A review by demottar
So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo


Ijeoma Oluo's examination of the American racial situation is clearly, passionately, and convincingly laid out. Half-memoir, half-call-to-action, this book was painful, but so important for me to read. It does, like so many anti-racism sources I'm finding right now, require deep introspection for me to get anywhere near a truthful view of myself and what my actions are going to be moving forward.

Oluo's direct, simple language both moved me and condemned many of the unconscious biases in my own thinking that I'm working to route out and abolish.

Some powerful quotes that struck me:

"[Racism] upsets us because it exists, not because we are talking about it."

"When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else's oppression, we'll find our opportunities to make real change."

"Disadvantaged white people are not erased by discussions of disadvantages facing people of color, just as brain cancer is not erased by talking about breast cancer. They are two different issues with two different treatments, and they require two different conversations."

"If you are a white person in this situation, do not think that just because you may not be aware of your racial identity at the time that you did not bring race to your experience of the situation as well. We are all products of a racialized society, and it affects everything we bring to our interactions."

"The experience of white communities with police is real, and the experience of communities of color with police is real - but they are far from the same. And while it is important to recognize these different viewpoints, we must remember this: If you do trust and value your police force, and you also believe in justice and equality for people of color, you will not see the lack of trust on behalf of communities of color as simply a difference of opinion. You will instead expect your police force to earn the respect and trust of communities of color by providing them with the same level of service that you enjoy."

"Your intentions have little to no impact on the way in which your actions may have harmed others. Do not try to absolve yourself of responsibility with your good intentions. The fact that you hurt someone doesn't mean that you are a horrible person, but the fact that you meant well doesn't absolve you of guilt."

"I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that there is higher crime in some cities where larger minority populations live. Yes, black men are more likely to commit a violent offense than white men. . . . Crime is a problem within communities. And communities with higher poverty, fewer jobs, and less infrastructure are going to have higher crime, regardless of race."

"Often, being a person of color in white-dominated society is like being in an abusive relationship with the world. Every day is a new little hurt, a new little dehumanization. We walk around flinching, still in pain from the last hurt and dreading the next. But when we say 'this is hurting us' a spotlight is shown on the freshest hurt, the bruise just forming: 'Look at how small it is, and I'm sure there is a good reason for it. Why are you making such a big deal about it? Everyone gets hurt from time to time' - while the world ignores that the rest of our bodies are covered in scars. But racial oppression is even harder to see than the abuse of a loved one, because the abuser is not one person, the abuser is the world around you, and the person inflicting pain in an individual instance may themselves have the best of intentions."