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Culturally Appropriate

03 Aug 2020 | book race

Talk about talking.

Like many people, I’m ignorant of nearly everything outside of my own narrow experiences. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been enough to fill nearly my entire lifetime to date, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s just a puddle in a land of lakes.

In an attempt to Do Better, I read a book about how to not be a jackass when discussing matters of race. The book So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo was recommended to me (in general) as a decent place to start thinking about how to not make things worse for People of Color.

That was a solid recommendation. There wasn’t a lot that was new to me, here, but it’s well-organized and presented clearly. There are almost certainly nuances which escaped me on a first reading; I may well be returning to it again after I manage to bite my toes. It covers a score of topics from the perhaps obvious (“Why can’t I say the N word?”) to the more nuanced (“But what if I hate Al Sharpton?”) in depth, with later chapters building on the earlier ones to extend the reader’s understanding.

It even comes with a built-in Discussion Guide, which is handy if you want to read it as part of a book club. Probably best to not drag your Black friend into that discussion by surprise, a lot of the things documented and described in this book are sources of real pain to real people; it would be a disservice to treat it as an abstract when talking to them.

There’s additional coverage of concerns for other People of Color who have endured lifetimes of oppression, as well, which gives this book a feeling of broad applicability and importance in many contexts. I don’t remember ever reading a book like this but I’m glad I did, for the insights I hadn’t already had.