I usually do several book reviews in one post but most recently I got the privilege of reading a book so special it deserved its own post.
So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo.
It’s probably worth mentioning, I would likely have never picked this book to read for myself. There is so much drama in the world right now, and I usually read a book to escape or learn…
But I learned SO MUCH from this book!
Since this is a book I most likely wouldn’t have picked up if it wasn’t for my awesome book club, Titles and Tangents, I’d be willing to bet that a lot of you would not either and that is why I wanted to write this post. Not to get you to buy the book, (but that would be awesome if you did,) but at the very least I want you to be exposed to what I learned.
We are all privileged and if you really take a look at yourself you can do something powerful with that and make it a positive. What I like about this book is it doesn’t just tell the readers how and why we are privileged but actually give us something to do with it.
Step 1: Write down some of the ways you are privileged.
- I was born and I live in America.
- My skin color is white.
- I’m employed and have a good job.
- I have a car and can drive to work.
- I can attend PTA and Parent Meetings at my kids’ schools.
- I am happily married to a good partner.
- My family has money and access to buy clean water and healthy foods.
Maybe your list looks different, maybe you feel safe running at night, or live in a good neighborhood, have a great group of friends, own your own home, know several languages, or are getting a college degree. No matter who you are we all have some advantage that we can leverage. Be honest with yourself and see how you are benefiting. Even a gay black woman who wrote this book recognized how she was also privileged.
All this said, I want to call out that this book just doesn’t talk about race, how we are privileged, what we are doing wrong, but also gives actionable things we can all do to make things better for everyone.
It is no longer just OK to ‘not be a racist’ but we need to be an ally, we need to be aware of the intersectionality we are placed in and use our privilege to benefit others.
Q: How can we do this?
At the PTA meeting and at school ask what the school is doing to around the school to prison pipeline? What their discipline procedures are? What is the school rate of expulsion for black, brown, and minority students? What is the school’s racial achievement gap and what is their plan to remediate it? As an ally and a white woman, I need to be asking these questions when I have the opportunity to be at the table as others might not have this privilege.
Step 2: Now take that list and make it actionable so you can be the ally to others who do not have this on their list.
To give you an example this is what mine looks like.
- I was born and I live in America. So I can advocate for laws that help others who are not born in America have a good life here.
- My skin color is white. So I am treated differently. I should use this to give others a voice and help elevate the issues around minorities that others might not be listening to.
- I’m employed and have a good job. I can use that to help others get a job, network, open doors, and help them gain employment opportunities.
- I can attend PTA and Parent Meetings at my kids’ schools. When I am there I can advocate for rules and regulations that support parents who can’t be there. I can suggest the meeting times be offered on different days or times so others can have the option to attend.
- My family has money and access to buy clean water and healthy foods. I can buy snacks for the class, make food for others, and share to help people and families who can’t afford healthy foods.
Step 3: Educate yourself, listen, and be a true ally.
I get it, you aren’t a racist so why would you read this book. Because no matter who you are you don’t know the whole story. No one really does. So we all need to educate ourselves, listen without judgment, and be an ally to our fellow humans.
I’m not doing anything wrong, what more can I do?
It is almost Halloween and I’ve been there. I wanted to wear the sari I got in India for a wedding I attended. It’s beautiful and I love the culture and wanted to use it again. Thankfully a friend clued me in.
NO, it is not OK to dress up as a Mexican, African, Indian, or anything that is not what your culture is from and have the DNA in your blood. I know it is hard to think why your love for this culture is different and how you are not making fun of it but rather embracing it. I too have been there. The truth is you and your people did not suffer, you do not have stories in your family that make you cry about how they got treated. If you are not part of the hurt then you have no right to be part of the celebration. I see this now and I am happy Ijeoma mentions this in her book.
This is just a slice of what I found in the book and really hope you take the time to read it or listen to it. Educate, listen, and remember to think beyond yourself and how not being an ally is really just feeding the problem. It’s time for everyone to do more.
How are you doing more? Share in the comments and let’s be an ally. * L