I normally don't boast about how fast I read a book, but I read this in a day. I'm only mentioning that because I thought it would take me longer since it, in all honesty, seemed like it'd be a pretty heavy book to take in. But once I started reading, I felt like it was feeding me. I was going to start the next sentence as "Being a mixed race woman..." but no, fuck that, everyone can benefit from reading this book. I wish I could make you feel how I feel right now as I'm still sitting here, almost basking in it, wanting to read everything else Ijeoma Oluo has ever wrote. Here are the most memorable parts from it ahead:
- "Often, being a person of color in white-dominated society is like being in an abusive relationship with the world. Every day is a new little hurt, a new little dehumanization. We walk around flinching, still in pain from the last hurt and dreading the next. But when we say "this is hurting us," a spotlight is shown on the freshest hurt, the bruise just forming: "Look at how small it is, and I'm sure there is a good reason for it. Why are you making such a big deal about it? Everyone gets hurt from time to time" - while the world ignores that the rest of our bodies are covered in scars. But racial oppression is even harder to see than the abuse of a loved one, because the abuser is not one person, the abuser is the world around you, and the person inflicting pain in an individual instance may themselves have the best of intentions."
- The chapter on privilege is probably the most lasting one in my mind right now. It discusses how every individual has some sort of privilege and it's important to not be defensive or angry when someone asks that you check your privilege, since this is something that everyone needs to internally examine about his/herself to help better understand others who differ from you.
- "I recommend practicing looking for your privilege at first when you are in a neutral situation. Sit down and think about the advantages you've had in life. Have you always had good mental health? Did you grow up middle class? Are you white? Are you male? Are you nondisabled? Are you neuro-typical? Are you a documented citizen of the country you live in? Did you grow up in a stable home environment? Do you have stable housing? Do you have reliable transportation? Are you cisgender? Are you straight? Are you thin, tall, or conventionally attractive? Take some time to really dig deep through all of the advantages that you have that others may not. Write them down."
- "Being privileged doesn't mean that you are always wrong and people without privilege are always right - it means that there is a good chance you are missing a few very important pieces of the puzzle."
- "I hated school cafeterias. Nothing lets you know that you're going to die alone like when you try to find a seat in a school cafeteria and everyone avoids eye contact like you are walking flatulence." - This really made me laugh, but good god, I've never agreed with something more.
- When she describes her experience going to a scholarship conference for promising students of color: "Not once in the two days I was at the conference did anybody make fun of my name. Not once in the two-day conference did anybody even glance at my hair. Not once in the two-day conference was I aware of the loudness of my voice or the size of my ass. Not once in the two-day conference did anybody question the academic achievements that had brought me there - we were all there because we were smart kids who had worked very hard. For two days I got to feel like the majority of my classmates had felt almost every day, like a complete human being. I don't know how to describe what those two days were like for me except to say that I hadn't known before then that there was so much air to breathe." - That last line. My god, that last line.
- "It is not your job as a person of color to educate people on their racist actions, please remember that, but it is always your right to stand up for yourself when you choose to."
- When her eight year old son perfectly explained why he didn't want to say the pledge of allegiance: "Because I'm an atheist, so I don't like pledging under god. I don't believe in pledging to countries, I think it encourages war. And I don't think this country treats people who look like me very well so the 'liberty and justice for all' part is a lie. And I don't think that every day we should all be excited about saying a lie."
- I'd never heard of the phrase tone policing before, but I have experienced it (never realizing there was a term for it): "Tone policing is when someone (usually the privileged person) in a conversation or situation about oppression shifts the focus of the conversation from the oppression being discussed to the way it is being discussed. Tone policing prioritizes the comfort of the privileged person in the situation over the oppression of the disadvantaged person."
- "If you are white, remember that White Supremacy is a system you benefit from and that your privilege has helped to uphold. Your efforts to dismantle White Supremacy are expected of decent people who believe in justice. You are not owed gratitude or friendship from people of color for your efforts. We are not thanked for cleaning our own houses." - OOOOOOO MAN, that last line. Love it. Love this woman.
If I'm not making this book sound amazing, then I'm truly sorry to do it such a disservice. Literally every person, from every walk of life will benefit from reading this book. It should be mandatory in classrooms, handed out on sidewalks, in all of the waiting rooms, I can't express how it made me feel inside. Or how it could help so many people, especially if you're sitting there thinking, "I'm already an enlightened, good person." I was you! I even read a tiny bit about this book before reading it and thought, "Yeah, I'm sure it's good, but I doubt I'll really get anything out of it." You're allowed to be an idiot like me who thinks like that, because I swear even if it's something small, every person stands to benefit from even reading a few chapters.
Thankyouthankyouthankyou to one of the best women I know, Marla, for recommending it to me and a million thank yous to Ijeoma Oluo for having the sensibility, understanding and brilliance to write it.