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review 2018-10-30 02:34
So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo
So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo

Really I don't have any interest in talking about race. What I want is to be a better human in a way that is helpful to other human beings. Oluo is someone I follow on Twitter. Her writing is wonderfully clear and straightforward and also surprisingly kind.  But so practical! Mostly I try to avoid ever talking to anyone about anything, but this book lays out for me concrete times and places and ways to use my privilege to benefit others. Surprisingly kind because withstanding a lifetime of abuse by society should enrage everyone. Our culture is cruel and dehumanizing and grossly unfair, and some days it is all I can do not to run screaming. This is what we have made and it is awful and cruel and murderous. It is prejudiced and short sighted and stupid and it is only the astounding grace and kindness of individuals in the worst moments that make it worthwhile.

I want to make life easier and better and more just for everyone and I thank Oluo for taking the time to share her wisdom and determination and to encourage me forward in the light. Right now feels very dark, so I am grateful to all those who can show me a way forward and give me hope not just that we can do better, but that we will rise up and choose to do better. Sometimes just looking after those closest to me is all I can manage and not even do that well. But more often I can listen, and learn, and witness, and maybe, just a little more, I can speak. And remember, every day that humankind is my business.


Library copy

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review 2018-06-06 21:35
So You Want to Talk About Race
So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo

This book needs handed out in social studies courses in high school. Oluo packs so much in this book that I really do think is a good guide for people who have questions about race. She delves into all kinds of topics and I was here for them. Sometimes the writing gets a bit technical, but I think that a lot of pre-teens and above would do very well with reading this and having an honest conversation about race afterwards.


As one of my friend's laments, "The reason why the United States still has a huge problem with racism is that no one wants to be honest about it. Everyone wants to pretend that racism died when the North won the Civil War, and it didn't." Then she usually goes into a rant about how she almost got into a fight with someone who tried to explain to her how reverse racism is a thing (it freaking is not).


Oulo breaks this book into 17 sections after her introduction. In each section she goes into some personal history and I wanted to read even more about her family and her experiences. I do follow her on Twitter, but have managed to not come across like a crazy fan. I just love reading her stuff. If you have time, check out her articles. One of her articles on Rachel Dolezal or whatever name she is going by now was a very insightful read. 


I am going to list out the chapters that I loved the best, everything that is not mentioned does not mean that I didn't enjoy it, I just loved these topics the most while reading.


Chapter One: "Is it really about race?"-I love that Oluo breaks it down for people that seem to think that a Utopia United States that would fully embrace socialism will somehow make racism go away is not a thing. It drives me up the wall when people don't seem to get that.


We have a class system in the United States that Oluo points out which is oppressive and violent and harms a lot of people of all races and it should be addressed and torn down, but that class system getting torn down doesn't mean that everything will magically become better.


Oluo brings up labor movements and others which often pushed POC's issues to the back burner as something that would eventually get addressed. This is why I personally still keep struggling with the #metoo movement. It's not an intersectional movement. 


Chapter Three: "What if I talk about race wrong?"-I loved this one because Oluo brings up a conversation with her mother and I maybe sprayed water all over. I won't spoil it for you, but it's hilarious. But she does show a perfect example on how some allies out there need to listen a lot more instead of trying to tell people about their experiences.


I personally get annoyed when I go to a party and I have some random person ask me so what do you think about race in this country? I seriously have had that happen a lot to me. I am not the sole voice in the African American community. Also stop doing that to people.


Oluo goes into a lot of examples to show how to talk about race without forcing a POC to be on the defensive and or having to educate you while in the middle of a conversation.


Chapter Five: "What is intersectionality and why do I need it?"- Oluo goes into Hoteps (shaking my head) and the importance of intersectionality and how people can be more thoughtful in ensuring that if you are having discussions about race how to increase the intersectionality in any discussions that you hold. 


Chapter Six: "Is police brutality really about race?"-Oluo provides readers with a story about how she when she got pulled over in 2015, she Tweeted about it. I don't do that because I am honestly too scared to move if I get pulled over. I was taught to keep hands on the wheel, make sure that you ask for permission to move, when moving still explain what you are doing, and be respectful and keep your eyes lowered. It's like being around a rabid dog that you are afraid is going to bite you. And this is coming from a POC that is friends with a ton of police officers and others in law enforcement. I have a different reality from my friends who are white. I have been in the cars with them when they have mouthed off to cops and in one case flipped the guy off when he was walking back to his patrol car. My only thought was, please don't let me get killed cause of this idiot here!


Oluo breaks down the history behind police forces, and how they started off as Night Patrols who had the principal task of controlling black and Native American populations in England and Slave Patrols who had the principal task of catching escaped black slaves. She then segues into post-Reconstruction America and how the Jim Crow era morphed the police force into something else. 


Chapter Seven: "How Can I Talk About Affirmative Action?"-Such a good chapter. I loved it. My heart also break for Oluo and the coworker that she mentions. I think every POC has a story out there like these.


Chapter Nine: "Why Can't I say the N word?"-Cause you freaking cannot. Enough said. Seriously though Oluo provides again a personal story about being called the N word and how it made her feel. And also explaining why it's not okay to say the word if you are not black. 


And last, but not least.


"Chapter Eleven: "Why Can't I Touch Your Hair"-Please stop touching people without permission. Oluo goes into her own personal history about her hair and about people who think that just cause they saw Chris Rock's "Good Hair" they are now the end all be all of knowing what black men and women deal with with regards to their hair. I personally relax my hair because that's my choice. Shoot, I want to have natural hair, but my hair dresser has point blank said, girl your hair grows too fast and is too thick. Have at it and God bless. LOL. I just don't have the patience for it. I do love black women's hairstyles. I love it when it's natural, relaxed, braided, etc. Do you know how much I loved Black Panther for showcasing women with their hair in all kinds of ways? I loved it a lot. 


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text 2018-06-06 16:54
Reading progress update: I've read 256 out of 256 pages.
So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo

Wow. I took my time with this one because it was so good! I thought that Oluo's way of breaking down different topics about race (microagressions, touching people of color's hair, affirmative action, etc.) was done very well. Even though I am a WOC this still gave me food for thought and once again it's great reading a book showing I am not alone out there with regards to incidents that have happened to me in my personal and professional life.


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text 2018-06-04 16:41
Reading progress update: I've read 107 out of 256 pages.
So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo

I am really liking this. Not going to lie, I thought this would mostly be Oluo's describing events that have happened to her. Instead she is breaking down how people can sit down and actually talk about race. 


With her providing a definition of racism (that I liked) racism is any prejudice against someone because of their race, when those views are reinforced by systems of power. Her telling you what it means to check your privilege and how many African Americans may not realize that they have certain privileges that they probably have not thought about it depending on if they grew up in a two parent family, moderately well off, and are straight. 


Right now I am in the section discussing affirmative action. I have my own story about that one. At my last job (I do not miss it) I had to share an office with two peers. It was a PITA and I never had any privacy. But, sharing an office allowed me to see that the one office mate was racist. Yeah, who knew. We grew up in the same state (PA) and he at first seemed like most of the guys I grew up with. But he got really nasty anytime I was complimented at work and hated the fact I was so well thought of. When he found out that I got to go to grad school (he only had a BA) for free he started screeching about how I only got to go to school due to affirmative action. Mind you, this asshat had no idea that I was on the honor roll from the time I was in middle school up. That I was on the dean's list every semester but one (yeah I partied during my first semester). He could not conceive of a world where I a black woman who was younger than him could have gone to grad school where he only had gone to undergrad. Mind you he went to undergrad on an athletic scholarship, but that was okay.


You may not know, but right now there is another lawsuit going around saying that Asian Americans are being discriminated against due to affirmative action (i.e. letting the blacks in) that every time I think about it, just pisses me off even more. 


"The leader of Students for Fair Admissions and the architect of the case against Harvard is Edward Blum, a longtime crusader against affirmative action who has recruited plaintiffs, hired sympathetic lawyers and raised millions of dollars from conservative groups to challenge voting rights laws and affirmative action policies, often successfully."

Yeah I think he's garbage. 

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review 2018-03-08 23:53
So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo
So You Want to Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo

I debated whether to give this a full five stars, mostly since I rarely give books five stars, but I really don't have anything to criticize here (other than a minor disagreement about a single comma) and I did really enjoy my read. I wasn't always perfectly comfortable, admittedly, but I think it was direct and well-written while possessing a lively tone.


The content isn't exactly new but it's a good resource that walks you through a lot of the arguments and provides strategies for talking about race. I do feel that the more familiar people are with arguments and talking points, the easier it is to speak up when appropriate. Let's hope I can manage to do more of that.


I would like to share a particular passage from the chapter on microaggressions since it reminded me of an argument I had once about whether the younger generations are too sensitive about "politically correct" topics.

"I would like to say that his is when I stopped caring what other people think, that this was when I stopped trying to fit in. But I was a fifteen-year old girl, and I was lonely. So I kept trying. I kept trying to make friends and build community and every time I thought I'd made progress, someone would deflate all of the air out of my dream.


But as painful as it was, I didn't know that it was wrong. I didn't know that I wasn't supposed to be treated this way. I was pretty sure I was the problem. Because nobody came to my defense, hell, nobody batted an eye when these things were said to me. They weren't a big deal, just small comments, little jokes. I shouldn't be so sensitive. It was all in my head. If I just found a way to have less things wrong with me, these bothersome comments would stop. So I smiled less, at less, laughed less, and spoke in a whisper."

I really empathized with that heartbreaking passage. The little things over time hurt. They have psychological impact. Why would you want to write off that kind of hurt as over-sensitivity? You shouldn't! I can only assume that the people making this argument don't understand that it's the accumulation of all the little comments because they've never paid attention to them and so they've never noticed how many there are. We all need to do better.


This book is focused on racism in the US, so not everything is the same where I live, but we're not immune from racism here either. We always seem to like to think that these things are better in Canada, but a black coworker of mine once admitted that he shaved his braids off in his 20s because he felt it was holding him back from landing a job. That was a few years ago, but not all that many.


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