As a White teenager in America, amplifying the voices of Black and non-Black POC is important to me. Amidst the current struggle to bring awareness to racial injustice, I believe education is one of the most important ways to gain a better understanding of oppression in America. Whether through reading, watching documentaries or listening to podcasts, it is important to be aware of the issues of race.
Reading books is an excellent form of educating one-self on prevalent issues with race around the world, but especially in the U.S. I picked up Ijeoma Oluo’s book So You Want to Talk About Race in hopes of gaining a better understanding for myself, to recognize issues and be able to maintain a serious conversation on race with my newly gained perspective.
As a Black and queer woman, Oluo brings raw topics to the table. Even several chapters in, Oluo is able to grab the reader’s attention with her powerful anecdotes. More specifically, a conversation Oluo had with a friend on race.
“We couldn’t talk about the ways in which race and racism impacted my life, because he was unwilling to even acknowledge the racism that was impacting my life and he was unable to prioritize my safety over his comfort-which meant that we couldn’t talk about me” (Oluo, 24).
Oluo continues on a few pages later to make an important point, one that needs to be reiterated again and again and again.
“Every day you are given opportunities to make the world better, by making yourself a little uncomfortable and asking ‘who doesn’t have this same freedom or opportunity that I’m enjoying right now?’”
I myself was once uncomfortable, and afraid to share my opinion amongst others. I knew I would receive unsolicited criticism from those opposing my views, and I was scared to say anything because of those people.
Yet, this passage that Oluo writes makes me realize that being in an uncomfortable position contributes to the solution. I shouldn’t be afraid to feel uncomfortable, to have those raw discussions about race that are so important.
My takeaway from reading Oluo’s book is the understanding that, although it may come with difficulty, it is crucial to confront flaws and reach towards becoming a better person. Whether it is recognizing microaggressions, or having a conversation with a friend, the ultimate goal is to do better, and be better. I would like to leave you, the reader, with an excerpt to ruminate. Let this marinate. Let this absorb. Let this enlighten.
“Words help us interpret our world, and can be used to change the way in which we think and act. Words are always at the heart of all our problems, and the beginning of all our solutions” (Oluo, 188).