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So You Want to Talk About Race

Written by: Ijeoma Oluo
Narrated by: Bahni Turpin
Length: 7 hrs and 41 mins
4.8 out of 5 stars (330 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, 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.

What the critics say

"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)  

What listeners say about So You Want to Talk About Race

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Important Read!

This book is very informative and everything is said possibly and direct with due urgency. it's a must read!

4 people found this helpful

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  • JR
  • 2018-05-23

A must listen

This book gives every reader a perspective they can connect to and learn from: a story, facts and data, tips and calls to action. I loved it and learned from it and hope there is a second volume. Reader was great!

3 people found this helpful

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Interesting listen

Now I understand where all these words and ideas circulating have come from. So much good information. I really appreciated her personal stories. It makes a lot of sense why she is so angry and has adopted this framework for seeing the world. The critical theory she invokes to create this universe of self perpetuating white supremacy and oppression, for me simplifies people to an unconscionable degree. So many essentialist notions of skin pigment as original sin or evidence of victimhood. The psychological state created by believing everything in this book seems very unhealthy. She states at the beginning of the book as one of her key points is that "if you believe it is racism then it is" This goes against every principle of modern psychotherapy. Thoughts should be interrogated and weighed against evidence to judge their validity and utility. It struck me as an almost religious text with very little room for interpretation. Her views are all encompassing and uses a kind of circular reasoning which always leads back to the infallible pronouncement of the white supremacist ether that spawned the west. Glad I listened to it but what a terrible way to perceive your fellow human beings. Skin colour rules the day. Sad. She does give a little wink to her audience near the end where she says maybe she is wrong and if so we will figure it out when the time comes but for now to move the bar we need to take this stance. This is what activists do to get things done Ive been told. Still a terrible resentful bitter way to see the world.

2 people found this helpful

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Everyone should read!

Well written, well read! Everyone should read this and use it as a tool for tough conversations about race. No matter how progressive you feel you are, there is always more to learn and ways to actively be better. If you genuinely want to be and do better for others, this is a good place to start.

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Educational and entertaining

I learned a lot and I highly recommend. Told in an entertaining way, it helped give perspective and actual action items that are beneficial in the everyday world. Everyone should read this...especially if you are white and need help understanding the issues people of colour are facing.

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A must read!

Great book, couldn't put it down. Learned alot about myself and how I can be a better person and ally.

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A important read

This is a wonderfully written book focusing on issues that are front and centre today. Every person should be required to read/listen to this work. This gives advice on how to start doing and talking about anti racism work.

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  • NJ
  • 2020-08-12

A Must Read!

This book should be required reading/listening for every white individual. It’s informative, engaging and enlightening. Bahni Turpin’s narration was stellar!

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A must read for those of us who are White and wish to become an ally

A very provocative read. Be prepared to feel uncomfortable. The truth is not pretty. But if we wish to bring about meaningful change then we need to recognize the reality of white supremacy and systemic racism - from which white people have benefited for centuries. I thank the author for her courage in writing this very important book!

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Required Antiracist Reading

This book is wonderful. It will move you not only emotionally but more importantly to take action. Thank you Ijeoma.

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  • V. Taras
  • 2018-10-06

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.

54 people found this helpful

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  • alibamba
  • 2019-01-29

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.

88 people found this helpful

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  • TheIsaiahCC
  • 2020-07-22

Terrifying Philosophy

The whole book is based off the premise of systemic racism being the foundation of the United States of America. Because slavery is the foundation, anything built upon it is systemically racist. The second sentence of the book refers to America as a “white supremacist country”. There is no justification for this premise. Anecdotal evidence is inconsequential. The book will also point to things that disproportionately affect black people and then refuse to address why those disparities exist, just accept it as further evidence of racism. The lack of proof is actually explained away by the author who says the system is intentionally complicated in order to shroud the white supremacy. How convenient. So, you can’t prove it because it’s too hard to explain. Does that sound like reasonable argument for a sound-minded person? Lucky for us, the author lays out some rules that actually supersede forming your own opinions. Rule number one: If a black person says something is about race, than it is. It sounds crazy at face value, but the author goes on to explain that it doesn’t really matter if the person is infallible or not. It matters the context with which they experience the world. If they experience racism throughout their lives, and then are followed through the store by a white employee then the employee’s intention’s don’t matter. Why? Because the author says you can’t leave your race at the door. It is context you carry with you constantly, and you should be aware of the implications of it. Which is dangerous. Saying my white skin hurts people is wrong. Just like driving while black isn’t a crime, existing near a black person while white isn’t either. And acting as though white skin is a power to wield with great care sounds like the semantics of a white supremacist. I will not carry the historical context of white skin around with me. And I will not speak to a black person while having the context of Jim Crowe in my mind. How can you heal a wound if you’re picking at the scab daily. I can’t imagine anything making you more uncomfortable with the conversation of race than this backwards thinking book. Then she talks about the idea of privilege. The author feels that she isn’t responsible for her degree because her mother was a college educated women who told her about the importance of college. And is that a privilege? Maybe so. Is it worth discrediting your accomplishments over? No. There is no equal playing field and we’ll all face struggles of different kinds. We can say this group faces more struggles than this one but who’s to say the most accurate grouping is by race. I would think by class would be more accurate. Poor neighborhood’s, that are often disproportionately black, have underfunded, ineffective schools. Is the strongest indicator of privilege between a white kid and a black kid in the same neighborhood their respective race? But the author when speaking to a liked but misguided white friend says that black issues should not be conflated with class issues. She also speaks about intersectionality and how when she’s shouted at on the street she doesn’t know if it’s because she’s black, queer, or because she’s a woman. Which, how would they know you’re queer on sight? But regardless, it’s more about the fact that a movement can’t simply be about one thing. For instance in a feminist movement, it should be of significance that she is a woman and black. So, the issues they’re focused on should benefit black women specifically, as well as latinx women, etc. Which of course is a blatant contradiction from the argument about class and race. You could be a poor person and a black person and therefore those two issues should be fought in tandem. Which is problematic in my estimations. MLK talked about how targeted approaches to specific instances of discrimination were much more effective in making real change. You can’t fight every battle at once, and there’s nothing wrong with focusing on one thing at a time. The authors concern is that black people have been told to wait their turn and change will come. At the same time, you have a large group of people that all say blatant things like “racism is bad, sexism is bad, etc” and people already agree with most of these premises and quickly dismiss the protest. What specific piece of legislation would you like to change or push? And then of course we’re back at square one, the system is too complex on purpose to disguise the insidious white supremacy within it’s depths. I gave this book my best shot. I wanted to be convinced and be on the “right side of history”. And now, I’m convinced that whatever side this book is on is clearly the wrong side. This philosophy will destroy the American way of life. Stay far away from this book. Maybe read some John Stuart Mill.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2020-03-03

Entertaining and wise.

I was hesitant to this book because I am a biracial black woman in America and I wasn't sure this book was written for me or that I would have much to gain from it. Being mixed race often leaves you in the world of the 'other'. Often books on race are written to educate white people or vindicate poc. But this does that, but it expands into so much more than that. Everyone can be educated and maybe even find vindication in this guide to constructive conversation. It was also nice that it felt as if Bahni Turpin really identified with and embodied the work. Thanks for the great read.

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  • UURev
  • 2019-12-19

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!

21 people found this helpful

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  • AmazonCustomer
  • 2018-02-05

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.

43 people found this helpful

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  • MoneySpenderPro
  • 2019-01-22

Logical Fallacy: (n)...

Difficult to follow when viewed in the light of heuristics and neurology. Reduces innate behavior and normal cultural adaptation to conscious wrong behavior. Identity politics defeat the collective goal of a neutral society. As the author states, she is mixed race as are many people, yet she clearly chooses to identify as belonging to one racial group instead of the other. Her stance that lighter skin equates to increasingly unfair social credit fails to account for the millions of light complexion people left behind in society. There is no doubt that racism exists in America, but choosing a tribe and attacking the other is not the way to accomplish it. Humans are all Africans. We belong to different families, not different races.

58 people found this helpful

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  • Susanna Heath
  • 2020-04-29

Critical and a must read

At the risk of being just another white woman talking about how a book on race makes her feel...this book made me feel a lot. I consider myself a feminist and over the last year have learned much about intersectionality, and how I cannot fight for the rights of women without also including other marginalized people. But I do not have many people of color in my life. My social media feed is made up of mostly white liberal women. I didn’t feel comfortable talking about race, suspecting I was probably a little racist myself. I found this book on a list of must-read books on race. The chapter headings immediately hooked me. These were the questions I wanted to ask, and didn’t know how. Ijeoma presents the information calmly and with some humor but also with the underlying steel and passion that evokes a real emotional response to many tragic topics. She answers questions and brings up additional information I had never previously considered. I believe everyone should read this book and begin to take action in their communities.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Heather
  • 2020-09-16

Rife with falsehoods that further divide

The book was terrible start to finish. It is one thing to believe there is a problem that needs to be fixed. But to essentially suggest that whites are all racist whether they know it or not is ridiculous. This book was a bloggers cheap attempt for a quick cash grab on a hot button topic that is so controversial it doesn’t require fact. Feelings over facts.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-11-24

best audio book yet

First the topic and writing is amazing. Whether or not you're interested in issues of race, the author describes in precise detail the workings of our white supremacy system in all our lives. Yes, there are a lot of specific pointers about having conversations around race whether you're white or of color. For me it was far more important in its description of workings of the system that I can't see from my position. most of all, she handles these loaded issues with a great deal of compassion and humor along with straight talk. The narrator is the best I've heard, as well. I've already given 2 copies if the book away...

13 people found this helpful