So You Want to Talk About Race

Title: So You Want to Talk About Race

Author: Ijeoma Oluo

Overview: A powerful book that bring together many disparate ideas into a coherent narrative


  • Racial oppression is a broad and cumulative force, it is not a system that puts all its eggs in one basket. And racial oppression will interact with many other privileges and disadvantages to produce a myriad of effects.
  • just because something is about race, doesn’t mean it’s only about race. This also means that just because something is about race, doesn’t mean that white people can’t be similarly impacted by it and it doesn’t mean that the experience of white people negatively impacted is invalidated by acknowledging that people of color are disproportionately impacted. 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.
  • Racism is any prejudice against someone because of their race, when those views are reinforced by systems of power.
  • We have to remember that racism was designed to support an economic and social system for those at the very top. This was never motivated by hatred of people of color, and the goal was never in and of itself simply the subjugation of people of color. The ultimate goal of racism was the profit and comfort of the white race, specifically, of rich white men.
  • Racial oppression should always be an emotional topic to discuss. It should always be anger-inducing. As long as racism exists to ruin the lives of countless people of color, it should be something that upsets us. But it upsets us because it exists, not because we talk about it.
  • The definition of privilege is in reality much simpler than a lot of social justice discussions would have you believe. Privilege, in the social justice context, is an advantage or a set of advantages that you have that others do not.
  • 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. When the average black American has one-thirteenth the net worth and the average Hispanic American has one-tenth the net worth of the average white American,10 and when the poverty rate among Native Americans is over three times that of whites,11 it is a strong bet that neighborhoods of color are more likely to be poor neighborhoods with higher crime and that higher-priced neighborhoods with easier access to jobs and more funding for education that lead to less crime would be more likely to be populated by comparatively wealthier white people.
  • People of color are not asking white people to believe their experiences so that they will fear the police as much as people of color do. They are asking because they want white people to join them in demanding their right to be able to trust the police like white people do.
  • A study by the University of Washington shows that enrollment of minority students drops 23 percent when schools enact an affirmative action ban.[6]
  • When you say that a representational number of women or people of color cuts out more deserving white men, you are saying that women and people of color deserve to be less represented in our schools and our companies and that white men are deserving of an over-representational majority of these spots. We see the disparities in jobs and education among race and gender lines. Either you believe these disparities exist because you believe that people of color and women are less intelligent, less hard working, and less talented than white men, or you believe that there are systemic issues keeping women and people of color from being hired into jobs, promoted, paid a fair wage, and accepted into college.
  • The argument against affirmative action that holds the most water for me is that when affirmative action is viewed as “enough” it can be detrimental to the fight for racial justice. We must never forget that without systemic change and without efforts to battle the myriad of ways in which systemic racism impacts people of color of all classes, backgrounds, and abilities, our efforts at ending systemic racial oppression will fail. We must refuse to be placated by measures that only serve a select few—and affirmative action does only serve a select few.
  • OUR PUBLIC-SCHOOL SYSTEM SEES BLACK AND BROWN children as violent, disruptive, unpredictable future criminals.
  • Psychologists attest that overly harsh discipline destroys children’s trust in teachers and schools, along with damaging their self-esteem.2 Students suspended from school are more likely to have to repeat that entire year, or they may choose to drop out entirely. Students arrested at school are more likely to be arrested again in the future.
  • School Resource Officers (SROs). These officers have become an easy way for schools to delegate their disciplinary responsibilities to a criminal justice system that has already shown quantifiable racial bias. Data shows that, when controlling for poverty, schools with SROs have nearly five times the amount of in-school arrests as schools without SROs.
  • you should be asking your schools what their disciplinary procedures are, what the rate of suspension and expulsion for black and Latinx students is, and what the racial “achievement gap” for their school is and what they plan to do about it.
  • they err in conflating appreciation with appropriation. Appreciation should benefit all cultures involved, and true appreciation does. But appropriation, more often than not, disproportionately benefits the dominant culture that is borrowing from marginalized cultures, and can even harm marginalized cultures.
  • Cultural appropriation is the product of a society that only respects culture cloaked in whiteness.
  • The inability to predict where and when a microaggression may occur leads to hypervigilance, which can then lead to anxiety disorders and depression. Studies have shown that people subjected to higher levels of microaggressions are more likely to exhibit the mental and physical symptoms of depression.[1]
  • It is our role not to shape the future, but to not fuck things up so badly that our kids will be too busy correcting the past to focus on the future. It is our job to be confused and dismayed by the future generation, and trust that if we would just stop trying to control them and instead support them, they will eventually find their way.
  • But here’s the thing: Martin Luther King was not the “MLK” of his time, not the “MLK” of legend. Martin Luther King was public enemy number one. Seen as an even greater threat by our government, and a large portion of society, than Malcolm X was. Because what Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X fought for was the same: freedom from oppression.
  • Do you believe in justice and equality? Because if you believe in justice and equality you believe in it all of the time, for all people. You believe in it for newborn babies, you believe in it for single mothers, you believe in it for kids in the street, you believe in justice and equality for people you like and people you don’t. You believe in it for people who don’t say please. And if there was anything I could say or do that would convince someone that I or people like me don’t deserve justice or equality, then they never believed in justice and equality in the first place.
  • Give money to organizations working to fight racial oppression and support communities of color. There are groups out there fighting every day for people of color. They are running after-school programs, giving legal advice, providing job training, providing medical services, fighting school discrimination, and so much more. And this all costs money. Give what you can to groups like the ACLU, SPLC, Planned Parenthood, NAACP, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Council of La Raza, Native American Rights Fund, Native American Disability Law Center, Asian Americans Advancing Justice