Read It: So You Want to Talk About Race

June 06, 2021

So you're starting your journey towards anti-racism, or you've been on your journey for a while now and want to take a step in a different direction because you've just been walking around in circles. Ijeoma Oluo's So you want to talk about race is an excellent place to start.

Pulling stories from her own life, and providing the reader with an anchor with which to understand the information that she provides next, Oluo gives readers a good understanding of how racism affects people in the now, not just the past. 

It is a book that can be read over and over again and you will find something new every time, because where you are walking on your path of anti-racism, and what you have learned so far, will help you understand or make you see things that you might not have seen the first time you read the book.

The part that has stuck with me, and that I think about regularly, since my first read through, is about privilege. Not specifically white privilege, but privilege in general, because there are a lot of people out there that have certain privileges that have helped them get where they are. " [simply] an advantage or a set of advantages that you have that others do not...we must understand the full impact of these advantages and disadvantages in order to move toward real change in our society and ourselves." (p.59-60)

For example, I grew up middle class in a house with both my parents. There was always food on the table, I had clothes to wear, and I was provided with the opportunity to pursue a secondary education. I don't have a disability, and, until recently, I thought I grew up neurotypical. I will also never deny that my physical appearance has given me an enormous advantage, but you can see from my list that there were no roadblocks in my way to prevent myself from building a good life, especially as I have got older.

I think about the questions that Oluo presented in the book all the time, and use them to remind myself that not everyone has had the same starting point in life that I was fortunate to have. This is the biggest piece that has pushed me in a different direction on my journey because I was one of those people walking around in circles that I mentioned earlier. 

I know that there will be something else that sticks out the next time that I read the book, and I have been eager to read more perspectives, and more voices since picking up So you want to talk about race. This book was my diving board, and I, for one, am looking forward to going for a long swim.

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