Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Review: So You Want to Talk About Race

So You Want to Talk About Race So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'll continue discussing this book with a group in Instagram through the end of the month but I went ahead and finished listening to it. The author has as her audience people who have confronted: the fact that there is both individual and systemic racism, that they themselves are probably sometimes racist or beneficiaries of racism, and are wanting to improve on their knowledge, yes, but more importantly their ability to talk about it more openly. It is a combination of background and contextual information on various topics and then strategies for dealing with difficult conversations about them.

Chapters are specific to subtopics and the entire book is USA-centric. The basic ideas and strategies are applicable to everyone but I think the nuance is focused on American history and context (except one memorable run-in with a Canadian internet troll.) It was published in 2018 so there are a few topics that have changed some since she wrote it - Oluo states, for example, that blatant racism is only found on the sidelines. If only. She also mentions that an Asian American has never held high office and that is no longer the case! I would not let these tiny changes interfere with the usefulness of the book.

For me personally, the topics that kept me thinking most included privilege (the conversation tips for this one were very helpful,) police brutality (a deepening of understanding it from another perspective,) micro-aggressions especially in the workplace, and picking and choosing who gets to be involved in anti-racism.

A few books this connects to -

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (love or hate DiAngelo, I think this book is often read prior to the Oluo, so many are reading it in pairs. Please don't stop there. And if you haven't read WF, it might be useful for better identifying ways white people refuse to acknowledge their privilege. I would pair it most directly with Oluo's privilege chapter.)
Just Us: An American Conversation - Claudia Rankine demonstrates some of her own tough conversations around race, most directly connected to Oluo's chapters on microaggressions and affirmative action.
Between the World and Me - because Oluo's mother is white, there are some conversations the author relates that made me think of this book, although of course Coates has his own lived experiences to pass down and a broader historical context than Oluo's mother did.
My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Mending of Our Bodies and Hearts - I'd connect Menakem's work to a lot of this but it comes from a completely different perspective. He is working inside the communities of color to move towards healing; Oluo is helping people outside the communities understand that trauma exists in the first place. But wouldn't it be nice for more people to develop empathy and humility about these differences in experience.

Also I haven't read all the books, nor do I feel even close to having all the knowledge. Some books I want to read soon that speak more specifically about the Black American experience include:
Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019
A Black Women's History of the United States

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