
This book should be retitled “Tedious Monologues by a Nigerian-American”. It was part of my book club's selection. The book’s main quality is that it details some concepts that originated in Critical Race Theory without the jargon, which has the admirable effect of exposing their vacuity. It also explains some of the historical injustices against African-Americans and their continuing effects, although invariably the author manages to stretch a good argument beyond the breaking point. Slavery and Jim Crow certainly do explain a number of the problems that African-Americans have to deal with even now, but they hardly explain all those issues. Poor people for example are overrepresented in prisons all over the world, even in countries that did not enslave good part of their population until very recently. That fact should at least raise the question whether slavery really is the only possible explanation for African-American incarceration rates.
I found two chapters particularly irritating. The chapter on “cultural appropriation” shows what an asinine concept that really is. The example the author uses is a type of hair braid which originates with a particular African people, and which for that reason should apparently be off limits for non-black people. My first reaction is to ask myself what sort of claim Americans of African descent have on a tradition specific to an African ethnic group that other Americans wouldn’t have. Are all black people the same? Just asking the question would make most Africans I know laugh their heads off. And thinking about it, what sort of claim does even the originating ethnic group have on those hair braids, except to say, “hey, we actually started that”? Imagine if I as a European would presume to disapprove of a Chinese person playing or composing European classical music or a Nigerian businessman wearing a European-style suit. That would be both daft and mean-spirited. The point that the author does not seem to see is that “appropriation” is a vindication, that it shows that the culture is vital and produced something that is valued by others. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Isolating different cultures from each other is called “apartheid”.
The other was the chapter on interracial relationships, which as a person who is in an interracial relationship I found condescending and extraordinarily shallow. It also raises another of the issues of the book, pointed out by a friend, wich is that Acho seems to talk only to “white” people and ignores everybody else, except when he writes that you should not mention to a black person that you are yourself a victim of oppression as “this is not the oppression Olympics”! Quite.
My conclusion is that the United States really is in a very bad place. Just look at the fawning reviews from the United States for a book that is poorly written, poorly argued and reflects very poor thinking. This thinking moreover can only result in a deeply divided society where every problem that it supposedly addresses is entrenched and impossible to solve. That looks like a description of the United States, as a matter of fact.
Europe is in the process of becoming a multicultural society and that poses a number of problems that we urgently need to solve, including racism. But this book actually shows how not to do it. The solution to racism is to stop and punish racial discrimination and create a common identity that includes people of all racial backgrounds, not to fall back on whatever identity gives you a claim to the title of most oppressed minority ever. That, historically, tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The most intelligent thing we can do on this continent is to avoid an American-style culture war and reject the identity politics of both the Left and the Right.
I have been clueless. I thought I knew, thought I understood. I knew nothing, understood less. This was an eye opening, no heart opening read. It touches of some basic racial inequalities and looks at cultural histories. There were many recommendations on books to read, movements to join, ways to help stop racism. Questions from white people to a black man. What would you ask ? What would you like to understand ? I listened to the audio for this. I loved it I felt like I was sitting down with him comfortable even when the subject wasn't. I'd love to see this book be required reading in schools as an opener to systemic racism.
I learned so much about the history of racism in America from Emmanuel Acho. I especially love how each chapter in this book is split into the history of the topic, how it affects our society, and then what you can do and recommended reading for further learning about that specific topic. Some chapters I found especially interesting, including: using the terms “Black” or “African American;” what systems are racist?; and how to find and get rid of your implicit biases. Acho approaches these topics with such care and understanding. Check out his YouTube series with the same name! – Michelle V.
“And white privilege is about the word white, not rich. It’s having advantage built into your life. It’s not saying your life hasn’t been hard; it’s saying your skin color hasn’t contributed to the difficulty in your life.” 👦🏾 This book takes his viral video series entitled Uncomfortable Conversations With A Black Man and makes it accessible for young readers in a book similar to what Jason Reynolds did with Stamped by Ibram X. Kendi. It’s a way for kids to learn about systemic racism and racist behavior to help dismantle it for the next generation. 👦🏾 I loved how timely this middle-grade novel is mentioning George Floyd during the pandemic, Colin Kaepernick and the NFL, and the #blacklivesmatter movement so that it’s clear why these causes are so important. With the murder of Daunte Wright two days ago, this book is more necessary than ever. We have to open the lines of communication so there’s understanding in our society enough to make changes to fight racism for our future generations. Thank you Netgalley for the ARC. Every classroom and #library needs to purchase this title on May 4.
This was SO good! It's a necessary read and was sectioned in a cohesive way. Acho did a wonderful job putting things/topics ingti perspective and I appreciated all the resources provided at the end of each chapter. It's a great way to keep readers going in learning how to be an ally.
I think this is a great book for white people (and even some non-Black POC) to read if they have a lot of questions about anti-Black racism and are new to unlearning their anti-Black biases. Very engaging and accessible.