So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo

Book Highlights

Location: 74.  It was the clerks who would follow me around stores and the jobs that were hiring until I walked in the door and then they were not. And it was the bosses who told me that I was too “loud,” the complaints that my hair was too “ethnic” for the office, and why, even though I was a valued employee, I was making so much less money than other white employees doing the same job. It is the cops I can’t make eye contact with, the Ubers that abandon their pickup, driving on instead of stopping when they see me. When I had my sons, it was the assumptions that they were older than they were, and that their roughhousing was too violent. It was the tears they came home with when a classmate had repeated an ignorant comment of their parent’s.

Location: 87.  Like many people, most of my days were spent just trying to get by. Life is busy and hard. There are work and kids and chores and friends. We spend a lot of time bouncing from one mini-crisis to the next. Yes, my days were just as full of microaggressions, of the pain and oppression of racism, as they are now—but I just had to keep going on like normal. It is very hard to survive as a woman of color in this world, and I remember saying once that if I stopped to feel, really feel, the pain of the racism I encountered, I would start screaming and I would never ever stop. So I did what most of us do, I tried to make the best of it. I worked 50 percent harder than my white coworkers, I stayed late every day. I dressed like every day was a job interview. I was overpolite to white people I encountered in public. I bent over backwards to prove that I was not angry, that I was not a threat. I laughed off racist jokes as if I didn’t feel the pain.

Location: 123. These are very stressful times for people of color who have been fighting and yelling and trying to protect themselves from a world that doesn’t care, to suddenly be asked by those who’ve ignored them for so long, “What has been happening your entire life? Can you educate me?” Now that we’re all in the room, how do we start this discussion? This is not just a gap in experience and viewpoint. The Grand Canyon is a gap.

Location: 147.  Yes, racism and racial oppression in America is horrible and terrifying. The feelings it brings up in us are justified. But it is also everywhere, in every corner of our lives. We have to let go of some of that fear. We have to be able to look racism in the eye wherever we encounter it. If we continue to treat racism like it is a giant monster that is chasing us, we will be forever running. But running won’t help when it’s in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.

Location: 155.  I JUST FEEL LIKE WE WOULD HAVE GOTTEN further if we’d focused more on class than race.”

Location: 170.  “If you could do that—if you could improve things for the lower classes—it would,” I say, “But how?” When he then recites the standard recommendations of strengthening unions and raising minimum wages I decide to jump to the point: “Why do you think black people are poor? Do you think it’s for the same reasons that white people are?”

Location: 175.  “I live in a world where if I have a ‘black sounding’ name, I’m less likely to even be called for a job interview. Will I equally benefit from raising minimum wages when I can’t even get a job?” My friend recalls that study, acknowledging that the discrimination I’m referencing is indeed a real thing that happens. “If I do get a good job and do what society says I should do and save up and buy a house—will I benefit equally when the fact that I live in a ‘black neighborhood’ means that my house will be worth far less? Will I benefit equally when I’m much more likely to get higher mortgage rates from my bank, or predatory loans that will skyrocket in cost after a few years causing me to foreclose and lose my home and equity and credit, because of the color of my skin?”

Location: 181.  “If I am able to get what is considered a decent wage for the ‘average’ American, but my son is locked up in jail like one in three black men are predicted to be, so I’m raising my grandkids on my meager salary, will stronger unions really raise me out of poverty? “If I’m more likely to be suspended and expelled from school, because even since preschool my teachers are more likely to see my childhood antics as violence and aggression,…

Location: 188.  But it’s a narrative that hurts me, and so many other people of color. My friend pauses and says, “Well, what are we supposed to do then? Nothing? Can’t we focus on this first to get everybody behind it and then address the race stuff?” To which I sigh and say, “That’s the promise that’s been made to us for hundreds of years. Those are the words of every labor movement that managed to help white America so much more than everyone else. Those are the words that ‘move everybody forward’ but in the exact same place, with the exact same hierarchy, and the exact same oppressions. Those words are why the wealth…

Location: 195.  The system of racism functioned primarily as a justification for the barbaric act of chattel slavery and the genocide of Indigenous peoples. You cannot put chains around the necks of other human beings or slaughter them wholesale, while maintaining social rules that prohibit such treatment, without first designating those people as somewhat less than human. And later, the function of racism was somewhat repurposed as a way (to still keep people down?) … Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.

Location: 199.  Many believe that because race was created by our economic system—because it is a lie told to justify a crime—a unilateral improvement of conditions for lower classes would address the economic and social disparities around race. Money is also a social construct—a series of rules and agreements we all made up while pretending that these pieces of paper are worth our entire lives. But we cannot simply stop thinking of money and it will cease to enthrall us. It has woven its way into every part of our lives. It has shaped our past and our futures. It has become alive. Race has also become alive. Race was not only created to justify a racially exploitative economic system, it was invented to lock people of color into the bottom of it.

Location: 208.  Anywhere there is a finite amount of power, influence, visibility, wealth, or opportunity. Anywhere in which someone might miss out. Anywhere there might not be enough. There the lure of that promise sustains racism. White Supremacy is this nation’s oldest pyramid scheme. Even those who have lost everything to the scheme are still hanging in there, waiting for their turn to cash out.

Location: 217.  In just about every demographic of socio-political-economic well-being, black and brown people are consistently getting less. We, people of color, of course are not the only people who have gotten less. Even without the invention of race, class would still exist and does exist even in racially homogenous countries. And our class system is oppressive and violent and harms a lot of people of all races. It should be addressed. It should be torn down. But the same hammer won’t tear down all of the walls. What keeps a poor child in Appalachia poor is not what keeps a poor child in Chicago poor.

Location: 222.  Even in our class and labor movements, the promise that you will get more because others exist to get less, calls to people. It tells you to focus on the majority first. It tells you that the grievances of people of color, or disabled people, or transgender people, or women are divisive. The promise that keeps racism alive tells you that you will benefit most and others will eventually benefit… a little. It has you believing in trickle-down social justice. Yes, it is about class—and about gender and sexuality and ability. And it’s also, almost always, about race.

Location: 234.  If you are looking for a simple way to determine if something is about race, here are some basic rules. And when I say basic, I mean basic.

  1. It is about race if a person of color thinks it is about race.
  2. It is about race if it disproportionately or differently affects people of color.
  3. It is about race if it fits into a broader pattern of events that disproportionately or differently affect people
  4. It is about race if it disproportionately or differently affects people of color.

Location: 257.  Often, when talking about issues of race I will receive messages from white people stating that what I’m talking about is not about race because they, a white person, too suffer from said issue. Poverty cannot be about race if there are poor white people. Incarceration cannot be about race if there are incarcerated white people, and so on. Many white people who themselves often suffer from the same hardships that many people of color suffer from feel erased by discussions of racial oppression. In contrast, I’ll also often hear from white people (often the very same white people) about successful black people that obviously debunk the theory that hardships are race-based. How can poverty be about race if Oprah exists? How can there be lack of representation in the entertainment industry when Beyoncé wins all the awards?

Location: 273.  There are very few hardships out there that hit only people of color and not white people, but there are a lot of hardships that hit people of color a lot more than white people. As I said earlier, just because something is about race, doesn’t mean it’s only about race. This also means that just because something is about race, doesn’t mean that white people can’t be similarly impacted by it and it doesn’t mean that the experience of white people negatively impacted is invalidated by acknowledging that people of color are disproportionately impacted. Disadvantaged white people are not erased by discussions of disadvantages facing people of color, just as brain cancer is not erased by talking about breast cancer. They are two different issues with two different treatments, and they require two different conversations.

Location: 288.  To him, it was just an individual incident, and the next abuse was also an individual incident, to be forgotten as quickly as the words left his mouth. To me, it was a daily onslaught of emotional pain. But whenever I tried to step back and look at the big picture, he’d pull me down to look at a tiny piece: “See this? It’s so small. Why would you get upset about this little thing?” I could not address abuse in my relationship because I was too busy defending my right to even call it abuse. 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.

Location: 302.  Regardless of why that last person punched you, there’s a pattern that needs to be addressed, and your sore arm is testimony to that. But what often happens instead is that people demand that you prove that each person who punched you in the arm in the past meant to punch you in the arm before they’ll acknowledge that too many people are punching you in the arm. The real tragedy is that you get punched in the arm constantly, not that one or two people who accidentally punched you in the arm might be accused of doing it on purpose. They still contributed to the pain that you have endured—a pain bigger than that one punch—and they are responsible for being a part of that, whether they meant to or not.

Location: 316.  While just about everything can be about race, almost nothing is completely about race. It is important that we are aware of the different factors in any situation of oppression or conflict (please see the chapter on intersectionality for more very important discussion on this). A lot of people feel like acknowledging race in a problem will make that problem only about race, and that will leave a lot of people out. But race was designed to be interwoven into our social, political, and economic systems. Instead of trying to isolate or ignore race, we need to look at race as a piece of the machine, just as we’d look at class or geography when considering social issues. Race alone is not all you need to focus on, but without it, any solution you come up with just won’t work. We live in a complex world, and when looking at socioeconomic problems in our society, we simply cannot come to a viable solution without factoring in race.

Location: 333.  Why do you deserve to be believed and people of color don’t? And if you are a person of color, know this: the world will try to tell you that what you are seeing, hearing, thinking, and feeling is wrong. The world will tell you that you do not know how to interpret what is happening to you and to your community. But you are not wrong, and you have just as much right to be heard and believed as anybody else. If you think it’s about race, you are right.

Location: 345.  Poor people shouldn’t have to prove how much they deserve to have a roof over their heads and feed their children.

Location: 367.  He wasn’t going to hear it. There was “real racism” as he defined it, which was a post–reconstruction era horror type of racism, and there was whatever I was talking about (which he wasn’t comfortable categorizing but he was pretty sure wasn’t that big of a deal)—the day-to-day reminders that I’m less than, that I should just learn to get over or find a more pleasant way to confront. He went on to discuss how his grandma, for example, said some racist things, but she was a kind person and it would be cruel to call a harmless old lady racist and would only make her more racist. It seemed far more important to him that the white people who were spreading and upholding racism be spared the effects of being called racist, than sparing his black friend the effects of that racism.

Location: 373.  No matter how I described the effects that this sort of racism had on me and other people of color, he was not going to accept me using the word “racist” to describe it. That was when I learned that this was not a friend I could talk to about this really important part of my life. I couldn’t be my full self around him, and he would never truly have my back. He was not safe. I wasn’t angry, I was heartbroken.

Location: 382.  (1) Racism is any prejudice against someone because of their race. Or (2) Racism is any prejudice against someone because of their race, when those views are reinforced by systems of power.

Location: 387.  When we use only the first definition of racism, as any prejudice against someone based on race, we inaccurately reduce issues of race in America to a battle for the hearts and minds of individual racists—instead of seeing racists, racist behaviors, and racial oppression as part of a larger system.

Location: 392.  Furthermore, many of those people have very little real power on their own and tend to stay on the fringes of society. We, as a society, like our racism subtler than that.

Location: 394.  What is important is that the impotent hatred of the virulent racist was built and nurtured by a system that has much more insidiously woven a quieter, yet no less violent, version of those same oppressive beliefs into the fabric of our society. The truth is, you don’t even have to “be racist” to be a part of the racist system. The dude shouting about “black-on-black crime” is reinforced by elected officials coding “problem neighborhoods” and promising to “clean up the streets” that surprisingly always seem to have a lot of brown and black people on them—and end with a lot of black and brown people in handcuffs. Your aunt yelling about “thugs” is echoed in our politicians talking about “super-predators” while building our school-to-prison pipelines that help ensure that the widest path available to black and brown children ends in a jail cell.

Location: 403.  It’s the system, and our complacency in that system, that gives racism its power, not individual intent. Without that white supremacist system, we’d just have a bunch of assholes yelling at each other on a pretty even playing field— Location: 405

But there is no even playing field right now. Over four hundred years of systemic oppression have set large groups of racial minorities at a distinct power disadvantage. Location: 407

If a white person thinks I’m a nigger, the worst they can do is get me fired, arrested, or even killed in a system that thinks the same—and has the resources to act on it. Location: 410

When we look at racism simply as “any racial prejudice,” we are entered into a battle to win over the hearts and minds of everyone we encounter—fighting only the symptoms of the cancerous system, not the cancer itself. This is not only an impossible task, it’s a pretty useless one. Getting my neighbor to love people of color might make it easier to hang around him, but it won’t do anything to combat police brutality, racial income inequality, food deserts, or the prison industrial complex. Further, this approach puts the onus on me, the person being discriminated against, to prove my humanity and worthiness of equality to those who think I’m less than. But so much of what we think and feel about people of other races is dictated by our system, and not our hearts. Who we see as successful, who has access to that success, who we see as scary, what traits we value in society, who we see as “smart” and “beautiful Location: 425

Or did you pick up this book with the goal of helping fight a system of oppression that is literally killing people of color? Because if you insist on holding to a definition of racism that reduces itself to “any time somebody is mean to somebody of a different race” then this is not the book to accomplish your goals. Location: 429

if you came with the second intention—to fight the systemic oppression that is harming the lives of millions of people of color— Location: 436

creation of a society with racial disparities of socioeconomic well-being so large and entrenched that they trap multiple generations in the same expectations of success or failure. We live in a society where race is one of the biggest indicators of your success in life. There are sizable racial divides in wealth, health, life expectancy, infant mortality, incarceration rates, and so much more. We cannot look at a society where racial inequity is so universal and longstanding and say, “This is all the doing of a few individuals with hate in their hearts.” It just doesn’t make sense. We cannot fix these systemic issues on a purely emotional basis. We must see the whole picture. How do you fix the school-to-prison pipeline on an emotional basis? Location: 443

How do you change an education system tailored almost exclusively to the experiences, history, and goals of white families on an emotional basis? How do you address an overwhelmingly white system of government on an emotional basis? We can get every person in America to feel nothing but love for people of color in their hearts, and if our systems aren’t acknowledged and changed, it will bring negligible benefit to the lives of people of color. Location: 446

ignoring the factor of institutional support of racial bias as a component of racism means that we erase the real harm done by that institutional support. When we say, “all racial prejudice is equally harmful,” we are denying a large portion of the harm done to people of color and cutting ourselves off from opportunities to repair that harm. But when we acknowledge racism as a part of a system, instead of being limited to our ability to win over racists, we can instead focus on how our actions interact with systemic racism. No, the problem isn’t just that a white person may think black people are lazy and that hurts people’s feelings, it’s that the belief that black people are lazy reinforces and is reinforced by a… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 452

racism was designed to support an economic and social system for those at the very top. This was never motivated by hatred of people of color, and the goal was never in and of itself simply the subjugation of people of color. The ultimate goal of racism was the profit and comfort of the white race, specifically, of rich white men. The oppression of people of color was an easy way to get this wealth and power, and racism was a good way to justify it. This is not about sentiment beyond the ways in which our sentiment is manipulated to maintain… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 457

we have to address all of this, our emotions, our ignorance, our fear, and our hate—but we cannot ignore the system that takes all of that, magnifies it, and uses it to crush the lives and liberty of people of… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 461

how do you move forward in discussion of race when accusations of “reverse racism” and “racism against whites” start flying? First off, understand that this is almost always a defensive reaction to feelings of fear, guilt, or confusion. This is an attempt either to move conversation to a place where the person you are talking to is more comfortable, or to end the conversation completely. Consider restating your intention in engaging in this conversation and ask the person you are talking to to confirm what they are talking about: “I am talking about issues of… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 489

Tying racism to its systemic causes and effects will help others see the important difference between systemic racism, and anti-white bigotry. In addition, the more practice you have at tying individual racism to the system that gives it power, the more you will be able to see all the ways in which you can make a difference. Location: 496

When we look at racism as a system, it becomes much larger and more complicated than it seemed before—but there is also more opportunity to address the various parts of it. Location: 523

Quite often, well-meaning white people will attempt to show me how much they “get it” by launching into racial dialogues filled with assumptions, stereotypes, and microaggressions that they are completely unaware of. Location: 559

while I had definitely inherited light-skin privilege due to my mixed heritage I did not feel that whiteness was something that any person with brown skin and kinky hair could inherit, because race doesn’t care what your parents look like—just look at all the light-skinned slaves sold away from their black mothers by their white fathers. We talked about how to discuss race without placing undue burden on people of color to educate you. We talked about when to not discuss race (say, in the middle of the workday when your black coworker is just trying to get through a day surrounded by white people). We ended the conversation exhausted and emotional, but with a greater understanding of each other. Location: 568

My mom has shifted her focus on race from proving to black people that she is “down” to pressuring fellow white people to do better. Location: 587

their dress code that ignore the very specific hairstyle needs of black women (see military restrictions against small braids, for example), then my employer is making race an issue in their attempts to ignore it. When my son’s school only has parent-teacher conferences during school hours, they are making race an issue by ignoring the fact that black and Latinx parents are more likely to work the type of hourly jobs that would cause them to lose much-needed pay, or even risk losing their employment altogether, in order to stay involved in their child’s education. When I take my kids to movies and none of the characters they see look like them, it’s the studio that is making it about race when they decide to make up entire universes in which no brown or black people exist. I just want to go to work, educate my kids, and enjoy a movie. Location: 593

we live in a society where the color of your skin still says a lot about your prognosis for success in life. This is the reality right now, and ignoring race will not change that. We have a real problem of racial inequity and injustice in our society, and we cannot wish it away. We have to tackle this problem with real action, and we will not know what needs to be done if we are not willing to talk about it. Location: 602

at least decrease your chance of conversation disaster: 1) State your intentions. Do you know why you are having this particular conversation? Do you know why this matters to you? Is there something in particular you are trying to communicate or understand? Figure it out before moving forward and then state what your intentions are, so that the people you are talking with can determine whether this is a conversation they are willing to join. Very Location: 608

2) Remember what your top priority in the conversation is, and don’t let your emotions override that. If your top priority is understanding racism better, or addressing an incident involving race, or righting a wrong caused by racism, don’t let the top priority suddenly become avenging your wounded pride if the conversation has you feeling defensive. 3) Do your research. If you are going to be talking about an issue you are not familiar with, a quick Google search will save everyone involved a lot of time and frustration. If terms or subjects come up that you are not familiar with, you can ask for some clarification if you are in person, but know that if you are a white person talking to a person of color—it is never their job to become your personal Google. Location: 620

We must be willing to fight oppression in all of its forms. 5) When you start to feel defensive, stop and ask yourself why. Location: 626

6) Do not tone police. Do not require that people make their discussions on the racial oppression they face comfortable for you. See chapter 15 for more details. 7) If you are white, watch how many times you say “I” and “me.” Remember, systemic racism is about more than individuals, and it is not about your personal feelings. If you find yourself frequently referring to your feelings and your viewpoint, chances are, you are making this all about you. 8) Ask yourself: Am I trying to be right, or am I trying to do better? Conversations on racism should never be about winning. This battle is too important to be so simplified. You are in this to share, and to learn. You are in this to do better and be better. You are not trying to score points, and victory will rarely look like your opponent conceding defeat and vowing to never argue with you again. 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. Location: 668

No matter what, when you are having a conversation about racial oppression, you will not be the only one who is nervous and you will not be the only one taking a risk. These conversations will always be hard, because they will always be about the hurt and pain of real people. We are talking about our identities and our histories and the ways in which these are used and exploited to elevate and oppress. These conversations will always be emotional and loaded to various degrees—and if they are not, then you are likely not having the right conversation. Racial oppression should always be an emotional topic to discuss. It should always be anger-inducing. As long as racism exists to ruin the lives of countless people of color, it should be something that upsets us. But it upsets us because it exists, not because we talk about it. And if you are white, and you don’t want to feel any of that pain by having these conversations, then you are asking people of color to continue to bear the entire burden of racism alone. Location: 766

The definition of privilege is in reality much simpler than a lot of social justice discussions would have you believe. Privilege, in the social justice context, is an advantage or a set of advantages that you have that others do not. These privileges are not due 100 percent to your efforts (although your hard work may indeed have helped), and the benefits of these privileges are disproportionately large or at least partially undeserved when compared to what the privilege is for. Location: 797

If I were to go along thinking that my degree was 100 percent due to my efforts and all the benefits that I received were 100 percent deserved, it would then require that I think that those who did not benefit deserved to not benefit— Location: 799

him, I would have to buy into the entire system in order to believe that it was 100 percent deserved. Location: 802

I would then be perpetuating the same advantages and disadvantages—or system of privilege—on other people. I would be part of the reason why the deck was stacked against those who were unable, for so many reasons, to get a college degree. In a fair competition truly based on skill and experience, I may have still gotten that promotion. I may well have been the most qualified person for the job. But it wasn’t a fair competition, and in acting like it was fair, and accepting my prize without question, I helped ensure that it would stay unfair. This right here, the realization that we may be a part of the reason why the deck is stacked against others, that we may have been contributing to it for years without our knowledge, Location: 808

others, we do not want to believe that we do not deserve everything we have, and we do not want to think of ourselves as ignorant of how our world works. The concept of privilege violates everything we’ve been told about fairness and everything we’ve been told about the American Dream of hard work paying off and good things happening to good people. We want to know that if we do “a” we can expect “b,” and that those who never get “b” have never done “a.” The concept of privilege makes the world seem less safe. We want to protect our vision of a world that is fair and kind and predictable. That reaction is natural, but it doesn’t make the harmful effects of unexamined privilege less real. Location: 814

consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing and may in fact be contributing to those struggles. It is a big ask, to check your privilege. It is hard and often painful, but it’s not nearly as painful as living with the pain caused by the unexamined privilege of others. Location: 819

And in a way, that is true, but know this, a privilege has to come with somebody else’s disadvantage—otherwise, it’s not a privilege. As a light-skinned black woman, I’m viewed by many in society as more intelligent and less threatening than darker-skinned black people. This is a privilege, because in order to be viewed as “more intelligent” others have to be viewed as “less intelligent.” If black people of all shade ranges were viewed as equally intelligent until proven otherwise by their actions, then that privilege would cease to exist. Location: 829

When we are willing to check our privilege, we are not only identifying areas where we are perpetuating oppression in order to stop personally perpetuating that oppression, but we are also identifying areas where we have the power and access to change the system as a whole. Where I benefit most from being able-bodied is where I have the most power and access to change a system that disadvantages disabled people. Location: 833

When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else’s oppression, we’ll find our opportunities to make real change. Location: 835

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. Location: 840

You may well want to list your disadvantages as well. This is not the time for that, so please resist the urge. It is natural to feel like focusing on your advantages invalidates your disadvantages and your struggles in life, but that is not what will happen. You can be both privileged in some areas of life, and underprivileged in others. Both can be true at once and can impact your life at the same time. This is an exercise you should do even if you feel extremely underprivileged in life. Location: 850

Once you’ve written down a nice long list of privilege, start thinking about how this privilege might have influenced not only your status in society, but your experience with and understanding of the world at large. How might your privilege have impacted your ideas on racism, on education, on the environment? Then start seeking out work on these subjects by people who don’t have your same privilege, and listen when those people are speaking. 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. Location: 857

Get used to that uncomfortable feeling that arises when you discover that perhaps your privilege is hindering your ability to truly understand or address an issue. Get used to that pang of guilt that comes with realizing yet another area of life where you’ve benefited at the expense of others. It will not kill you. You can withstand Location: 863

When you first became aware of an area of your privilege, it did not appear to you as “privilege.” You had to be able to see what your advantage was, that others did not have that advantage, and that it was influencing your words and decisions in a way that could be harming others. Remembering this might allow you to put more detail into your entreaties for people to check their privilege and may increase the chances they will actually try. Location: 871

Try to remember that the alternative to not being made aware of your privilege (no matter how it may sting) is your continued participation in the oppression of others. Someone is giving you an opportunity to do better, no matter how unpleasant the delivery. Thank them. Once you are aware of your privilege, you can get to work on dismantling it. This is where checking your privilege really pays off. Here are some examples of where you can Location: 884

The possibilities of where you can leverage your privilege to make real, measurable change toward a better world are endless. Every day you are given opportunities to make the world better, by making yourself a little uncomfortable and asking, “who doesn’t have this same freedom or opportunity that I’m enjoying now?” These daily interactions are how systems of oppression are maintained, but with awareness, they can be how we tear those systems down. So please, check your privilege. Check it often. Location: 971

Because the needs of the most privileged are usually the ones prioritized, they are often the only ones considered when discussing solutions to oppression and inequality. These solutions, not surprisingly, often leave the underprivileged populations in our movements behind. The idea of intersectionality provides a more inclusive alternative to the status quo. Coined by the brilliant race theorist and civil rights activist Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, the term “intersectionality” was born from Crenshaw’s work to shed light on the ways in which experiences in both race and gender intertwine to uniquely impact the lives of black women and women of color. Location: 980

Intersectionality, and the necessity of considering intersectionality, applies to more than just our social justice efforts. Our government, education system, economic system, and social systems all should consider intersectionality if they have any hope of effectively serving the public. Location: 985

there are many reasons that may be why social justice movements have been slow to adopt intersectional practices: Intersectionality slows things down. The simple truth is, when you are only considering the needs of a select few, it’s a lot easier to make what looks like progress than when you have to consider the needs of a diverse group of people. This is where you often hear people say things like, “Well, let’s just work on what the majority needs first and we’ll get to the rest later.” Intersectionality brings people face-to-face with their privilege. People, in general, do not like to recognize the ways in which they may be unfairly advantaged over other people. To embrace… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 995

Intersectionality decentralizes people who are used to being the primary focus of the movements they are a part of. If your needs have always been among the prioritized in your social justice movements, that is going to feel like the natural order of things for you. It may well have not even occurred to you that others within your movement have never felt prioritized. While you may, in theory, want others to have equal priority within your movements,… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 1,000

Intersectionality forces people to interact with, listen to, and consider people they don’t usually interact with, listen to, or consider. People like to form groups with people they consider “similar” to themselves. Many of us spend a lot of our days with “people like us”—people with similar backgrounds, goals, identities, and personalities. This is human nature. This also means that our social justice efforts often self-segregate in this way as well.… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 1,007

if you don’t embrace intersectionality, even if you make progress for some, you will look around one day and find that you’ve… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 1,009

Here are some questions to ask yourself: How might race, gender, sexuality, ability, class, or sex impact this subject? You don’t have to have the exact answers to this question, but asking it of yourself will give you ideas of other viewpoints to seek out. Could the identity differences between me and the person I’m talking with about race be contributing to our differences of opinion or perspective? Are the people in my racial justice conversations and the opinions… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 1,017

Am I listening to people whose identities and experiences differ from mine? Am I looking for what I don’t know? Am I asking people if they notice anything missing from my racial justice efforts? Am I shifting some focus and power away from the most privileged in the conversation? Am I letting those we don’t hear from very often speak first? Am I making conversation accessible to everyone who wants to participate? Am I prioritizing… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 1,024

ask yourself why and what you can do to make people feel safe to speak up around you. Privilege has been used to silence people for so long, that you will need to put out the effort to let people know that you will value and respect their input.… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 1,030

Most people don’t know what intersectionality is, and unknown words can put people on the defensive. You may need to explain further, with examples of the… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 1,033

It’s often best to start first with real-life examples of how this conversation or project could be more intersectional. The concept of intersectionality is more easily understood when viewed as an opportunity to do better and do more, instead of just an examination of the ways in which these efforts are failing.… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 1,037

It is important that our efforts to end oppression for some do not perpetuate… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 1,040

How is your child’s school curriculum developed? Who is considered when developing environmental policy? Everything we do publicly can be made more inclusive and uplifting with intersectionality, and everything we do can become exclusionary and oppressive without it. Intersectionality, and the recognition… Some highlights have been hidden or truncated due to export limits.Location: 1,078

If we don’t know if each individual encounter with police officers is truly about race, and if we can’t safely ask—why do we talk about police brutality like it is about race? At its core, police brutality is about power and corruption. Police brutality is about the intersection of fear and guns. Police brutality is about accountability. And the power and corruption that enable police brutality put all citizens, of every race, at risk. But it does not put us at risk equally, and the numbers bear that out. Location: 1,082

fear, as a black driver, is real. The fact is that black drivers are 23 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers1, between 1.5 and 5 times more likely to be searched (while shown to be less likely than whites to turn up contraband in these searches),2 and more likely to be ticketed3 and arrested4 in those stops. This increase in stops, searches, and arrests also leads to a 3.5–4 times higher probability that black people will be killed by cops (this increase is the same for Native Americans interacting with police, a shamefully underreported statistic). Even when we aren’t arrested or killed, we are still more likely to be abused and dehumanized in our stops. Location: 1,088

2016 review of a thirteen-month period showed that Oakland police handcuffed 1,466 black people in nonarrest traffic stops, and only 72 white people5, and a 2016 study by the Center for Policing Equity found that blacks were almost 4 times more likely to be subject to force from police—including force by hand (such as hitting and choking), pepper spray, tazer, and gun—than white people. Location: 1,097

in every type of neighborhood, people of color are being disproportionately criminalized. This is not all in our heads. Location: 1,109

Like myself, most people of color I know do not enjoy driving. We have moments where we forget what our blackness means behind the wheel, when we are enjoying a great song on the radio, or leaving a fun event. For a few moments, we are driving like any other carefree American. But then our pulses rise at the sight of an officer on the street. Will this be the time? The moment the lights on the police cruiser go on we know—that’s for us. We are watching our speed and using our turn signals and yet when those lights go on we know that there is no other car that officer is going to pull up behind than ours. And we pray that our paperwork is all legit, and that the officer won’t be afraid of us, that we won’t make the wrong moves or say the wrong things. Location: 1,117

the never-ending denial by the rest of society of the fear and anxiety and fatigue you experience as a valid response to the near-constant reminder that those assigned and empowered to protect you see your skin color as evidence of wrongdoing, and could take your freedom or even your life at any time, with no recourse. In this individualist nation we like to believe that systemic racism doesn’t exist. Location: 1,138

There has not been a time in American history where our police force has not had a contentious and often violent relationship with communities of color. Our police forces were born from Night Patrols, who had the principal task of controlling black and Native American populations in New England, and Slave Patrols, who had the principal task of catching escaped black slaves and sending them back to slave masters.8 After the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, catching and reenslaving black people became the job of Night Patrols as well, and that job was continued on after the Night Patrols were turned into the country’s first police forces. Our early American police forces existed not only to combat crime, but also to return black Americans to slavery and control and intimidate free black populations. Location: 1,144

In the brutal and bloody horror of the post-Reconstruction South, local police sometimes joined in on the terrorizing of black communities that left thousands of black Americans dead.9 In the South, through the Jim Crow era and the civil rights movement, it was well known locally that many police officers were also members of the Ku Klux Klan. Through much of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries, American police forces were one of the greatest threats to the safety of black Americans. Our police force was not created to serve black Americans; it was created to police black Americans and serve white Americans. Location: 1,151

Our police forces had starkly different roles within the white community that they were responsible to. Police abuse and oppression of people of color has not stopped at black Americans. Hispanic and Native American populations have also long been the recipients of higher rates of arrest, assault, and death at the hands of police, and police have been used throughout history to intimidate, punish, and silence activists and protestors in all minority racial and ethnic groups. Location: 1,165

When looking at anti-black bias in police actions, we are looking at the product of police cultural history that has always viewed black Americans as adversaries, and of a popular culture that has always portrayed black Americans as violent criminals not worthy of protection. From our books, TV shows, and movies, to our crime focus on news programs—the narrative of the black brute is as strong now as it was when Birth of a Nation was released to wide acclaim in 1915. We hear this repeated in the language of our TV pundits and our politicians. Who will do something about this inner-city crime? Who will keep our streets safe from these thugs? Who will protect us from these super-predators? The belief that black people still need to be controlled by police is promoted by our politicians and funded by Location: 1,177

When an officer shoots an unarmed black man and says he feared for his life, I believe it. But that fear itself is often racist and unfounded. Location: 1,179

this is not “black-on-black” or “brown-on-brown” crime. Those terms are 100 percent racist. It’s crime. We don’t call crime that happens in white communities “white-on-white” crime, even though the majority of crimes against white people are perpetrated by other white people. Crime is a problem within communities. And communities with higher poverty, fewer jobs, and less infrastructure are going to have higher crime, regardless of race. When the average black American has one-thirteenth the net worth and the average Hispanic American has one-tenth the net worth of the average white American,10 and when the poverty rate among Native Americans is over three times that of whites,11 it is a strong bet that neighborhoods of color are more likely to be poor neighborhoods with higher crime and that higher-priced neighborhoods with easier access to jobs and more funding for education that lead to less crime Location: 1,187

Crime in communities of color is often compounded by the contentious relationship with police. Nobody wants a solution to crime in black communities more than black people do, they are the people most impacted by it. But when you cannot trust the police to protect you, who do you call to report illegal activity? When a crime happens, why would you cooperate with a police force that you do not trust to enforce the law without bias or excessive force? Police, as an extension of American society, are more likely to view people of color as dangerous, and people of color are more likely to view police as corrupt. Location: 1,230

instead expect your police force to earn the respect and trust of communities of color by providing them with the same level of service that you enjoy. Location: 1,232

because they want white people to join them in demanding their right to be able to trust the police like white people do. Location: 1,394

I think about every black and brown person, every queer person, every disabled person, who could be in the room with me, but isn’t, and I’m not proud. I’m heartbroken. We should not have a society where the value of marginalized people is determined by how well they can scale often impossible obstacles that others will never know. I have been exceptional, and I shouldn’t have to be exceptional to be just barely getting by. But we live in a society where if you are a person of color, a disabled person, a single mother, or an LGBT person you have to be exceptional. And if you are exceptional by the standards put forth by white supremacist patriarchy, and you are lucky, you will most likely just barely get by. There’s nothing inspirational about that. Location: 1,415

when the Supreme Court upheld a 10 percent set-aside of contract funds for minority businesses in 1980, that percentage was far below representative of the 17 percent minority population at the time.1 Affirmative action’s goal was to force educators and federal employers to get creative and proactive in their efforts to combat the effects that hundreds of years of racial and gender discrimination had had on the diversity of their workplaces and universities. Location: 1,423

Affirmative action is a crucial tool if we want to mitigate some of the effects of systemic racism and misogyny in our society. It should not be rolled back; in fact, I argue that it should be expanded to other groups that suffer from systemic oppression as well. Why? Because it works. No, it doesn’t work wonders, but affirmative action can do some good for those who need it, and it can do some good for a society that wants to value equality and diversity. Location: 1,427

the majority of the costs and benefits of affirmative action are easily supported by data, and the arguments against it are easily countered. Location: 1,432

Studies have shown that if you have a “black-sounding” name, you are four times less likely to be called for a job interview. White women still make only 82 cents for every white man’s dollar, black women only earn 65 cents for every white man’s dollar, and Hispanic women earn even less at 58 cents for every white man’s dollar. The wage gap between white and black men has not budged since Reagan’s cuts to affirmative action began in the ’80s, with black men making 73 cents for every white man’s dollar, and the wage gap between white and Hispanic men has actually grown since 1980, going from 71 cents down to 69 cents Location: 1,438

Black and Hispanic students are far more likely to be suspended from school, starting as early as preschool. An average of 16 percent of black students and 7 percent of Hispanic students are suspended each year, compared to only 5 percent of white students. And while the rate of suspension for white students has remained steady for over thirty years, the rate of suspension for black students has almost tripled.3 How does this happen? There are a lot of factors, but a Yale study shows that preschool teachers are more likely to look for problem behavior in black children, expect it in black children, and empathize less with children of a different race than their own.4 Location: 1,444

study of secondary school teachers found that teachers were more likely to call parents of children of color to report problem behavior than they were to call parents of white children, and they were less likely to call parents of children of color to report positive accomplishments than they were to call white parents.5 When you add this bias to the fact that children of color are more susceptible to food insecurity; are more likely to have to work after school; are less likely to have financial resources to supply regular Internet, study guides, and tutoring; and are more likely to attend underfunded schools—children of color get to their college applications at a stark disadvantage. Location: 1,449

Currently, black and Hispanic students are underrepresented in the vast majority of colleges and universities, by 20 percent. A study by the University of Washington shows that enrollment of minority students drops 23 percent when schools enact an affirmative action ban.6 Only two colleges in the US with affirmative action bans have representational enrollment of black students, and only one has representational enrollment of Hispanic students. Location: 1,461

the vast majority of affirmative action goals aim for a representative number of people of color and women. This means that if there are 10 percent black people in the area, the ultimate goal (not quota) would be around 10 percent black employees or students. The goal is simply equal opportunity for female applicants and applicants of color. Location: 1,465

Argument 4: Affirmative action is unfair to white men because it causes them to lose opportunities to less qualified women and people of color. As with argument 3, remember that these are representational goals, of which we are falling far short. When you say that a representational number of women or people of color cuts out more deserving white men, you are saying that women and people of color deserve to be less represented in our schools and our companies and that white men are deserving of an over-representational majority of these spots. Location: 1,473

it has been one of the most successful programs for helping combat the end-effects of racial discrimination in education and employment that we’ve tried. Multiple studies have shown that affirmative action programs increased the percentage of people of color in jobs in the public sector and drastically increased the number of people of color in colleges and universities. And while the arguments around affirmative action often come down to race, white women have been by far the biggest recipients of the benefits of affirmative action. Yes, affirmative action, when fully implemented, can make a measurably positive impact on the socioeconomic outlook for women and people of color who are in the position to benefit from Location: 1,483

We must never forget that without systemic change and without efforts to battle the myriad of ways in which systemic racism impacts people of color of all classes, backgrounds, and abilities, our efforts at ending systemic racial oppression will fail. We must refuse to be placated by measures that only serve a select few—and affirmative action does only serve a select few. We must never forget that people of color who will never want to go to college, who will never be able to go to college, who cannot work, who choose not to work, who choose to work in the public sector—they all deserve to be treated as human beings free from racial bigotry and persecution. We must remember that there are other, huge crises affecting communities of color that also need to be addressed with urgency (like the mass incarceration of black and Hispanic men in America). Location: 1,494

We have to fight for our future, we have to work for change, but we also need to help people now. Location: 1,523

Nobody asked if Sagan was feeling well, nobody asked if Sagan was frustrated or sad or uncomfortable about something. Nobody took the time to figure out how they could help this boy (the only black boy in his entire class), nobody asked what they could do to help Sagan rejoin his class and be able to learn alongside his fellow classmates. He was simply suspended. He was denied education. Five months into his kindergarten year and Sagan had already learned that his teachers did not want him in class, that he was too “bad” to be educated. Location: 1,531

OUR PUBLIC-SCHOOL SYSTEM SEES BLACK AND BROWN children as violent, disruptive, unpredictable future criminals. This may seem like the hyperbole of an angry black woman, but when I look at the way in which our black and brown students are treated in schools, it is the only conclusion I can come to. Black students make up only 16 percent of our school populations, and yet 31 percent of students who are suspended and 40 percent of students who are expelled are black. Black students are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended than white students. Seventy percent of students who are arrested in school and referred to law enforcement are black. Location: 1,541

am a black woman, who was at one time a black child, who is raising brown children, who has known and loved countless other black and brown children, who believes that children of any color are amazing gifts of unimaginable possibility to be cherished and protected. I know that we are not broken. Location: 1,545

The “school-to-prison pipeline” is the term commonly used to describe the alarming number of black and brown children who are funneled directly and indirectly from our schools into our prison industrial complex, contributing to devastating levels of mass incarceration that lead to one in three black men and one in six Latino men going to prison in their lifetimes, in addition to increased levels of incarceration for women of color. The school-to-prison pipeline starts with the high level of suspensions and expulsions mentioned earlier. The disproportionately punitive levels of school discipline toward black and brown children does more than impact a student’s year. Psychologists attest that overly harsh discipline destroys children’s trust in teachers and schools, along with damaging their self-esteem.2 Students suspended from school are more likely to have to repeat that entire year, or they may choose to drop out entirely. Location: 1,563

Studies have indicated that race is really a deciding factor of how and whether students are disciplined. The punitive level of school discipline—how harshly children are punished—is positively correlated with how many black children are in a school, not with, what many would expect, the level of drug or delinquency problems at a school.4 Racial bias of teachers. As discussed previously in this book, studies have shown that teachers are more likely to look for trouble in black and brown children and to view the play of black and brown children as aggression. Location: 1,572

lack of teacher communication skills, understanding, and resources in working with black and brown children may help explain why black children are more likely to be suspended for subjective reasons, like being “disrespectful” to a teacher, while white children are more likely to be suspended for provable reasons, like drugs or violence.5 The pathologizing of black children. Many (likely underfunded and understaffed) schools who find themselves ill-equipped to work with black students who are having interpersonal issues in class are quicker to give students a blanket diagnosis of learning disability than they would with struggling white students. This segregates black children from the general population of white students, abandoning them to our already strained and underperforming special education programs that are not designed to meet the needs of kids who do not have developmental disabilities Location: 1,580

than children of other races to have developmental or learning disabilities, they are the most likely to be placed in special education programs. Students of color who have been labeled “disabled” are more likely (by 31 percent) to be suspended and expelled from school than other kids, a harmful marriage of both ableism and racism. One in four black, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and mixed-race boys identified by schools as having a developmental disability was suspended in the 2011–2012 school year.6 Location: 1,585

Fear of violent black and brown youth, compounded by high-profile school shootings primarily perpetrated by white youth, led to the rise of zero-tolerance policies in schools beginning in the ’90s. The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 mandated a year-long suspension for kids caught bringing a weapon to school. Location: 1,589

black and brown children have found themselves disproportionately affected by these rules and suspended at increasing rates.7 Increased police presence in schools. Along with zero-tolerance policies came a rise in the number of police officers in schools, known as School Resource Officers (SROs). These officers have become an easy way for schools to delegate their disciplinary responsibilities to a criminal justice system Location: 1,593

schools with SROs have nearly five times the amount of in-school arrests as schools without SROs. THE SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE IS A COMPLEX ISSUE, but it is easy to see that it is vital that we start talking about it more. Location: 1,601

Talk to your schools and school boards. Even if you do not have black or brown children, you should be asking your schools what their disciplinary procedures are, what the rate of suspension and expulsion for black and Latinx students is, and what the racial “achievement gap” for their school is and what they plan to do about Location: 1,604

“opportunity gap” as that focuses on the cause of academic disparity shown in grades, graduation rates, and testing scores—less opportunity for children of color to flourish in education than white children—instead of the end result. This also puts more responsibility for improvement on the education system instead of on the shoulders of disadvantaged children.) Location: 1,608

While I believe that exceptionalizing black and brown children (i.e., “Look, here’s a good one!”) can do more harm than good, the truth is that the everyday achievements of black and brown children are more likely to go unnoticed, while their shortcomings are more likely to be called out. Recognize everyday wins, just as you would white children, not as rare exceptions or as othering “triumph over adversity” stories, but as expected achievements of children just as capable as any other. Location: 1,617

We are, as a species, biologically and culturally predisposed to nurture our children, but when our society only defines “children” as young people of a certain skin color, it can prevent some from seeing children of color as children to be loved and protected. I will never forget when twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was shot to death by a police officer in a park for holding a toy gun on November 22, 2014. Location: 1,625

How often have you heard people talk of “thugs” or “hoodlums” or “gangbangers” and known almost immediately that they were talking about black and brown youth? Our children are criminalized in casual conversation every day. Their swagger is analyzed, the sag of their pants pathologized—we cannot let any of this slide. This is not just how random strangers see our children, it’s how our teachers see our children, our police officers see our children, our juries see our children, and our politicians see our children. Location: 1,629

A swagger is not intent, baggy jeans are not intent, a bandana is not intent. This is culture, and any suggestion otherwise is racist. Discuss deeper causes of defiant and antisocial behavior in black and brown youth. Location: 1,632

When white kids get in trouble, we don’t launch into discussions of “what is wrong with white kids”—we ask things like, “What does this kid need? What is keeping this kid from thriving?” Resist attempts to treat the behavior of black and brown children as both the cause and symptom of the problems they may be facing in schools. Don’t erase disabled black and brown youth. Location: 1,637

Disabled kids of color are the most likely to be made victims of overly punitive school discipline and criminalization. Further, once criminalized, disabled people of color are more likely to face brutality by police. Our special education programs are failing the vast majority of disabled children—especially disabled children of color, and this must be addressed if we want to stop the criminalization of black and brown youth. Challenge the legitimacy of white-centered education. Location: 1,641

so long as our children are being taught by white teachers, being taught by schools focused on the needs of white children, learning from textbooks teaching white culture, and taking tests designed for white students, our children of color are going to have a hard time engaging with and succeeding in schools. We must challenge the assumption that having our children succeed in a white supremacist school system is the best we can hope for, for kids of any race. We need to ask for truly diverse and inclusive education for all of our kids. Location: 1,646

the likelihood of repeated incarceration—but when I look at our school-to-prison pipeline, the biggest tragedy to me is the loss of childhood joy. When our kids spend eight hours a day in a system that is looking for reasons to punish them, remove them, criminalize them—our kids do not get to be kids. Our kids do not get to be rambunctious, they do not get to be exuberant, they do not get to be rebellious, they do not get to be defiant. Our kids do not get to fuck up the way other kids get to; our kids will not get to look back fondly on their teenage hijinks—because these get them expelled or locked away. Location: 1,707

All oppression in race, class, gender, ability, religion—it all began with words. Not all words are equally powerful, because not all words have the same history. Location: 1,723

All of these words can conjure up powerful emotions because they conjure up the powerful history, and present, that they have helped create. People of color have inherited the pain of these words. The oppression they face today is a direct result of how these words were used in the past. Today, black people are still suffering from the ghettoization, poverty, police brutality, and everyday discrimination that these words helped build. Location: 1,726

white people have inherited the privilege that these words made possible. They have inherited the advantage of not having, in this generation and previous, the specific set of disadvantages placed in their way that these words placed on the lives of people of color. This is why, even if some of these words have been “reclaimed” by some in the community they were used to oppress, when these words are used by white people, that use will continue to be abusive. Because they are still benefitting from how these words have been used while people of color still suffer. Location: 1,735

A lot of people want to skip ahead to the finish line of racial harmony. Past all this unpleasantness to a place where all wounds are healed and the past is laid to rest. Location: 1,798

We can broadly define the concept of cultural appropriation as the adoption or exploitation of another culture by a more dominant culture. This is not usually the wholesale adoption of an entire culture, but usually just attractive bits and pieces that are taken and used by the dominant culture. Location: 1,807

Appreciation should benefit all cultures involved, and true appreciation does. But appropriation, more often than not, disproportionately benefits the dominant culture that is borrowing from marginalized cultures, and can even harm marginalized cultures. Location: 1,809

The problem of cultural appropriation is primarily linked to the power imbalance between the culture doing the appropriating and the culture being appropriated. That power imbalance allows the culture being appropriated to be distorted and redefined by the dominant culture and siphons any material or financial benefit of that piece of culture away to the dominant culture, while marginalized cultures are still persecuted for living in that culture. Without that cultural power imbalance, cultural appropriation becomes much less harmful. Location: 1,962

Since the first black Americans were brought over as slaves, our bodies have not been our own. We were objects—property. Our bodies were curiosities and tools to be inspected and exploited. Our bodies were sources of judgment and shame. But they were never beautiful, and they were never our own. Whatever respect we could get in White America came from how closely we could get our bodies to resemble those of white people. Location: 1,968

But mostly, we have just wanted to go about our day without the reminder that our bodies and our hair are found “brutish” and “ugly” or “fascinating” and “exotic.” We still live in a country where our hair is seen as “wild,” as “unattractive,” as “unprofessional” as “ghetto.” We still live in a country where our hair can cost us jobs, even our place in the military. We still live in a country where our hair determines how professional we seem, how respectable we seem—even how intelligent we seem. Our hair is used to help determine our place in a white supremacist society. Location: 2,074

Regular exposure to microaggressions causes a person of color to feel isolated and invalidated. The inability to predict where and when a microaggression may occur leads to hypervigilance, which can then lead to anxiety disorders and depression. Studies have shown that people subjected to higher levels of microaggressions are more likely to exhibit the mental and physical symptoms of depression.1 As harmful as microaggressions can be, they are very hard to address in real life. Why? Because they are very hard to see. Location: 2,089

“Are you the first person in your family to graduate from college?” “Are you an affirmative action hire?” “Wow, you speak English really well.” “You aren’t like other black people.” “I thought Asian people eat a lot of rice.” “Why do black people give their kids such funny names?” “That’s so ghetto.” “Is that your real hair? Can I touch it?” “You listen to opera? I thought you were black.” “Wow, you’re so articulate.” Location: 2,101

“Are you visiting this neighborhood?” “Your accent is adorable.” Microaggressions aren’t always delivered in words. It’s the woman who grabs her purse as you walk by. The store clerk following you around to see if you need “help.” The person speaking loudly and slowly to you because you probably don’t understand English. The person locking their car doors as you walk past their vehicle. The high-end sales clerks who assume that you didn’t come to shop. Location: 2,116

These microaggressions help hold the system of White Supremacy together, because if we didn’t have all these little ways to separate and dehumanize people, we’d empathize with them more fully, and then we’d have to really care about the system that is crushing them. Location: 2,122

Say it directly. What is happening to you is real and you have every right to name it. Ask some uncomfortable questions. Because a lot of microaggressions are perpetrated with subconscious motivation, questioning the action can force someone to really examine their motives. Two of my favorites are “Why did you say that?” and “I don’t get it. Please clarify.” Location: 2,127

ask, “Is this something you would have said to a white person?” or “How exactly was I supposed to take what you just said?” Reinforce that good intentions are not the point. “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.” Remember, you are not crazy and you have every right to bring this up. “I can see this is making you uncomfortable, but this is a real problem that needs to be addressed.” Location: 1,187

Crime in communities of color is often compounded by the contentious relationship with police. Nobody wants a solution to crime in black communities more than black people do, they are the people most impacted by it. But when you cannot trust the police to protect you, who do you call to report illegal activity? When a crime happens, why would you cooperate with a police force that you do not trust to enforce the law without bias or excessive force? Police, as an extension of American society, are more likely to view people of color as dangerous, and people of color are more likely to view police as corrupt. Location: 1,230

instead expect your police force to earn the respect and trust of communities of color by providing them with the same level of service that you enjoy. Location: 1,232

because they want white people to join them in demanding their right to be able to trust the police like white people do. Location: 1,394

I think about every black and brown person, every queer person, every disabled person, who could be in the room with me, but isn’t, and I’m not proud. I’m heartbroken. We should not have a society where the value of marginalized people is determined by how well they can scale often impossible obstacles that others will never know. I have been exceptional, and I shouldn’t have to be exceptional to be just barely getting by. But we live in a society where if you are a person of color, a disabled person, a single mother, or an LGBT person you have to be exceptional. And if you are exceptional by the standards put forth by white supremacist patriarchy, and you are lucky, you will most likely just barely get by. There’s nothing inspirational about that. Location: 1,415

when the Supreme Court upheld a 10 percent set-aside of contract funds for minority businesses in 1980, that percentage was far below representative of the 17 percent minority population at the time.1 Affirmative action’s goal was to force educators and federal employers to get creative and proactive in their efforts to combat the effects that hundreds of years of racial and gender discrimination had had on the diversity of their workplaces and universities. Location: 1,423

Affirmative action is a crucial tool if we want to mitigate some of the effects of systemic racism and misogyny in our society. It should not be rolled back; in fact, I argue that it should be expanded to other groups that suffer from systemic oppression as well. Why? Because it works. No, it doesn’t work wonders, but affirmative action can do some good for those who need it, and it can do some good for a society that wants to value equality and diversity. Location: 1,427

the majority of the costs and benefits of affirmative action are easily supported by data, and the arguments against it are easily countered. Location: 1,432

Studies have shown that if you have a “black-sounding” name, you are four times less likely to be called for a job interview. White women still make only 82 cents for every white man’s dollar, black women only earn 65 cents for every white man’s dollar, and Hispanic women earn even less at 58 cents for every white man’s dollar. The wage gap between white and black men has not budged since Reagan’s cuts to affirmative action began in the ’80s, with black men making 73 cents for every white man’s dollar, and the wage gap between white and Hispanic men has actually grown since 1980, going from 71 cents down to 69 cents Location: 1,438

Black and Hispanic students are far more likely to be suspended from school, starting as early as preschool. An average of 16 percent of black students and 7 percent of Hispanic students are suspended each year, compared to only 5 percent of white students. And while the rate of suspension for white students has remained steady for over thirty years, the rate of suspension for black students has almost tripled.3 How does this happen? There are a lot of factors, but a Yale study shows that preschool teachers are more likely to look for problem behavior in black children, expect it in black children, and empathize less with children of a different race than their own.4 Location: 1,444

study of secondary school teachers found that teachers were more likely to call parents of children of color to report problem behavior than they were to call parents of white children, and they were less likely to call parents of children of color to report positive accomplishments than they were to call white parents.5 When you add this bias to the fact that children of color are more susceptible to food insecurity; are more likely to have to work after school; are less likely to have financial resources to supply regular Internet, study guides, and tutoring; and are more likely to attend underfunded schools—children of color get to their college applications at a stark disadvantage. Location: 1,449

Currently, black and Hispanic students are underrepresented in the vast majority of colleges and universities, by 20 percent. A study by the University of Washington shows that enrollment of minority students drops 23 percent when schools enact an affirmative action ban.6 Only two colleges in the US with affirmative action bans have representational enrollment of black students, and only one has representational enrollment of Hispanic students. Location: 1,461

the vast majority of affirmative action goals aim for a representative number of people of color and women. This means that if there are 10 percent black people in the area, the ultimate goal (not quota) would be around 10 percent black employees or students. The goal is simply equal opportunity for female applicants and applicants of color. Location: 1,465

Argument 4: Affirmative action is unfair to white men because it causes them to lose opportunities to less qualified women and people of color. As with argument 3, remember that these are representational goals, of which we are falling far short. When you say that a representational number of women or people of color cuts out more deserving white men, you are saying that women and people of color deserve to be less represented in our schools and our companies and that white men are deserving of an over-representational majority of these spots. Location: 1,473

it has been one of the most successful programs for helping combat the end-effects of racial discrimination in education and employment that we’ve tried. Multiple studies have shown that affirmative action programs increased the percentage of people of color in jobs in the public sector and drastically increased the number of people of color in colleges and universities. And while the arguments around affirmative action often come down to race, white women have been by far the biggest recipients of the benefits of affirmative action. Yes, affirmative action, when fully implemented, can make a measurably positive impact on the socioeconomic outlook for women and people of color who are in the position to benefit from Location: 1,483

We must never forget that without systemic change and without efforts to battle the myriad of ways in which systemic racism impacts people of color of all classes, backgrounds, and abilities, our efforts at ending systemic racial oppression will fail. We must refuse to be placated by measures that only serve a select few—and affirmative action does only serve a select few. We must never forget that people of color who will never want to go to college, who will never be able to go to college, who cannot work, who choose not to work, who choose to work in the public sector—they all deserve to be treated as human beings free from racial bigotry and persecution. We must remember that there are other, huge crises affecting communities of color that also need to be addressed with urgency (like the mass incarceration of black and Hispanic men in America). Location: 1,494

We have to fight for our future, we have to work for change, but we also need to help people now. Location: 1,523

Nobody asked if Sagan was feeling well, nobody asked if Sagan was frustrated or sad or uncomfortable about something. Nobody took the time to figure out how they could help this boy (the only black boy in his entire class), nobody asked what they could do to help Sagan rejoin his class and be able to learn alongside his fellow classmates. He was simply suspended. He was denied education. Five months into his kindergarten year and Sagan had already learned that his teachers did not want him in class, that he was too “bad” to be educated. Location: 1,531

OUR PUBLIC-SCHOOL SYSTEM SEES BLACK AND BROWN children as violent, disruptive, unpredictable future criminals. This may seem like the hyperbole of an angry black woman, but when I look at the way in which our black and brown students are treated in schools, it is the only conclusion I can come to. Black students make up only 16 percent of our school populations, and yet 31 percent of students who are suspended and 40 percent of students who are expelled are black. Black students are 3.5 times more likely to be suspended than white students. Seventy percent of students who are arrested in school and referred to law enforcement are black. Location: 1,541

am a black woman, who was at one time a black child, who is raising brown children, who has known and loved countless other black and brown children, who believes that children of any color are amazing gifts of unimaginable possibility to be cherished and protected. I know that we are not broken. Location: 1,545

The “school-to-prison pipeline” is the term commonly used to describe the alarming number of black and brown children who are funneled directly and indirectly from our schools into our prison industrial complex, contributing to devastating levels of mass incarceration that lead to one in three black men and one in six Latino men going to prison in their lifetimes, in addition to increased levels of incarceration for women of color. The school-to-prison pipeline starts with the high level of suspensions and expulsions mentioned earlier. The disproportionately punitive levels of school discipline toward black and brown children does more than impact a student’s year. Psychologists attest that overly harsh discipline destroys children’s trust in teachers and schools, along with damaging their self-esteem.2 Students suspended from school are more likely to have to repeat that entire year, or they may choose to drop out entirely. Location: 1,563

Studies have indicated that race is really a deciding factor of how and whether students are disciplined. The punitive level of school discipline—how harshly children are punished—is positively correlated with how many black children are in a school, not with, what many would expect, the level of drug or delinquency problems at a school.4 Racial bias of teachers. As discussed previously in this book, studies have shown that teachers are more likely to look for trouble in black and brown children and to view the play of black and brown children as aggression. Location: 1,572

lack of teacher communication skills, understanding, and resources in working with black and brown children may help explain why black children are more likely to be suspended for subjective reasons, like being “disrespectful” to a teacher, while white children are more likely to be suspended for provable reasons, like drugs or violence.5 The pathologizing of black children. Many (likely underfunded and understaffed) schools who find themselves ill-equipped to work with black students who are having interpersonal issues in class are quicker to give students a blanket diagnosis of learning disability than they would with struggling white students. This segregates black children from the general population of white students, abandoning them to our already strained and underperforming special education programs that are not designed to meet the needs of kids who do not have developmental disabilities Location: 1,580

than children of other races to have developmental or learning disabilities, they are the most likely to be placed in special education programs. Students of color who have been labeled “disabled” are more likely (by 31 percent) to be suspended and expelled from school than other kids, a harmful marriage of both ableism and racism. One in four black, American Indian, Pacific Islander, and mixed-race boys identified by schools as having a developmental disability was suspended in the 2011–2012 school year.6 Location: 1,585

Fear of violent black and brown youth, compounded by high-profile school shootings primarily perpetrated by white youth, led to the rise of zero-tolerance policies in schools beginning in the ’90s. The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 mandated a year-long suspension for kids caught bringing a weapon to school. Location: 1,589

black and brown children have found themselves disproportionately affected by these rules and suspended at increasing rates.7 Increased police presence in schools. Along with zero-tolerance policies came a rise in the number of police officers in schools, known as School Resource Officers (SROs). These officers have become an easy way for schools to delegate their disciplinary responsibilities to a criminal justice system Location: 1,593

schools with SROs have nearly five times the amount of in-school arrests as schools without SROs. THE SCHOOL-TO-PRISON PIPELINE IS A COMPLEX ISSUE, but it is easy to see that it is vital that we start talking about it more. Location: 1,601

Talk to your schools and school boards. Even if you do not have black or brown children, you should be asking your schools what their disciplinary procedures are, what the rate of suspension and expulsion for black and Latinx students is, and what the racial “achievement gap” for their school is and what they plan to do about Location: 1,604

“opportunity gap” as that focuses on the cause of academic disparity shown in grades, graduation rates, and testing scores—less opportunity for children of color to flourish in education than white children—instead of the end result. This also puts more responsibility for improvement on the education system instead of on the shoulders of disadvantaged children.) Location: 1,608

While I believe that exceptionalizing black and brown children (i.e., “Look, here’s a good one!”) can do more harm than good, the truth is that the everyday achievements of black and brown children are more likely to go unnoticed, while their shortcomings are more likely to be called out. Recognize everyday wins, just as you would white children, not as rare exceptions or as othering “triumph over adversity” stories, but as expected achievements of children just as capable as any other. Location: 1,617

We are, as a species, biologically and culturally predisposed to nurture our children, but when our society only defines “children” as young people of a certain skin color, it can prevent some from seeing children of color as children to be loved and protected. I will never forget when twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was shot to death by a police officer in a park for holding a toy gun on November 22, 2014. Location: 1,625

How often have you heard people talk of “thugs” or “hoodlums” or “gangbangers” and known almost immediately that they were talking about black and brown youth? Our children are criminalized in casual conversation every day. Their swagger is analyzed, the sag of their pants pathologized—we cannot let any of this slide. This is not just how random strangers see our children, it’s how our teachers see our children, our police officers see our children, our juries see our children, and our politicians see our children. Location: 1,629

A swagger is not intent, baggy jeans are not intent, a bandana is not intent. This is culture, and any suggestion otherwise is racist. Discuss deeper causes of defiant and antisocial behavior in black and brown youth. Location: 1,632

When white kids get in trouble, we don’t launch into discussions of “what is wrong with white kids”—we ask things like, “What does this kid need? What is keeping this kid from thriving?” Resist attempts to treat the behavior of black and brown children as both the cause and symptom of the problems they may be facing in schools. Don’t erase disabled black and brown youth. Location: 1,637

Disabled kids of color are the most likely to be made victims of overly punitive school discipline and criminalization. Further, once criminalized, disabled people of color are more likely to face brutality by police. Our special education programs are failing the vast majority of disabled children—especially disabled children of color, and this must be addressed if we want to stop the criminalization of black and brown youth. Challenge the legitimacy of white-centered education. Location: 1,641

so long as our children are being taught by white teachers, being taught by schools focused on the needs of white children, learning from textbooks teaching white culture, and taking tests designed for white students, our children of color are going to have a hard time engaging with and succeeding in schools. We must challenge the assumption that having our children succeed in a white supremacist school system is the best we can hope for, for kids of any race. We need to ask for truly diverse and inclusive education for all of our kids. Location: 1,646

the likelihood of repeated incarceration—but when I look at our school-to-prison pipeline, the biggest tragedy to me is the loss of childhood joy. When our kids spend eight hours a day in a system that is looking for reasons to punish them, remove them, criminalize them—our kids do not get to be kids. Our kids do not get to be rambunctious, they do not get to be exuberant, they do not get to be rebellious, they do not get to be defiant. Our kids do not get to fuck up the way other kids get to; our kids will not get to look back fondly on their teenage hijinks—because these get them expelled or locked away. Location: 1,707

All oppression in race, class, gender, ability, religion—it all began with words. Not all words are equally powerful, because not all words have the same history. Location: 1,723

All of these words can conjure up powerful emotions because they conjure up the powerful history, and present, that they have helped create. People of color have inherited the pain of these words. The oppression they face today is a direct result of how these words were used in the past. Today, black people are still suffering from the ghettoization, poverty, police brutality, and everyday discrimination that these words helped build. Location: 1,726

white people have inherited the privilege that these words made possible. They have inherited the advantage of not having, in this generation and previous, the specific set of disadvantages placed in their way that these words placed on the lives of people of color. This is why, even if some of these words have been “reclaimed” by some in the community they were used to oppress, when these words are used by white people, that use will continue to be abusive. Because they are still benefitting from how these words have been used while people of color still suffer. Location: 1,735

A lot of people want to skip ahead to the finish line of racial harmony. Past all this unpleasantness to a place where all wounds are healed and the past is laid to rest. Location: 1,798

We can broadly define the concept of cultural appropriation as the adoption or exploitation of another culture by a more dominant culture. This is not usually the wholesale adoption of an entire culture, but usually just attractive bits and pieces that are taken and used by the dominant culture. Location: 1,807

Appreciation should benefit all cultures involved, and true appreciation does. But appropriation, more often than not, disproportionately benefits the dominant culture that is borrowing from marginalized cultures, and can even harm marginalized cultures. Location: 1,809

The problem of cultural appropriation is primarily linked to the power imbalance between the culture doing the appropriating and the culture being appropriated. That power imbalance allows the culture being appropriated to be distorted and redefined by the dominant culture and siphons any material or financial benefit of that piece of culture away to the dominant culture, while marginalized cultures are still persecuted for living in that culture. Without that cultural power imbalance, cultural appropriation becomes much less harmful. Location: 1,962

Since the first black Americans were brought over as slaves, our bodies have not been our own. We were objects—property. Our bodies were curiosities and tools to be inspected and exploited. Our bodies were sources of judgment and shame. But they were never beautiful, and they were never our own. Whatever respect we could get in White America came from how closely we could get our bodies to resemble those of white people. Location: 1,968

But mostly, we have just wanted to go about our day without the reminder that our bodies and our hair are found “brutish” and “ugly” or “fascinating” and “exotic.” We still live in a country where our hair is seen as “wild,” as “unattractive,” as “unprofessional” as “ghetto.” We still live in a country where our hair can cost us jobs, even our place in the military. We still live in a country where our hair determines how professional we seem, how respectable we seem—even how intelligent we seem. Our hair is used to help determine our place in a white supremacist society. Location: 2,074

Regular exposure to microaggressions causes a person of color to feel isolated and invalidated. The inability to predict where and when a microaggression may occur leads to hypervigilance, which can then lead to anxiety disorders and depression. Studies have shown that people subjected to higher levels of microaggressions are more likely to exhibit the mental and physical symptoms of depression.1 As harmful as microaggressions can be, they are very hard to address in real life. Why? Because they are very hard to see. Location: 2,089

“Are you the first person in your family to graduate from college?” “Are you an affirmative action hire?” “Wow, you speak English really well.” “You aren’t like other black people.” “I thought Asian people eat a lot of rice.” “Why do black people give their kids such funny names?” “That’s so ghetto.” “Is that your real hair? Can I touch it?” “You listen to opera? I thought you were black.” “Wow, you’re so articulate.” Location: 2,101

“Are you visiting this neighborhood?” “Your accent is adorable.” Microaggressions aren’t always delivered in words. It’s the woman who grabs her purse as you walk by. The store clerk following you around to see if you need “help.” The person speaking loudly and slowly to you because you probably don’t understand English. The person locking their car doors as you walk past their vehicle. The high-end sales clerks who assume that you didn’t come to shop. Location: 2,116

These microaggressions help hold the system of White Supremacy together, because if we didn’t have all these little ways to separate and dehumanize people, we’d empathize with them more fully, and then we’d have to really care about the system that is crushing them. Location: 2,122

Say it directly. What is happening to you is real and you have every right to name it. Ask some uncomfortable questions. Because a lot of microaggressions are perpetrated with subconscious motivation, questioning the action can force someone to really examine their motives. Two of my favorites are “Why did you say that?” and “I don’t get it. Please clarify.” Location: 2,127

ask, “Is this something you would have said to a white person?” or “How exactly was I supposed to take what you just said?” Reinforce that good intentions are not the point. “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.” Remember, you are not crazy and you have every right to bring this up. “I can see this is making you uncomfortable, but this is a real problem that needs to be addressed.”

 

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