I read So You Want to Talk About Race (Amazon) after seeing my friend Jill tweet about it. As a white European, whilst I care about intersectionality and try to educate myself, I know there’s a lot I don’t know, and going deeper on this topic seemed like a good next step after reading Whipping Girl.
The book opens with this paragraph, which captures so much.
“But a centuries-old system of oppression and brutality is not an easy fix, and maybe we shouldn’t be looking for ways reads. I hope that if parts of this book make you uncomfortable, you can sit with that discomfort for a while, to see if it has anything else to offer you.”
It’s not an easy read, because it’s full of injustice. Stories from Oluo’s personal experience, then contextualized with data – everything situated in the broader picture. It’s not an easy read, but it is extremely readable – I made my way through it in maybe a week.
It’s hard to pull out highlights but for me two were the chapter on intersectionality and tone policing. The chapter on intersectionality was widely applicable and generally the best and most thorough explanation of what it is and why it’s important I have encountered. The chapter on tone policing really captured why it is such an enticing derailing tactic for people who – like that opening quote – are unable to sit with their discomfort.
Finally, I appreciated how she made a clear differentiation between systematic and individual discrimination – how the need to critique each incident and determine
racist: y/n distracts from the broader picture that is well founded on data. It can be hard to accept that intentions don’t matter – we see this everywhere when it comes to social justice – but perhaps the fact that intentions are meaningless in the face of systematic inequity is easier to accept, and that will encourage people to apologise, and push towards more meaningful change.
Like Jill, I think it’s a must read.