cover image So You Want to Talk About Race

So You Want to Talk About Race

Ijeoma Oluo. Seal, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-1-58005-677-9

Oluo, an editor at large at the Establishment, assesses the racial landscape of contemporary America in thoughtful essays geared toward facilitating difficult conversations about race. Drawing on her perspective as a black woman raised by a white mother, she shows how race is so interwoven into America’s social, political, and economic systems that it is hard for most people, even Oluo’s well-intentioned mother, to see when they are being oblivious to racism. Oluo gives readers general advice for better dialogue, such as not getting defensive, stating their intentions, and staying on topic. She addresses a range of tough issues—police brutality, the n word, affirmative action, microaggressions—and offers ways to discuss them while acknowledging that they’re a problem. For example, Oluo writes that the common phrase “check your privilege” is an ineffective weapon for winning an argument, as few people really understand the concept of privilege, which is integral to many of the issues of race in America. She concludes by urging people of all colors to fear unexamined racism, instead of fearing the person “who bring[s] that oppression to light.” She’s insightful and trenchant but not preachy, and her advice is valid. For some it may be eye-opening. It’s a topical book in a time when racial tensions are on the rise. [em](Jan.) [/em]