I am so glad to have stumbled upon this book So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo as I prepared to attend the Overcoming Racism event at BSU. I didn’t read it until after the event but I checked out some of Ijeoma’s online interviews and she is a thoughtful speaker on the topic of race. If you don’t have time to read the book, you might want to check out this Google Talk she did which was very informative. [Who knew African Americans and Indigenous People struggle with lactose intolerance!?!? Now I do.] And here is a short WHY we need to talk about race (listen at 1:04 for the best part). And a quick local interview which discusses the book. (Note some of the comments on Ijeoma’s video links, which are horrifying… yet explain exactly WHY this book is so necessary. The expressed ignorance and intended dismissal of Ijeoma and her ideas are truly astounding.) OK, here we go…

Ijeoma Oluo – Writer, Speaker, Internet Yeller

The introduction to the book can be heard in the above Google Talk, with which Ijeoma opens. In 6 and a half pages, Ijeoma gives a peek into her world, the world of a black woman, explaining how her skin tone permeates every aspect of her life, colors every decision made, is a constant stress in this white supremacy country, and “one of the most defining forces” in her life. She opes up in a vulnerable way about how race has affected her, shaped her life experience, and guided her to the point of writing this book. She briefly tells us why this book is so necessary to these times and how she hopes it will be helpful, a topic that she will continue to highlight throughout the book. While race can be a “grueling, heart-wrenching” topic, she lightens the discussion with humor and curiosity and she stresses that this work will not be easy for any but will be especially hard for people of color. She warns that, while “racism and racial oppression in America are horrible and terrifying”, we must “let go of some of that fear” and “look racism in the eye wherever we encounter it.”

So you want to talk about race begins with a chapter to explain why this is about race and not class, as the argument oft made by many is that we can address race by dealing with class. She explains that the idea that fixing things for the lower classes will not fix the problems faced by people of color. She asks a friend:

“Why do you think black people are poor? Do you think it’s for the same reasons that white people are?”

So you want to talk about race, page 9

In the exemplary conversation with her friend, Ijeoma makes clear how fixing class will make things better for blacks but will not fix the problems of racism. Raising the minimum wage does little to help people of color (POC) secure equal consideration for jobs in the first place. Home ownership is not a matter of simply having a wage that allows the purchase but also about the ability to secure fair and equal financing. Getting a job is predicated by first being able to get through an educational system that is stacked against POC while the inequality of our justice system can make simply driving to work a hazardous experience.

So you want to talk about race p. 11

Ijeoma goes on in the first chapter to explain how race is integrated with the U.S. economic system and that it is enmeshed in all aspects of our lives. “The system of racism functioned primarily as a justification for the barbaric act of chattel slavery and the genocide of Indigenous peoples.” She notes that slavery cannot exist if we maintain social rules that prohibit putting “putting chains around the necks of other human beings”. But these ideas that POC are somehow different from white people allow the continuation of the racial constructs that divide us and oppress POC in everything from politics to education to infrastructure – “anywhere there is a finite amount of power, influence, visibility, wealth, or opportunity.”

So you want to talk about race p. 12

She further explains the three easy ways to distinguish if something is about race or not.

  • It is about race if a person of color thinks its about race. (It may be about other things as well, but it is about race if the person of color thinks it is. And, White People, we are usually the ones making things about race by the very systems we perpetuate as ‘white-normal’. So quit bitching about everything being about race because, in the system where we live, by default, it is.)
  • It is about race if it disproportionately or differently affects people of color. (See above… and note, just because Oprah and Beyonce made it big does not mean that there is a level playing field for POC.)
  • It is about race if it fits into a broader pattern of events that disproportionately or differently affects people of color. Ijeoma uses the example of an abusive relationship as an effective analogy to describe how racism can feel. She reiterates that while something can be about race, it may also be about other things. But without looking at race as a factor, we cannot fix the political, socioeconomic, and relational problems we face.

Chapter two defines racism as a system, not just as behavior between people. It is “a prejudice against someone based on race, when those prejudices are reinforced by systems of power.” As long as we see it as white people having “good” or “bad” hearts, something that can be fixed by changing opinions, we will not address the systemic nature of racism in America. Many of us perpetuating the racist system are not “racist” in the sense of wanting to cause harm to someone of a different race. But we are all programmed by the culture around us which predicates ‘white’ as ‘normal’, ‘acceptable’, and ‘superior’. And that includes POC. In order to mitigate racism, will will need to literally “dismantle the machine”. And in doing so, we need to prioritize the safety of POC over the discomfort of whites.

One great summarizing statement was this: “Getting my neighbor to love people of color might make it easier to hang around with him, but it won’t do anything to combat police brutality, racial income inequality, food deserts, or the prison industrial complex.” This chapter also digs into “reverse racism” effectively.

So you want to talk about race p. 31

Ijeoma goes on from here to share how we can talk about racism effectively – which can be done, even if we “talk about race wrong”, which we all will do at some point, but which we need to continue to practice if we hope to find a way forward. It is in chapter three that we meet Ijeoma’s mother – a white woman who sounds an awful lot like me… Ijeoma opens with a story about a turning-point conversation with her mother that made me cringe in recognition. Giving me insight that helped me better see how ignorant I have been, can be, and likely will continue to be until I have put much more work into this area, I appreciated it.

I should note that, since starting this book, I believe I am perhaps running a particular friend ragged with my random interjections on the philosophy of race relations, and while she is a patient sounding board, I am realizing I need to make a formal apology for discomfort I’ve caused and to ask more openly if she is comfortable with participating in these “conversations” (they usually just begin with me raving about injustice that I find unacceptable). She is one of the bravest women I know and has shared her insights, which I am honored to hear, especially when they are a reminder of my limited views. [As perhaps all POC can do (dealing with white people shit (WPS) on a daily must give a kind of superpower, no?), she has a subtle way of making clear to me certain ideas that lightly press my understanding. I personally think she has developed this ability to a fine skill, which makes me wonder how much horrible she has endured to allow her to do this so well.] But I would rather we had more intention to these talks at times, which is where Ijeoma starts in her nine tips for how to increase success in race conversations.

  1. State your intentions. [Any two people conversing compassionately about race can fail to find success when the goals of each in the discussion is not clearly understood.]
  2. Remember what your top priority in the conversation is, and don’t let your emotions override that. [If understanding is my goal, I will check my ego when it feels like I’m becoming defensive.]
  3. Do your research. [Google has answers on most everything. I can spend time learning terminology, history, and reading the commentary and studies available, to better understand so that I don’t put all the onus on explanation on my conversation mate… especially if I will be talking with a person of color.]
  4. Don’t make your anti-racism argument oppressive against other groups. While it’s fine to express anger, “it is never okay to battle racism with sexism, transphobia, ableism, or other oppressive language and actions”.
  5. When you start to feel defensive, stop and ask yourself why. Ijeoma suggests that, if you can’t understand the source of defensiveness by questioning yourself, that you can “at least try to take a few minutes away to catch your breath and lower your heart rate so that you can.” [This is a favorite as lately I’ve been fascinated to examine the subtle ways defensiveness and aggression arise in me and how I can better understand the fear and other motivators behind these feelings.]
  6. Do not tone police. While Ijeoma goes into more detail in chapter 15, the idea here is that you don’t make POC talk in ways that assure you can feel comfortable.
  7. If you are white, watch how many times you say “I” and “me”. Because racism is a systemic issue, it’s not just all about you.
  8. Ask yourself: Am I trying to be right, or am I trying to be better? Coming off a recent FB interaction, I think we can all apply this in most ANY conversation we have for improved success. I struggle with my own self-righteousness and often have to remember, the goal of any discussion is not being right, but finding understanding. And why is this important in talking about race? “Because your opponent isn’t a person, it’s the system of racism that often shows up in the words and actions of other people.”
  9. Do not force people of color into discussions of race. Because race is a daily and exhaustive concept for POC, white people must understand that our urgency to find a way forward should always recognize the POC who graciously do talk with us, and respect their needs and wishes to NOT engage on the topic.

And if you fuck up in your attempt? Six tips are offered by Ijeoma, including my favorite: 2) Apologize. Sincerely. White people must remember that ANY attempts by a POC to engage you on race is a risk for them much more than for us. And this work, when done effectively, will always be emotional.

So you want to talk about race p. 51

Why am I always being told to “check my privilege”? discusses the importance of each of us understanding our privilege. [Yes, do the exercise! It is highly enlightening!] We all have some “advantage or a set of advantages that” others do not, which is basically all privilege is. [And yes, White People, we all have disadvantages as well. “It is natural to feel like focusing on your advantages invalidates your disadvantages and your struggles in life”. But the reality is, for most white people, we are largely clueless about our advantages, especially when compared with those for POC. We find it much easier to discuss where we struggle than to admit where we are given a leg up on others.] Looking at privilege helped me understand I am advantaged by much: white, car owner, cute, straight, tall, had maternity leave, working arms and legs, homeowner, middle class, two-parent upbringing, big boobs, good teeth, college education, cisgender, neuro-typical, member of management. I must remember, that by asking myself who doesn’t share the same freedoms that I do, is exactly how I address the system of racism and dismantle it. And I am grateful for every Black/Indigenous/Person of Color (BIPOC) that helps me find awareness, no matter how it comes my way.

So you want to talk about race p. 68

Ijeoma moves on to “Intersectionality, the belief that our social justice movements must consider all of the intersections of identity, privilege, and oppression that people face in order to be just and effective” and how it can provide “a more inclusive alternative to the status quo.” From the work of Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality can help us address problems in a more holistic way, understanding the many complexities of each human and assuring that we address issues not simply from a white/male/power perspective. Prioritizing a focus on intersectionality can help assure we include marginalized people, giving voice to their perspectives and focusing on their concerns first. [As Dan says, “It’s time for old white men to sit down and shut up.”]

Ijeoma’s chapter on police brutality makes clear the distinct experience of POC and the reality that each lives knowing a police officer “could take your freedom or even your life at any time, with no recourse.” Imagine living with that in every moment. Ijeoma offers a great history of policing in America. As a Water Protector, I have watched as law enforcement shows their true loyalty… to those in power.

So you want to talk about race p. 91

As with Police Brutality, Ijeoma also covers the history Affirmative Action. And she includes a heartbreaking story of her brother’s experience that brings the plight of black school children to light. The abuse his teacher inflicted upon him was unacceptable. It makes me wonder how many stories of trauma go unaddressed every day as this systemic racism prevents us from even seeing gross inequality, let alone addressing it. Ijeoma’s own work experience is full of stories that inform on this topic. She addresses many arguments against affirmative action, including this well-reasoned example:

So you want to talk about race p. 118

She makes good points, eh? Seriously, read this book. It’s full of this kind of clear and logical examples, many of them based on her personal experience.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline is a reality made clear in chapter 8. Her story of a black kindergartener (that one school board member argued should have assault charged filed against) was especially poignant… and filled with examples of how the white-normalized educational system can be blind and especially cruel to children of color. The rules/culture (written/formed to favor whites) inherently disadvantages non-whites. This chapter also points to the exacerbation brought by zero-tolerance policies and School Resource Officers. It should be clear that a need for police officers in our schools is a sign of bigger problems in our society. Perhaps these concerns would be alleviated if we could dismantle the racist culture in America.

So you want to talk about race p. 123

A short chapter on Why can’t I say the “N” word? gives insight to the power of words and clarifies the answers on this question. [I have a personal example that I will perhaps share one day soon – it’s a blog I’ve been hammering on for quite some time.]

So you want to talk about race p. 141

Ijeoma also has a similarly enlightening chapter called Why can’t I touch your hair? Definitely read it.

Ijeoma’s chapter on cultural appropriation was helpful to me. The adoption and exploitation of other cultures by the dominant white culture in America is all too common. And I’m grateful we’re talking about it. This is perhaps one of the most complicated aspects of the book. “The problem with cultural appropriation is not in the desire to participate in aspects of a different culture that you admire. The problem of cultural appropriation is primarily linked to the power imbalance between the culture doing the appropriating and he culture being appropriated.” The problems arise when the dominant culture distorts or redefines the appropriated culture and/or makes some financial gain from said appropriation. I was tickled at how Ijeoma made no hard fast rule on rap.

So you want to talk about race p. 149

However, she again points at the white-centric reality of America. The very fact that white is the dominant culture presumes that other cultural practices are not ‘normal’. They are classed as primitive, exotic, strange, or simply less acceptable. Because there is no equal playing field, there is no equal exposure to all racial cultures, and there is no equality. Thus, the taking of aspects of a non-dominant culture by a dominant culture person will always run the risk of being harmful.

Because there is no one authority to define what specifically is sacred, and because what is sacred is different for each of us, depending on our own individual perspectives, a given behavior can be a non-issue for one person and harmful to another. Ijeoma suggests we will find more success if we “start with enough respect for the marginalized culture in question to listen when somebody says ‘this hurts me’.”

As the U.S. was founded on the genocide of one race and enslavement of another, and included a resulting forced assimilation to the dominant culture, I’d argue that many aspects of the white supremacy culture – the religion, language, food, practices, beliefs and behaviors themselves – can themselves create microagressions toward non-whites. Which takes us to chapter 12.

The whole idea of microaggressions if often written off by white people saying things like, “folks shouldn’t be so sensitive.” When I consider my own trauma, specifically that experienced in the Christian churches of my youth, I note that the sight of a cross around someone’s neck can set my hair on edge. While this minor discomfort or unease I experience is not nice, I comprehend that it in no way is equivalent to the experiences of microaggressions by people of color. I can see that my experience, with it’s minor potential repercussions, can lead me to simply think, “we all need to take our sensitivities less seriously.” But in that attitude I am not comprehending that this is an occasional, minor discomfort, and not one that threatens my real safety and well-being. For people of color, the discomfort experienced with microaggressions is accompanied by very real potential threats to their safety, including the possible risk of death. While it is in no way comparable, realizing my own discomfort at the sight of a cross at least helps me begin to understand how these feelings that result from microaggressions can be debilitating.

The opening pages of this chapter give a much better explanation as Ijeoma shares her own experiences with microaggressions.

So you want to talk about race p. 169

Besides being hard to see, they are often made unconsciously by perpetrators. This chapter, perhaps more than most, made it very clear to me why it is so important to talk with each other, get to know each other, and share experiences with each other, so that we can better address our concerns around race. I know better now why it is so important for me to ask more questions, be more thoughtful, and talk less.

We cannot hope to cease harming each other when we are so ignorant to the ways in which we cause harm. And it’s my responsibility as one from the dominant culture, to educate myself on the people around me and their cultural norms. It’s my responsibility to be more thoughtful about how the questions I ask, based in white supremacy culture, can create discomfort. And, while it’s not their job to educate me, having people of color around me providing perspective really helps.

Ijeoma shares some of her own techniques for addressing some microaggressions and they are quite brilliant! Sometimes it is a simple as stating “what actually happened” (“You just assumed that I don’t speak English.”) but it can mean asking some clarifying questions. “Why did you say that to me?” or “Can you help me understand your joke?” can give someone pause to truly consider what they said and how it might have affected a person of color. She also notes that it’s not about the intentions of the person making the statement but instead it is about educating them to the harms they are causing, intentional or not. “You may not have meant to offend me, but you did. And this happens to people of color all the time. If you do not mean to offend, you will stop doing this.” Bottom line: we need to address these issues, regardless of the discomfort they can bring, if we hope to find progress.

So, what if you’re the one being called out for microaggressions? She has tips for us too! And since they are the things I need to remember best, here they are:

  • Pause. [I know the surprise and emotion that arises when being accused of racism. Taking a pause allows me to remember that this is not about my feelings, but about understanding the effects of my words and actions and working to be a better person to the one who is calling me out.]
  • Ask yourself: “Do I really know why I said/did that?” [This is a big one. And one that can take time to truly comprehend. There are many common actions or questions that white people should have long ago stopped. And, had we made progress on dismantling the racism machine in America, perhaps we would have. But as we largely lack an ability to talk about race, it will take time until we phase out these things. When confronted with our words/actions by a person of color it is clear that some ruminating is in order.]
  • Ask yourself: “Would I have said this to somebody of any race? Is this something I say to people of my race? [Another good question to ask as it can give additional insight to my assumptions.]
  • Ask yourself if you were feeling threatened or uncomfortable in the situation, and then ask yourself why. [I had an experience this past summer where I was publicly accused of racist statements. It literally stopped me in my tracks. I ended up spending a great deal of time and energy on trying to understand. It gave me much pause to consider all aspects of the situation and my accountability for what transpired. I talked with many people about the experience and came to understand that my discomfort with the accusations caused me to default to defensiveness when I should have simply stayed silent. It led me to better understand how my actions, regardless of intention, caused harm. Understanding that my emotions need to be checked will hopefully cause me to better respond in similar situations going forward.]
  • Don’t force people to acknowledge your good intentions. [There was much about the summer situation that made me want to assure my good intentions were recognized. Of course I don’t want my colleagues and peers – many of whom barely knew me as this was a nationwide conference call – to think ill of me! In hindsight, I see how meaningless this recognition of my intentions was for the people of color in the group who were triggered as it was based solely in soothing my ego.]
  • Remember: it’s not just this one incident. For people of color, microaggressions are an everyday occurrence and the continued and cumulative effects can be overwhelming. [What I said in the summer call may very well have been ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back’. Regardless, I needed to acknowledge responsibility for the words I said and work to ease the resulting harms.]
  • Research further on your own time. Ijeoma assures that whatever we do, it’s been done before and “a quick Google search will help you understand further”. [Indeed, I have had multiple conversations with people I felt could help me better understand that summer situation. I selected white people who I felt modeled thoughtful and respectful behaviors regarding race, people I thought would have insight to what I said from a local perspective, and Indigenous friends who could help me better understand from their perspective. I continue to seek out better understanding and most recently attended an Overcoming Racism workshop that gave more food for thought.]
  • Apologize. When we do something to harm another, even if we do not understand, an apology is in order. [While I did make amends to most of the people I knew I’d affected on that call, there was one that felt as if my approach would create more adversity. I am hopeful that one day, this amends can be made in a good way. But I’m pretty sure I need a lot more work first!!]

Chapter 13 asks Why are our students so angry? Ijeoma’s sharing of her son’s stand on the pledge of allegiance was familiar to me. We may have different experiences that led to our stance of non-participation, but I find big truth in his words as shared by his mother. [In fact, reading this section thrilled me, in part because it reminded me so much of conversations I had with Tommy. This woman was being real with her son, like I was with mine and she was finding her son to be as thoughtful and powerful as I remember finding Tom. That is a joy. But it also broke my heart as I realized the reality of her son’s childhood was riddled with trauma that my son never even had to consider.] The remainder of the chapter gives a quick run through of what’s happened since she was born in the 80s and finishes with explaining our role as adults going forward – basically “to not fuck things up so badly that our kids will be too busy correcting the past to focus on the future.” [The climate crisis is a good example of how we’re failing.] This page says so much and talks about what happened Just after the election of Donald Trump:

So you want to talk about race p. 187

Chapter 14 asks What is the model minority myth? This 1966 idea stereotypes Asian Americans as an “ideal minority group”, creating high expectations for individuals and ignoring the amazing diversity of Asian Peoples. Ijeoma talks here about growing up in poverty and reaching out to brown and black kids for their likely economic connection; poverty was a commonality that allowed a pretense of normalcy. Nonetheless, she faced her own blindness to racism of a different sort.

So you want to talk about race p. 191

This ‘model minority’ idea sees Asian Americans as one invariable group, regardless of the fact that Asian Americans are from such a wide swath of countries, religions, and languages. Like all stereotypes, this idea of “all are alike” is a way of ignoring individuals and dismissing any need to treat them as such. While some may see this is a good thing, to be seen as the ‘model’, and much of the assumptions about this group are ‘positive’, it allows those who do not fit the stereotype to remain unseen and creates unacknowledged barriers. As Ijeoma clarifies, there is much diversity within this ‘model minority’. And some of the assumptions about Asian Americans (that they are meek, hard-working, docile) leads to unfair contrasts with other racial groups. In the end, this system of stereotyped racial ideas is simply another tool that serves the white supremacy culture.

In What if I don’t like Al Sharpton? we get to the idea of tone. Ijeoma discusses the idea of the Martin Luther King, Jr./Malcolm X dichotomy. Martins are black people who comfortably challenge white people without making them feel too uncomfortable while Malcolms are angry blacks “who shout, who inconvenience your day, who will call out your specific behaviors”. Sharpton is a Malcolm. And so is Ijeoma. Though she’s also a Martin. 🙂 In his time, MLK was seen as “the most dangerous man in America” because asking for equality for blacks threatened White Supremacy. [Amazing what some time can do for a guy. And being dead is surely a big help too. No longer a threat to white supremacy, Martin can now be a hero for all the progress America has made!]

Ijeoma argues that, if you believe in justice and equality, then you believe in it for all time and for all people. There is nothing that can be said or done to ‘earn’ a right to justice and equality. These should be basic human rights. But many having conversations about race point to HOW the discussion is happening as opposed to what is being discussed. They are not comfortable with any expressions of anger or accusation. This is simply another tactic for allowing the issues to go unaddressed. And, like all of white supremacy culture, it is based in keeping white people comfortable. It “places prerequisites on being heard and being helped”.

White people need to remember that, for people of color, the discussion is always about the SYSTEM of racism and includes for them a lifetime of lived abuses, dismissals, and harms. The way things are discussed may not be comfortable, but this work is not about the comfort of white people. It is about the responsibility of white people to dismantle a system that gives them unfair and unearned advantage over other human beings.

So you want to talk about race p. 207

I just got called racist, what do I do now? is a chapter for white people. I get that I have racist tendencies. We are ALL programmed by the culture in which we live. And we all live in a White Supremacy world here in America. Anyone who thinks they are not biased is delusional. But examples of people who insist that racism doesn’t exist or that they personally are not racist are ubiquitous.

Here are some things for white people to remember (And hopefully I didn’t fuck up this list in ways that make it different from what Ijeoma intended. The first sentence is her tip and those following are my understanding of what she is suggesting.):

  • Listen. if someone is telling you something about yourself and your actions… just try to actually hear what they are trying to communicate to you without jumping to conclusions, interrupting, or getting too defensive to hear them.
  • Set your intentions aside. Whether or not you caused harm has nothing to do with intention. I think there is some saying about the road to hell on this idea…
  • Try to hear the impact of what you have done. Regardless of your action, the result on this person is the current concern. Hear what they are expressing and consider how you can ease the harm you are having on this individual.
  • Remember that you do not have all the pieces. As a white person, you can never fully grasp the perspective of the person of color. You can never comprehend the way your action fits into her larger experience and it is best to trust that she is sharing with you her truth, regardless of your ability to grok it.
  • Nobody owes you a debate. The emotional toll of simply discussing race is enormous for people of color. When you are confronted with an accusation of racist behavior, while you may want to deep dive, the person talking with you may only have enough to tell you what was done and perhaps how it affected them. There’s always Google… [Or perhaps you can deep dive with another white person who may have a better understanding and can give you further insights.]
  • Nobody owes you a relationship. If you have harmed someone, they have every right to decide to cut ties with you. No matter how much progress you’ve made.
  • Remember you are not the only one hurt. It hurts to be called racist but it can never hurt more than the hurt that forced this person to address you. This is not about your pain. It’s about theirs and it’s your responsibility as a white person to listen. (See first bullet.)
  • If you can see where you have been racist, or if you can see where your actions have caused harm, apologize and mean it. If you can’t see these things, take time to deeply consider the comments and perhaps later you will see more clearly. Also consider how you can make amends and avoid recurrence of this behavior.
  • Last one is below as Ijeoma really says it best.
So you want to talk about race p. 223
So you want to talk about race p. 224

Ijeoma’s final chapter offers insight to what more you can do, besides talk. Talk will help but it will take so much more to truly dismantle the white supremacy machine.

  • Vote local. And demand that anyone asking for your vote make racial justice a top priority.
  • Get in schools. Let officials know that an inclusive education meeting the needs of ALL students. Ask what is being done to close the racial achievement gaps and if the history and accomplishments of people of color are represented in the textbooks used in your school.
  • Bear witness. If you see a person of color stopped by the police or being harassed, bear witness… offer to help is that is safe. “Sometimes just the watchful presence of another white person will make others stop and consider their actions more carefully.”
  • Speak up in your unions. Ask “about the union’s goals to promote diversity and inclusivity.” Unions can bring power but only if members insist on racial justice as a priority.
  • Support POC-owned businesses. Fight economic exploitation by supporting local POC businesses with your dollars.
  • Boycott banks that prey on people of color. Boycott banks that sell bad loans to, hike interest rates for, or descriminate against POC.
  • Give money to organizations working to fight racial suppression and support communities of color. ACLU, SPLC, Planned Parenthood, NAACP, National Immigrant Justice Center, National Council of La Raza, Native American Rights Fund, Mative American Disability Law Center, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Equal Justice Initiative, and others. Ask local people of color for leads to groups that need financial support.
  • Boycott businesses that exploit workers of color. Assure you buy from employers that respect their workers with living wages.
  • Support music, film, television, art, and books created by people of color. With white as the default, supporting workers creating media and art from a POC perspective helps normalize the available works.
  • Support increases in the minimum wage. More POC work in lower wage jobs. Raising minimum wage helps POC disproportionately and can help redress the vast wealth gap in America.
  • Push your mayor and city council for police reform. Ask what is being done to address racial bias in policing. Ask about training, body cams and what civilian oversight is allowed in complaints of bias, discrimination, or abuse. Don’t allow police unions to maintain an unfair status quo.
  • Demand college diversity. Let your college know that inclusiveness and diversity are priorities in students, curriculum, and staff.
  • Vote for diverse government representatives. “Help put people of color into the positions of power where they can self-advocate for the change their communities need. Support candidates of color and support platforms that make diversity, inclusion, and racial justice a priority.”

I highly encourage you to read this book in its entirety. it is full of personal stories, inspiring and heartbreaking, that clarify why this work is so important. Even the acknowledgements are good, which for me is often a sign of a good book. I absolutely love this woman. I have watched videos, listened to interviews, and now finished her book. I hope you will give her a chance to reach you with her message, in whatever way you can. I’ve given you a few links but there is so much more to explore.

As a Water Protector, I have focused on Line 3. If we ever defeat this pipeline, I believe my next task may be to focus on racial justice, which I do with as much time as I can these days. It is hard work. It is full of tears and sadness and horror. And I’m sure I fail EVERY DAY in some way shape or form. But it is important and fulfilling work to discover shortcomings that can be remedied in yourself and to discover the treasure of perspective that is available in human beings of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and personalities.