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So You Want to Talk About Race

Narrated by: Bahni Turpin
Length: 7 hrs and 41 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (1,809 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A current, constructive, and actionable exploration of today's racial landscape, offering straightforward clarity that listeners of all races need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide

In So You Want to Talk About Race, editor-at-large of the Establishment Ijeoma Oluo offers a contemporary, accessible take on the racial landscape in America, addressing head-on such issues as privilege, police brutality, intersectionality, micro-aggressions, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the "N" word. Perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between people of color and white Americans struggling with race complexities, Oluo answers the questions listeners don't dare ask, and explains the concepts that continue to elude everyday Americans.

Oluo is an exceptional writer with a rare ability to be straightforward, funny, and effective in her coverage of sensitive, hyper-charged issues in America. Her messages are passionate but finely tuned, and crystallize ideas that would otherwise be vague by empowering them with aha-moment clarity. Her writing brings to mind voices like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Roxane Gay, and Jessica Valenti in Full Frontal Feminism, and a young Gloria Naylor, particularly in Naylor's seminal essay "The Meaning of a Word." A Harper's Bazaar pick of One of 10 Books to Read in 2018.

©2018 Ijeoma Oluo (P)2018 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Narrator Bahni Turpin's impassioned voice clearly conveys the gravity of this book on race and racism.... Key points are repeated to help listeners absorb ideas and definitions, and Turpin engagingly reads real-life examples Oluo uses to illustrate complex concepts such as intersectionality and white privilege." (AudioFile)  

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A Reminder to Read Books that Make You Uncomfortable

Yes, conversations about race are awkward to hard and even hurtful and I’m not thrilled to be categorized as a white supremacist simply because I am white but even with all that discomfort, confusion, eyebrow raises, and slack jawed moments I experienced while listening I have to say my world feels bigger after reading this. My perspective is changed. I didn’t understand or even recognize my own racism or white privilege. I have not had to confront racism and I have not seen the part in it that I have played or know what action I could take to change. I am asking questions of myself and assumptions I’ve made about a range of other issues because if I didn’t see this, what else am I not seeing? I feel very blessed to have come across Oluo’s book and will continue to follow her work. I also feel compelled to share that the narration is top notch.

22 people found this helpful

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Excellent book, excellently narrated.

Ijeoma Oluo has a gift for delivering hard medicine with humor and sensitivity. If you are a white person who wants to do better, this is a perfect primer on how (and when) to have conversations about race without doing more harm than good.

And Bahni Turpin is an impeccable narrator. She reads with a clarity and conviction that makes the content feel completely fresh, like a conversation, rather than a reading. A perfect fit with Ijeoma Oluo's writing style, too.

15 people found this helpful

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I'm really glad I took a chance on this book

If you could sum up So You Want to Talk About Race in three words, what would they be?

This book was insightful, challenging, and thoughtful.

Any additional comments?

I had never heard of the author before but I am so glad that I read this book because I do want to talk about race. It's a conversation that needs to keep going. In some places it's a conversation that hasn't even started.

9 people found this helpful

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Must Read

Everything I hoped it would be and more, easy to understand chock full of numbered points of advice on various topics, personal anecdotes that connect to the larger picture and the inspiration to have these conversations and also take action.

If you’ve read and loved and learned from Ijeoma Oluo’s words online or in social media, you’ll recognize her same understanding of the complexity of these conversations (especially those that white people should be having with one another) and also her passion for social justice.

If you’re not familiar with her incredibly important work, and you’re willing to listen openly about racism from someone with much lived experience woven beautifully into a larger picture where we can all have an impact - positive, if we choose - I’d highly recommend this book.

This book covers many of the basics as a reminder so some but also encourages deeper reflection within ourselves. There are parts that feel necessarily squirmy, but it’s clear that she remains focused entirely on helping us all have better conversations about race and take better actions to change a system that isn’t fair.

If you’re not sure that’s the case about our system that still oppresses people but are open to listen, this book is a great place to do that, quietly away from some internet fight and with time to pause and consider.

Please read this.

16 people found this helpful

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great truths wish it had more facts

If you’re a white person, and you’re convinced you know what people of color experience in their daily lives as racism and harassment in the US, this might be the book for you, provided you’re open to experiences that are outside your wheelhouse.
This is not the “kind and gentle” discussion on racism. It can be at times abrasive, depending on your experiences and perspective, but nonetheless an important truth packed with some facts.
Things I liked: personal examples and there are so so many which I found both shocking and like “wtf white people?!”, the data, there’s a “here’s what you can do”, boundaries and no one should be on call 24/7 to talk to anyone about anything and especially about a subject that triggers them and/or they have to put armor on for, etc.
Things I didn’t like: I wish there was more data (education, incarceration, health care, sexual assault, passed over in jobs, debt, etc.) especially in the beginning of the book, some pacing issues for me, etc.
I didn’t entirely understand “tone policing”.
I’ve heard about the rude misguided standard-asking-speakers-to-speak-and-expecting-them-to-donate-their-time-and-travel-at-their-own-expense from some speakers/authors on Twitter. I’m sure it’s more women than men and thus more women of color too, who are almost expected to do speaking gigs for free. Again, it’s another, “Wtf.”
Per including more data, for example, I’m working on a book about sexual assault and in my research I came across this data:

“African Americans are only 13% of the American population but a majority of innocent defendants wrongfully convicted of crimes and later exonerated. They constitute 47% of the 1,900 exonerations listed in the National Registry of Exonerations (as of October 2016), and the great majority of more than 1,800 additional innocent defendants who were framed and convicted of crimes in 15 large-scale police scandals and later cleared in “group exonerations."
Judging from known erroneous convictions, a prisoner serving time for sexual assault is three-and-a-half times as likely to be innocent if he is black than if he is white.”
In half of all sexual assault exonerations with eyewitness misidentifications, black men were convicted of raping white women,28 a racial combination that appears in less than 11% of sexual assaults in the United States.29 According to surveys of crime victims, about 70% of white sexual assault victims were attacked by white men and only about 13% by black men.30 But 57% of white-victim sexual assault exonerees are black (101/177), and 37% are white—which suggests that black defendants convicted of raping white women are about eight times more likely to be innocent than white men convicted of raping women of their own race.There are many possible explanations for this disturbing pattern, but the simplest is probably the most powerful: the perils of cross-racial identification. One of the oldest and most consistent findings of systematic studies of eyewitness identification is that white Americans are much more likely to mistake
one black person for another than to mistakenly identify members of their own race.3"
http://www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Documents/Race_and_Wrongful_Convictions.pdf

Per data, specifically on health, I believe I read a highlight of an article on Twitter that black women have higher death rates in childbirth and heart attacks (I think it was heart attacks) because something like they're symptoms/complaints are more likely to be dismissed by the medical community. Here's what a simple google search found:

"Following decades of decline, maternal deaths began to rise in the United States around 1990—a significant departure from the world’s other affluent countries. By 2013, rates had more than doubled. The CDC now estimates that 700 to 900 new and expectant mothers die in the U.S. each year, and an additional 500,000 women experience life-threatening postpartum complications. More than half of these deaths and near deaths are from preventable causes, and a disproportionate number of the women suffering are black.
Put simply, for black women far more than for white women, giving birth can amount to a death sentence. African American women are three to four times more likely to die during or after delivery than are white women."
https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/magazine/magazine_article/america-is-failing-its-black-mothers/

"A typical visit to the doctor for a black woman can be anything but. Stories earlier this month about Serena Williams’ horrifying medical ordeal and the high post-pregnancy mortality rates of black women show their medical concerns are often dismissed, ignored, or even chastised. Navigating the terrain of the medical world is hard enough—and even harder when the color of your skin can mean the difference between life and death, or receiving the right tests to diagnose what ails you in between. "
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qvedxd/doctors-dont-always-believe-you-when-youre-a-black-woman

There was a book long ago, can’t recall the name, where the author said you shouldn’t waste your time (not sure if that’s how he phrased it) arguing with people who already have decided. He said, you want to spend your time and energy on the group of undecided, because he said (again paraphrasing), “no one ever changed their mind because of an argument or from being attacked for their beliefs.”

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An Important Must-Read, but Worse than Expected

I have mixed feelings about the book.
On the one hand, I believe it is a must-read for anyone in the U.S., and a highly recommended read for anyone outside the U.S.
At the very least, it will give you a good perspective into the racial tensions in the U.S. and a good understanding of how it is seen by the activists of the African American community. Many eye-opening examples and explanations.
On the other hand, the book is not particularly engaging. Justifiably, it is filled with rants and complaints. However, I felt the case could have been made more strongly with more statistics and references to more studies. The book felt like a rally speech, and less like a piece of scholarly work.
Still, highly recommend. It was a good use of my time.

2 people found this helpful

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Read it twice in a row

And about to start the third. If you are concerned with systematic oppression of people of color, you must read this book. It is uncomfortable to discover that we are all perpetuating the white supremacist hierarchy, but brilliant social commentator Ijeoma Oluo provides concrete steps we can all take to dismantle it, with a message of accountability and hope.

10 people found this helpful

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Must read for white folks

I have done a lot of work on my privilege and racial bias (and I still have a LONG way to go) and books like this are so helpful, great reminders and calls to action, I will be rereading it again soon and asking all of my church staff to read it as well!

1 person found this helpful

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Brilliantly argued

Well-written and informative with useful guidelines to keep in your pocket for having conversations about race. I learnt a huge amount.

3 people found this helpful

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Required reading

What an incredible work! I've never read anything that so clearly articulates what racism is and how it affects people's everyday life. Every chapter, every paragraph, every word of this book is absolutely necessary. Stop what you're doing right now and buy this book. Read it. Then buy copies for everyone in your family and have them read it. Especially your racist uncle. (Trust me, he really need it.)

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  • Kris H.
  • 10-15-18

Informative, moving, strategic, and quotable

Oluo's points are masterfully made, with compelling logic and empathetic awareness of the reader throughout. She's certainly opened my eyes and I have a feeling I'll be returning to grab quotes. I listened to the reader at 1.00 and 1.10 speed and both sound great.

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  • George
  • 10-29-18

Thank You.

All I can say is an overwhelming thank you to Ijeoma for writing this book. Where my words have failed me this book has given me a voice, a voice so precise and clear that tears run down my eyes as I realise that I AM NOT ALONE and someone else shares parts of my reality as BLACK.

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  • Maddie
  • 09-26-18

A MUST READ/LISTEN

Everyone, especially every white person should read/listen this book!
Everyone who wants to learn and be an ally to people of colour issues should have this book!
Everyone that works with minorities, every school, every public institution employee should read this book!

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  • Addy
  • 05-20-18

Outstanding Genius! Articulates so much of what I have always been unable to say

This book is important and it is important that you get to the end . If only I had her way with words, I might be able to say how brilliant and inspiring this is. The type of book i want to cuddle up to at that so I can wake with hope.

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  • AudiobookDevotee
  • 08-05-19

Bit of a mixed bag but very noticeably American.

The first hour is a bit definitiony but so much of the book is big words and waffle that you may need this chapter. The real book kicks off around 1:30.

A lot of the book is about the things she went through as a kid who had serious confidence issues. While that is sad I don't care much about her teenaged thoughts. Teenagers are hormone riddled angst machines and listening to them stretches my patience a fair bit. The book is also very, very American and I can't imagine many/any of these scenarios happening in a country where people generally have a modicum of tact.

The start of the book is fairly off-putting saying that everything is about race. That racism is entirely subjective through the victim, i.e.: If a white gives a black a funny look and the black thinks it's racist then it is racist regardless of if the black was wearing an eye catching shirt or something. This makes racism seem like a permenant fixture (which would be profitable for the author I guess).

However, a more workable and sensible definition is offered later "Racism: A prejudice based on race when those prejudices are enforced by systems of power."

This book, like some others also states "racism was designed" as if a cabal of white men sat down and made up the idea of racism one Tuesday afternoon. Racism comes about largely because people have a tendency towards tribalism and fear of things that seem different. To say "designed" is strange, unnecessary and probably wrong.

The author continually paints herself as only happy/comfortable in black communities which seems oddly xenophobic yet she tries to encourage black people into groups they won't like just because they're black. For example, she helps to found a black-exclusive group to appreciate "finer things" but complains local black basketballers who don't appreciate art galleries and such don't join and don't feel welcome.

Chapter 6 on police brutality/history was very interesting and I would recommend even if you don't like the rest of the book. Chapter 7 seems more about why people shouldn't have kids they can't afford rather than race issues. Chapters 8 and 9 are also good.

Chapter 10 is about cultural appropriation but as someone who doesn't really have a culture I don't feel it was explained well to an outsider.

I think blokes can skip chapter 11 as it makes no sense. I've never styled my hair so much of the terminology and stuff was lost on me. The chapter is just don't touch people unless they are ok with it which is obvious. Why would you need to touch a coworker's hair anyway??

The sections on microaggressions, model minorities and racial activism are all good.

Near the end the author calls people she's never met racist which is a bit rich. Though the author does however have a good sense of humour throughout and made me laugh out loud on occasion.

As a final point, if you like the TV series "Who Do You Think You Are" which is all about heritage and ancestry then you'll probably really 'get' this book. If, like me, you couldn't give a shit who your ancestors were, where they came from, what they did etc. then large swathes of this book will seem mad to you as the author very strongly identifies with the dead sperm and egg donors who were in her past and doesn't explain why.

If you want a less fiercely American book then "Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race" is quite good but does veer away from the original racism focus a lot more than this one does.

The narrator was really good and read well.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-30-18

Really good book, I'm thankful

loved it. as a white man it has given me a great insight into how to be involved in conversations about race with other "less understanding" white men weather it be at work or in everyday life.

the book leaves so many more questions and I hope to read more from ljeoma

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  • A. Nottingham
  • 12-10-18

To the point and so so worthwhile

I would reccomend that every person read this - even if you're white and feel pretty naive when it comes to talking about race, if you want to do better but have no idea where to start and are afraid of making "the wrong move", this book has you covered. Oluo gets her point across with a mixture of anecdotal evidence and undeniable facts, but always leaves you with a call to action and advice. It is an uncomfortable read, but it is so worthwhile.

The narrator was also fantastic for this book, very clear and easy to listen to, and stressed the most important and emotive points really well.

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  • Suswati
  • 02-18-18

Excellent, points are absolutely spot on

There has been a spate of incredible literature from African American writers, and this book in particular, stands out because of its instructional, informative guide on tackling racism as a topic.

From discussing how to approach the subject with others, to giving direct instructions for those who are willing to learn to change, there are few books out there that are as useful as Ijeoma Oluo's step by step process.

Most of all, the introduction of intersectionality, micro-aggressions and the myth of the model migrant is absolutely vital. It is one of the only books on racism I've seen in mainstream literature, that tackles issues faced by other races such as the East Asian and South Asian communities, bringing together a more diverse portrayal rather than just black, white and Hispanic.

Her own personal views are wonderful - the chapter on her 8-year-old son's choice to not pledge allegiance is utterly heartfelt, and yet she handles the situation very well. An absolute essential read.

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  • cesa
  • 02-03-18

Brilliant!

Thank you, Ms Oluo. An absolute must-read. Right up there with R Gay & M Jerkins.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-06-19

For Champions of Equality & Justice

As a WOC I found myself chuckling at times with the bittersweet familiarity, of Ijeoma’s experiences of talking about race with white people. I found the book to be a balm on the 1000 paper cuts of microagressions I experience daily. I also felt seen when she acknowledged her own unconscious bias towards Asian people’s experience of racism and our struggle with the model minority myth. Though this book is specifically for Americans, as a POC from Australia, I could still relate to the content, and see correlations between my country’s oppressive colonial systems and that of the US’.

1 person found this helpful