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  • Writer's pictureNoa Bakker

So You Want To Talk About Race - Ijeoma Oluo

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

Let’s face the truth: racism still plays a very active role in daily life, even if we don’t want it to. Of course, things have changed since Martin Luther King marched on Washington, but we still haven’t defeated this big problem in our society. After George Floyd’s last words took over the entire world and sparked many protests all around the globe, I started thinking about the society we live in. People always say that the Netherlands is a tolerant and open country; there’s often said that racism is a big issue in America, but that we, in the Netherlands, don’t face it the same way. Whenever people say this, I think back to elementary school. When it’s somebody's birthday, it’s a ‘tradition’ to sing birthday songs to that student in a lot of different languages. After a while, the class would start singing the ‘Chinese’ version of Happy Birthday; a made-up song that was supposed to sound Chinese, and while singing it, all the kids squeezed their eyes together to ‘look Chinese’. Even though this might sound innocent to some, it’s really not.

Just like many others, I decided to educate myself more on racism and what role it plays in our daily life, following George Floyd’s death. I decided to read this book I heard about, called ‘So You Want To Talk About Race’. I’d heard many great things about it, and when I purchased it I saw the words ‘The New York Times Bestseller’ on top. This always makes me hesitant, because I’m the type of reader that then wants to be proven that it’s actually bestseller worthy.

After reading it, I totally understood why this book is a bestseller. The author, Ijeoma Oluo, dives into every aspect of racism in modern times. She’s unapologetic and determined to start the conversation. The book is written in a way that it feels like Oluo is directly talking to the reader, which can be confronting at times. She tells it like it is: if you, as a white person, mess up, even though it wasn’t your intention to be a racist, you still messed up. Intentions aren’t everything and they are certainly not going to erase racism.

The purpose of the book, as the title might suggest, is to educate (white) readers about race and starting a conversation about how racism affects every aspect of life. She shares personal experiences; from the times when her co-workers randomly touched her hair without asking ‘because it looks so soft’, to the moment where a girl from her high school said she could not wear red lipstick ‘because with her big lips, it would make her look like a clown’. A lot of her experiences are painful to read, but: they are her reality.

I would most definitely recommend this book to whoever wants to get educated about race and racism and how it affects daily life. It’s an approachable book, even though it’s confronting at times. Besides that, it’s easy to read and really does feel like an eye-opener to things you might have never considered before. The only thing that would make it even better for me, would be if other perspectives would be included. Even though I believe every word Oluo says, I think the book would be even better if she would elaborate on stories from people that face the same issues as her. Altogether, I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Title: So You Want To Talk About Race

Author: Ijeoma Oluo

Year: 2018

Publisher: Basic Books

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ (4 out of 5)

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