Book: So you want to talk about race
I’m continuing my weekend reading goal of a book on racial equity. Last week was Kingonomics: Twelve Innovative Currencies for Transforming Your Business and Life Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Rodney Sampson who I’m partnering with on the #RacialEquityEcosystemPledge.
Yesterday I read Ijeoma Oluo’s So you want to talk about race. It was excellent.
My goal with reading these books is to bring a beginners mind to racial equity, allow myself to feel uncomfortable while reading, and let the impact of what I read over the summer accumulate, with a hope that I can personally eliminate many of my unconscious biases, unhelpful behavior, while unlearning (or challenging my own) perspectives that I’ve built up over my 54 years as a White person in America.
Several of my Black friends recommended Ijeoma’s book as one that I should read early on. As book #3 on my weekend reading, I’m glad I put this at the front of the list. It has 17 chapters – each which answers a very specific question about race. Following is the list.
- Is it really about race?
- What is racism?
- What if I talk about race wrong?
- Why am I always being told to “check my privilege?”
- What is intersectionality and why do I need it?
- Is police brutality really about race?
- How can I talk about affirmative action?
- What is the school-to-prison pipeline?
- What can’t I say the “N” word?
- What is cultural appropriation?
- Why can’t I touch your hair?
- What are microaggressions?
- Why are our students so angry?
- What is the model minority myth?
- But what if I hate Al Sharpton?
- I just got called racist, what do I do now?
- Talking is great, but what else can I do?
A day after George Floyd was murdered, I called a Black friend and asked, “what are two things you are involved in that I can immediately support with time and money.”
He had a response that I then heard echoed in slightly different ways in several conversations. The composite is below:
Thank you so much for approaching things this way. I’m so tired of explaining to White people what I’m going through, what I go through every day, and why so many things in America are horrible when you aren’t White. It’s not my responsibility to do that anymore, and I’m glad you are trying to get involved, rather than ask me to explain what’s going on.
Ijeoma’s book was extremely clear and enlightening on all of these questions. Near the end, there was a paragraph in the chapter “Talking is great, but what else can I do?” that really hit home.
“Talk. Please talk and talk and talk some more. But also act. Act now, because people are dying now in this unjust system. How many lives have been ground by racial prejudice and hate? How many opportunities have we already lost? Act and talk and learn and fuck up and learn some more and act again and do better. We have to do this all at once. We have to learn and fight at the same time. Because people have been waiting far too long for their chance to live as equals in this society.“
I strongly recommend Ijeoma Oluo’s So you want to talk about race.