So You Want to Talk About Race Book Summary - So You Want to Talk About Race Book explained in key points
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So You Want to Talk About Race summary

Ijeoma Oluo

An examination of the complex system of racism in the United States

4.3 (80 ratings)
31 mins

Brief summary

"So You Want to Talk About Race" by Ijeoma Oluo is a comprehensive guide for people looking to engage in honest conversations about race. It covers a wide range of topics, including systemic racism, privilege, police brutality, and cultural appropriation.

Table of Contents

    So You Want to Talk About Race
    Summary of 9 key ideas

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    Racism is inextricably woven into – and reinforced by – systems of power.

    After Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, many people speculated that the Democratic Party had lost because America’s societal problem was about class, not race. They felt the Left had been too focused on the needs of Black people, Latinx people, women in general, and trans people while leaving out working class white men. If you improved things for the lower classes, they argued, things would improve for minorities. 

    Author Ijeoma Oluo found herself exhausted from constantly having this debate – after all, the injustices that keep an able-bodied Black woman poor are not the same as those that keep a disabled white man poor. So she started directly asking people: “Why do you think Black people are poor? Do you think it’s for the same reasons white people are poor?” 

    The truth is, race is one of the largest variables determining your success in the United States – a point that often goes unacknowledged.

    The key message here is: Racism is inextricably woven into and reinforced by systems of power.

    Today, more than half a century after the civil rights movement, the racial wealth gap is just as large. This is no accident; racism was built into the US economic system. It has long justified white supremacy, which offers those deemed superior the promise that “you will get more because they exist to get less.” 

    This promise can’t be undone purely by addressing class, so we need to start talking about race. But often, the first hurdle to clear is the question of whether or not something is in fact about race.

    To begin, consider these three points:

    First, if a person of color thinks it’s about race, it is. Their racial identity is a part of them, and it’s interacting with the situation.

    Second, if it affects people of color differently or disproportionately, it’s about race.Finally, if it fits into a larger pattern that differently or disproportionately affects people of color, it’s about race.

    Before we continue, it’s helpful to establish a clear definition of racism. Two common ones are: “any prejudice against someone because of their race” and “any prejudice against someone because of their race, when those views are reinforced by systems of power.”

    The second definition is more applicable here because, in the United States, racism is typically reduced to the actions of the individual. “How so?” you may wonder. Well, in an environment where racism is systemic, its maintenance is fueled by the complacency of individuals. And so the only way to fight systemic oppression is by personally, actively dismantling it.

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    What is So You Want to Talk About Race about?

    So You Want To Talk About Race (2018) examines the complex system of racism in the United States, from police brutality to cultural appropriation to the school-to-prison pipeline. It offers clarity on ways we can approach conversations about race and take action against structural injustice.

    So You Want to Talk About Race Review

    So You Want to Talk About Race (2018) is a thought-provoking book that delves into the complex topic of race and why it is important to have open conversations about it. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers practical suggestions for navigating difficult conversations about race, equipping readers with the tools they need to engage in meaningful dialogue.
    • Combining personal anecdotes, research, and insightful analysis, it provides a comprehensive understanding of the issues surrounding race.
    • The book's straightforward approach and empathetic tone create an engaging reading experience, keeping readers invested in the subject matter throughout.

    Best quote from So You Want to Talk About Race

    When I look at what Ive fought so hard to accomplish next to those who will never know that struggle I wonder, How many were left behind?

    —Ijeoma Oluo
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    Who should read So You Want to Talk About Race?

    • Citizens who care about social justice
    • People who want to improve their understanding of racism
    • Anyone who wants to learn how to discuss race

    About the Author

    Ijeoma Oluo is a writer and speaker. Her work on race has been published in the New York Times, Elle, the Guardian, and the Washington Post. In 2018, she was awarded the Feminist Humanist Award from the American Humanist Society.

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    So You Want to Talk About Race FAQs 

    What is the main message of So You Want to Talk About Race?

    The main message of So You Want to Talk About Race is to engage in honest and open conversations about race to promote understanding and change.

    How long does it take to read So You Want to Talk About Race?

    The reading time for So You Want to Talk About Race varies depending on the reader, but the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is So You Want to Talk About Race a good book? Is it worth reading?

    So You Want to Talk About Race is a thought-provoking and important book that offers valuable insights into race and racism. It is definitely worth reading.

    Who is the author of So You Want to Talk About Race?

    The author of So You Want to Talk About Race is Ijeoma Oluo.

    What to read after So You Want to Talk About Race?

    If you're wondering what to read next after So You Want to Talk About Race, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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