‘So You Want to Talk About Race’ author discusses her book, importance of anti-racism work

Photo credit: culture.miami.edu

Ijeoma Oluo – author of the New York Times best-seller “So You Want to Talk About Race” – joined University of Miami staff and students on Feb. 18 as the featured guest for this semester’s One Book, One U program. A virtual event, Oluo spoke to over 400 attendees, offering advice on how universities can engage in anti-racist work on their campuses.

Launched in 2017 by professors Chantel Acevedo and Osamudia James, the One Book, One U program seeks to promote conversations about race, diversity and inclusion. Following last year’s protests and political unrest, the selection committee decided now is the time to demand an explicit discussion of race and deliberate efforts towards racial justice and equity.

Oluo opened up about the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin, citing the apparent lack of outrage and devastation as a reason she started writing.

“No one wanted to talk about what was happening,” she recalled. “So, I started writing because I needed my community members to understand why we needed to start having really honest, thoughtful and productive conversations about race.”

Then, she outlined 14 action items that institutions should utilize in furthering their anti-racist work:

1. Know your history.

2. Listen to what has already been said.

3. Create safe spaces for people of color to talk about what is happening.

4. Recognize that every area of your institution has work to do.

5. It is important that anti-racist work is appreciated, resourced and compensated.

6. You must focus on immediate harm reduction and long-term revolution at the same time.

7. Every action must be rooted in the dignity and humanity of POC.

8. You must be responsible for the impact on the broader community.

9. Be willing to challenge norms and engage with privilege.

10. Disinvest from white supremacy.

11. Invest in the joy of students, faculty and staff of color.

12. Set measurable and actionable goals set in the stated needs of POC.

13. Be intersectional.

14. Keep learning.

“It is vital that we continue to learn,” concluded Oluo. “It is vital that we prioritize voices that challenge us. There is no better place than on our campuses to do this work.”

James, who also acts as associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion, echoed Oluo’s sentiments.

“Remember that the conversation neither begins nor ends here,” echoed James. “It will be up to us to move forward for as far and as long as it takes to bring about the most just society that we say we want.”

Students interested in reading “So You Want to Talk About Race” can request either a hard or digital copy here.

A full list of One Book, One U events can be found here.