So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo (Book Review)
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The Race Talk
Ijeoma Oluo is really good at finding nuanced ways of talking about hard subjects. My introduction to her writing was through her interview with Rachel Dolezal for the Stranger. While Dolezal made us all roll our eyes about race relations, Oluo did well to paint Dolezal as the confused, opportunist that she was. This was not the race conversations we should be having. And so I find it only fitting that a year later, Oluo released a book that would start the kind of race conversations we all needed.
So You Want To Talk About Race is a hybrid memoir and guidebook for discussing some of the toughest topics here in the U.S. Oluo uses her history and background to insert common racial topics onto her life, showing how the missteps of the majority population create a challenging world for people with Brown skin. Written to and for non-People of Color, So You Want To Talk About Race cuts to the heart of why this subject is so difficult.
The title alone may make you hesitant, but this is one of the best books I've read all year. Oluo is clear and concise, with no room for error or misinterpretation. Each chapter is comprehensive but doesn't overload the reader. The book is free of judgment because the goal is for people to take responsibly for their actions, not to place blame.
She speaks on an array of topics from hair politics to the school-to-prison pipeline. She uses common examples to show that we have all been quick to take up the mantle of White Supremacy, regardless of race, and that we will have to work harder to put it down. I read the book in order, but chapters can be read independently and have clear action steps you can take for each issue.
Her chapter titled "What's the model minority myth?' helped me see my faults in understanding the Asian American and Pacific Islander populations. That was a blind spot for me and I'm grateful for the addition. This is what I mean by we all carry White Supremacy around- I do as well, and Oluo's book gave me the language to talk about it.
I enjoyed the book immensely. Except for maybe the fact that I had to check it out a few times and from different LA libraries because the three weeks they give you wasn't enough, I found no faults. This will be a future purchase to have in my home. If you get this as a gift, it's because you're loved.
As someone who has also experienced a lot of what she talks about, I felt I could hand this book out to people on the street and finally feel seen. I think everyone should read this book, regardless of where you are personally with race or race relations. Regardless of racial background, this book gives so much and should be on reading lists for parents, teachers, co-workers, you name it. This is one of those books I can't stop talking about.
Race conversations are HARD. But Ijeoma Oluo is making it so you can have that talk in more productive ways.
I want to hear your thoughts! Have you read Ijeoma Oluo's book? Is it on your reading list?