AHA Moments


Reading [So you want to talk about race]


For the motivation we are all aware of, I finished this book a colleague mentioned. This has been a self-discovery read with frequent rejection at first and ensuing doubt then uncertainty.

The author, Ijeoma Oluo, combined the ideology with her own real life experience as supporting material. This worked really well by putting the readers in the black people's shoes. Each chapter came with a self-explanatory headline which succinctly covers one hot debatable area of this racial topic. I would follow those headlines with several lines of my understanding. There's no better substitution than reading the book yourselves because life experience does matter.


What is racism?

Ijeoma mentioned two kinds of racism, one is the personal discrimination or simply negative feeling against different skin colors, the other one is the systemic prejudice in the society against minority races.

She tended to focus on the latter one, which is the fundamental cause of the unfair situation of black people. I do believe it's a pragmatic choice of priority and helps to push meaningful discussion forward.

The other definition she set on racism is: when the minority person thinks it's racism, it is. This also makes sense at some degree, while might broaden and narrow the usual scope at the same time, which is quite an interesting angle to look at the issue.

What if I talk about race wrong?

The author stressed quite a few helpful points on the way to talk about race. One stood out for me is that the minority doesn't have the responsibility to join the discussion, because by itself the participation may remind painful memory. Something we should keep in mind.

Why am I always being told to “check my privilege”?

This is also one huge gain I got from this book which adds to my ways of looking at the world. We do have privileges, at least in some aspects, which others don't have. To make the world better those with privileges should make use of them to improve the situation of the ones without.

It doesn't require one to give up the privilege, which why I think is a more sustainable way to bring people in.

Yet, to realize oneself is the one with privilege, is the hardest part to begin with.

What is intersectionality and why do I need it?

It's also one must-have checklist item for any movements with good faith.

Is police brutality really about race?

This topic is more related to the US society which I couldn't provide an opinion out of hunch. With some study on numbers the criminal rate among black is obviously higher than other races by all means. Yet it'll be irresponsible to come to the conclusion that it's the issue rooted in the race.

It's rooted in the history of segregation. It's rooted in the disparity of wealth and education. All of them is changeable within a few generations, like what Chinese government has been doing to solve the poverty issue in certain rural areas.

How can I talk about affirmative action?

After some research I realize this term is an umbrella over any approaches against minority inequality. It doesn't naturally mean quota for college enrollment to which lots of Chinese Americans object.

I am convinced that a fair play is not enough to correct the inequality stems from historically enduring prejudice. It may seem unfair to those having invested more in education, but that possibility of more investment comes with privileges as well. It's a sacrifice one has to pay as the member of the society. As a Chinese I could easily adopt this idea due to the thought pattern we obtained from the collectivism.

It's worthwhile to mention that I don't like quota system due to its probable unfairness to well-educated Asian people, while bonus score is acceptable to me.

What is the school-to-prison pipeline?

Why can’t I say the “N” word?

I agree that some word is harmful to certain group of people due to its historical implication. Word has power.

What is cultural appropriation?

I feel that Chinese people or even Asian people are less sensitive to cultural appropriation because we have the thriving mother land to return to. It's less likely so for black people. That doesn't mean it's not a real thing. According to the mentioned definition of racist, the same behavior could be stinging to certain race but not to the other.

Why can’t I touch your hair?

Come on! Of course not. It's never okay to openly talk about the other's body, regardless of race.

What are microaggressions?

The author did a great job in narrating a daily life as a black person. Any unintentional harm could the last straw.

Why are our students so angry?

What is the model minority myth?

I perceive this term as a synonym to stereotype in a superficially good way. It's a well disguised weapon used by the majority race.

But what if I hate Al Sharpton?

Tone policing is harmful for discussion. We should focus on the issue being discussed rather than the comfort of everyone as long as it's not too extreme.

I just got called racist, what do I do now?

This chapter makes me feel easier to talk about racism issue by lowing the bar of being defined as a racist. Everybody could be a racist to a certain extent. It's not a word reserved for KKK and Nazi. Once admit it an ensuing reflection is not far away.

Talking is great, but what else can I do?

A lot. A lot.

Ending words

It's true the immediate image of black people in a Chinese mind like me is not always positive. This doesn't necessarily stop us to improve the world as a whole by narrowing the disparity. Turning away from obvious issue is not supposed to be an answer. This book opens my mind in so many aspects that I couldn't speak too high of it.