An engaging children's book whose aim is opening a dialogue about systemic racism, inspired by Emmanuel Acho’s viral video series "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man."
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy is an accessible book for children to learn about systemic racism and racist behavior. For the awkward questions white and non-black parents don’t know how to answer, this book is an essential guide to help support communication on how to dismantle racism in our youngest generation.
Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy creates a safe, judgment-free space for curious children to ask questions they’ve long been afraid to verbalize. How can I have white privilege if I’m not wealthy? Why do Black people protest against the police? If Black people can say the N-word, why can’t I? And many, many more.
Young people have the power to effect sweeping change, and the key to mending the racial divide in America lies in giving them the tools to ask honest questions and take in the difficult answers. Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy is just one way young readers can begin to short circuit racism within their own lives and communities.
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.
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
“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.
(c/p from my review on TheStoryGraph) A super helpful, super relatable story that doesn't talk down to kids. I like it so much because it approaches the subject matter in a frank and honest way that delves deep into the whys and hows. Super glad this book exists.
TW for this book include: Racial slurs, Racism, Police brutality, Gun violence, Slavery, and Death (including death of a parent and child)
This was made plain and simple that there is no way someone can not take something away from this book and still think in a racist way - well, they can't wholly be unchanged, at least.
I highly believe that this should be a must-read for kids in middle school. It both makes things clear to understand without taking them down to the young readers and providing examples and showing the many factors that white privilege has benefited and continues to benefit from racism.
I learned more things, things I haven't even connected privilege and hardships to, but it truly makes sense; the breakdown proves it.
I read this book with my child to discuss and understand what teachers and classmates are being told to think of her/us because of her/our races. Seeing so many people recommend it for classroom use shows we have truly gone off the rails. I think racial reconciliation is important and will require open and honest relationships among diverse people. This is not an uncomfortable conversation. (It seems that title came later and I can see why it really is more like things he thinks white people should know). It is a one-way lecture that only acknowledges disagreements on controversial issues in order to say they are without merit. It teaches black children they are oppressed and white children they are oppressors. Nothing can change it according to the author - except registering Democratic voters, affirmative action to achieve racial equity, and treating everyone as emblematic of their racial category.
Do not let this book be taught in your child’s classroom. Do read the books assigned to your children.
This book recommends:
Do not listen to rap music if you are white (it is cultural appropriation); at least don’t sing it because it is ok for the black rapper to use forbidden racist language but fans of other races are racist for singing the same lyrics. (I wonder what the people selling albums think of this idea.) Chopsticks as hair accessories, calling Elvis “the King of Rock ‘n Roll,” celebrating Cinco de Mayo, and wearing braids are also forbidden cultural appropriation. Also, don’t call them plantation shutters because that means you approved of plantations and slavery and want to celebrate a time when slavery was legal. Definitely don’t visit a plantation to see for yourself the slave cabins and learn about how brutal they were. Plantations should be eliminated.
Black people can’t be racist because they lack power. No word on if the opposite is true when the author visits Nigeria, which has never had a leader that is not a black male since they escaped being a British colony.
Talk to your parents about funding efforts to Defund the Police, which doesn’t mean what it says but does mean re-budgeting money to other programs away from the police.
Go protest for BLM with friends if your adults won’t go, but make a plan in case it gets “chaotic.” Donate money to bail protesters out of jail. Register Democrat voters.
White people hate Kaepernick for protesting racial inequality because they are racist. There is nothing more to the controversy.
A white person posting Instagram pictures at a BLM protest is just as wrong as someone robbing at a BLM protest because both are making it about themselves.
Don’t be a “white savior” by seeking approval/gratitude for allyship actions. It’s a convenient way for white people to feel better about themselves without actually wanting anything to change even though they took some action to try to change things. They didn’t have a pure intention.
Don’t call people thugs because it unfairly casts them as irredeemable instead of people who made understandably bad choices. (I actually agree with that and many other points, but contrast it with: Do call all white people racists because even if you are not racist and you traced your family history back to when they came to America and found no slave owners you can’t know enough about them to know they were all outspoken abolitionists so some of them were probably white supremacists and you continue to benefit from that and systemic racism anyway.).
When Bryan Stevenson says there are different justice system consequences for the rich and poor (I agree) he means black and white (says the NFL player - because all black people are poor and most can’t drive or obtain a driver’s license or take time off from work to vote unless they live in white neighborhoods).
Read books about Malcolm X, Angela Davis, the Black Panthers, and the Black Power movement. They were an important part of getting to the society we have now, and the “by any means necessary” strategy was important.
Black people - you do you. White people - don’t tell black people what to do. (In particular about wearing sagging pants that he explains comes from prison culture and that he personally wouldn’t do.)
I recommend: Read this book to understand what people are encouraging we teach children. Read critically. Is this bringing more understanding or encouraging people to retreat to racial isolationism? Then actually have courageous conversations where you hear from people who disagree with you. If you agree with this author, try reading Thomas Sowell, Samuel Sey, or Jason Riley. If you agree with those authors, read Critical Race Theorists (Kendi, DiAngelo, Jason Reynolds) and try to understand their power-oppressor worldview. Then go out and love others with kindness and mercy and a genuine concern for making the world better for black people and all of the human race (as the author acknowledges near the end of the book.)
Here are some good take-always: Even if your friend says nothing in school, your teasing might be wrong and hurting them in deep ways they will hold onto as adults. Even if you are teasing someone else. Just don’t tease.
We should all know more about history. We should read widely and engage events that we haven’t studied before. It would benefit us personally and as a society. Even an amazing private school education failed to spark an interest in learning about history in the author until he was an adult. Take control of your own learning.
There are plenty of people that want to tell you what sacrifices and changes YOU should make. Some of them do it in a kinder and more humorous package.
Beware of “educators” who want to teach kids what to think instead of how to think for themselves.
People are hurting and want to be understood. Most people don’t actually want to try to understand people that are not like them. Be different.
This is an important book and the message is accessible to young people but also informative for adults. (As a middle school librarian, I often read the young readers’ edition of various books and so far I’ve never been let down.)
The author answers various questions about being Black in America and covers broad topics like white privilege and systemic racism while also answering specific questions about cultural appropriation and use of the n-word.
I feel like he takes a firm yet gentle tone with his readers, educating them about something that isn’t talked about much (or at least is not well-understood) by white Americans.
He issues a call to action to become allies (without assuming the role of “white saviors”) and offers ways to do so.
I think this is an important book for anyone to read, whether someone who is already interested in becoming an ally or better understanding the Black experience or for someone who questions the existence of white privilege or thinks affirmative action is unfair. If those people go into it with an open mind, I think they will gain empathy and understanding.
I’ll definitely be recommending this one and I’m glad it’s in our school library.
If you've watched his YouTube videos, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, you're familiar with Acho and the topics he chooses to talk about (if you haven't watched those videos, you'll want to). Maybe you just know Acho because of his NFL career. This book is the young adult version of his best selling book, "Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man". In it, you'll learn about things like cultural appropriation, stereotyping, and the history of blackface. From Emmitt Till to Black Wall Street, Acho tells us what we need to hear. Some parts may be uncomfortable like he says, but he tells us of things that we all need to hear, for a greater understanding. A must-read for young people of all backgrounds.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Solid NF purchase for middle school libraries by @emmanuelacho. Pairs well with STAMPED by @jasonreynolds83 and This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany M Jewell. . . . Book 13 for #30booksummer . . . “Getting uncomfortable is the whole idea. Everything great is birthed through discomfort.” . . . YA version of the adult book Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. Addresses white privileged, cultural appropriation, if reverse racism exists, etc. The conversational tone makes this book very readable. I didn’t learn anything new, but this is still a great addition for school libraries looking to be anti-racist. . . .
This was written really well in my opinion. A lot of "Uncomfortable conversations" for sure, but conversations that need to be happening. I know this version of the book is written for a younger audience and I think Emmanuel does a great job covering hard and possibly confusing topics like voter suppression, and systemic racism in general. I learned a lot and I think this book is great for all ages. I still have plans to read his original "Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man" and now I want to watch his youtube videos as well!
Every child in America needs to read this book. Parents need to read this book. Our children need to be anti racists. Have zero tolerance for racism they see. Educate them so they can speak honestly and intelligently against racism they see. Don’t walk away. Don’t be quiet. Speak out. Fight for your friends and loved ones of color. They need your help.
I loved the first version of this book but not much has changed in this update targeted toward younger readers. In some ways, this version will be easier to give to students, but it’s a rare student who actively searches for a nonfiction book exploring racism/the Black experience.
This was a really good book! I think it’s so good for younger readers to have this as well as older readers because I’ll tell you what I really learned a lot and it’s in such an easy way that I don’t feel stupid like reading it. It gives a lot of insight and facts, and what everyone can do to help end racism. I would definitely recommend this.
This is a great book to read with even middle school aged kids! Some of the concepts might be difficult to grasp for earlier/immature middle school students, but overall this is a great book to get the conversation going with kids!
Uncomfortable conversations with a black boy is a book that talks about something that is a big problem, Racism and the huge effect it has on the world today. Racism is a big thing in this society today. I think this book hits the right perspective of what people who aren't white to go through it everyday. It is a children book so I know that this book will educate kids about racism which I think is important to hopefully be able to decrease the discrimination we are surrounded with. I think it teaches to a certain extent, like if you are older you might know the basic stuff but it does teach a bit more to the fact that it hits different types of racism. The author even brings up cultural appropriation which is also a big problem today. He wanted to be an adult to bring awareness to this so that kids don't have the opportunity to talk about the subject get to. (mini spoiler)
In this interview, Acho talked openly about how this book isn't just for a certain race. He doesn't want it to only be directed for black people but in general for people who face any discrimination. He stuck with black people due to the fact they face most racism. He also stuck with it due to the fact that it was his perspective, it was his point of view since he grew up black. He wanted to tell kids it was okay to speak up no matter what race they are. He wants people to be able to rely on this book if people wanted to know a bit more about race and the discrimination that they go through. (spoiler)
A huge part in this book, it covers a ton of useful information for people who are trying to educate themselves. He brought up culture appropriation which is a big thing. Many people do this without knowing that they did it. For example, putting chop sticks in your hair and using it as a hair style ,blackface, clothing that belongs to a race or cultural is culture appropriation. A ton of people aren't aware of this but bringing awareness is good.
One minor issue i ran into with this book was that the only people he had manly targeted being racist were white people. I truly think that any race can be racist to any other race, but this book targets white people as the only racist people. They're really not. As a nonwhite girl, I have faced discrimination from multiple races, not just white. Along with many other kids that have gone through the same. I just think that was my main issue with the book. I think he targeted white people so strong that he made it sound like it is purely their fault for racism. I truly do not believe that but i do believe in the fact that white people play a huge role. Going along with this, i think he made a good point that white people have privilege. I say this because it is true, it is true that white people have privilege due to the past. I feel like everyone has always put white people on top and the fact that majority of the race is racist. I just wished he wouldn't have made the excuse that it's purely their fault.
Overall, I think it is still a good book to read. I hope more people will want to get educated on this subject and this matter. I hope as a society and our environment, we grow. We grow mature, we grow educated and we grow with care. This world is all we have. We have to start caring for each other and it starts with getting educated on important matters.
I knew nothing about the adult version of this book nor the author's popular YouTube series. A co-worker recommended this book, and I have been reading, reading, reading to educate myself, so I jumped at the chance to read this. I like the repetitive set-up of using "let's rewind," "let's get uncomfortable," and "talk it, walk it" in each chapter along with the citations in the back of the book for the historical references made in each chapter. I really like the recommended reading list, websites, and documentaries/movies as well. I think this book can spark important conversations. It didn't offer anything new for me because I've been reading quite a few books like this, but the more books on this topic, the better because one book doesn't fit all readers. We need to get the right book in the right person's hands, so bring on more titles! We learn from repetition, and the topics explored in this book need to be shared over and over again.
I am frustrated with Acho's voice. I bristled for half the book on the way he talks to young readers; it sounds like he is trying to be too cool, and for me, it comes across as talking down to his readers. I got used to it and was able to ignore this as I read more. I wonder if savvy young readers will refrain from reading the book because of this? I have read other books like this on the same important topic that approach this subject in the same manner, and that concerns me about them as well. It reminds me of Aesop's tales teaching morals through animal antics because we humans cannot handle having our foibles and flaws brought to light, so let's make a cutesy story to teach the lesson. In this case, it's the language and the author's voice in this book. I think I need to watch some of the YouTube videos in the series and read the original adult version of this book.
Regardless, this is a book that is informative, easy to read, and certainly asks us not only to think but to act as well. And it provides many suggestions for how we can act.
Thank you, oh so much, NetGalley for this ARC and now reference book for me.
I don't follow football, so when Emmanuel Acho started Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man on YouTube I came for the content rather than the name. See, Donald Trump was our president and all of a sudden, friends and family members came out as bat sh%$ crazy. What could be worse than the horror of an idiot white supremacist at the helm of our nation? A world pandemic in which said idiot claimed was no big deal.
I NEEDED Acho's episodes. And now - I have Acho's book. While I will be getting this book for the middle school library post haste, I will also be buying the "grown up" version for myself.
As members of the Trump cult are trying to get elected to our school board, the issue for them is to get rid of any critical thinking when it comes to race and American history. Through this book, Acho is my cheerleader, therapist, and teacher.
"It's not always obvious, but don't ever let anyone convince you that we are in a racism-free, or, as some folks like to say, a "post-racial America."
"An evil, oppressive past is right here with us. And it's not hiding in plain sight. It's raising its arms and saying, LOOK!"
I have a lot of thoughts on this book. First as a 40 something year old black man, the book is not for me. My company was giving this and the adult version of this book away for free, so I thought I'd check it out. I think this book might be great for a teenaged white person as a primer on what race is really means in America.
There are some weird inaccuracies in the book, like he mentions James Baldwin as growing up in the south. I'm not even from NY, but that's a Harlem kid! I didn't spot any other glaring mistakes but that's a big one for me. It calls into question some of the other facts and history he brings up here. At least a little bit.
Overall I think he does a good job here at breaking things down about race and the book could really spark some new thoughts for some. My daughter has seen me reading this and is interested in reading it next, I'll be curious what she thinks.
Overall, I really liked this book, but I was a bit shocked by the allies chapter. Telling kids that they need to be ready to possibly die in order to be a true ally to end racism was a bit much for me. All the ally examples the author gave ended in tragedy. I know this is a book about uncomfortable conversations, but there also needs to be hope for the future. There must be a positive ally story out there for Acho to share to mix with the scary possiblity of death.
I also wish the publisher put Acho's notes section before the acknowledgements. As a nerdy librarian, I love reading author acknowledgements so I continued flipping pages when the book ended, but I feel kids would stop reading and miss out on some important knowledge in the note section.
This title is a must have for our middle school and high school libraries’ anti racist collections. Acho’s book is highly accessible and well organized. His writing is straightforward and honest. He includes enough history with references for further reading. He has obviously done his homework. This would make an excellent book club book with plenty to discuss and action steps to take to make change happen. I highly recommend this book. With Acho’s NFL background this title may appeal to some unlikely readers which is definitely a plus. Be sure to check out the back matter.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the chance to read this arc in exchange for an honest review.
I already read Emmanuel Acho’s Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man a few months ago with friends and really enjoyed it and learned a lot. I listened to this audio book with my 13 year old. It is the same concepts but geared toward teens and tweens.
Acho does a great job of breaking down a lot of issues regarding race that sometimes white people are uncomfortable to ask. It is a great read.
READ. THIS. BOOK. This book is great for young readers (or any age of reader) to understand racism. Emmanuel Acho is really great at explaining these hard subjects and I now understand topics like cultural appropriation, is there reverse racism, implicit biases etc. This book is a must read and I think everyone should read it or watch Emmanuel Acho’s series “uncomfortable conversations with a black man”. Love this book and you should definitely read it!
So timely and perfect. Emmanuel Acho is eloquent in his delivery as he discusses the various forms of racism, and the history of racism, in an easy-to-understand format. He challenges his young readers to be part of the solution and gives them concrete ways to combat racism in their communities. Let's get uncomfortable to find the path to positive change.
This honest review is in exchange for an ARC from NetGalley. Acho gets right to the point with young adults. I'd encourage white parents of teenagers to read it with their kids and begin taking action. The "Talk It, Walk It" sections in each chapter gives readers actionable steps. The book is written honestly and appropriately for young adults.
Highly recommend! I am not the target audience for this book… Young white children who are ready or curious about becoming allies should read this book. Black children that want to know some more about out history, should read this book. It was very well done and definitely made me put it on my wish list to bring to school!
A very important read that breaks down racism and issues facing POCs. This book breaks down a lot of concepts for younger readers, while also sharing important anecdotes regarding how white privilege, politics, and government police and make black lives much more challenging. It also offers solutions and how to be a good ally.