Ijeoma Oluo Quotes in So You Want to Talk About Race
As a black woman, race has always been a prominent part of my life. I have never been able to escape the fact that I am a black woman in a white supremacist country.
I'm ranting now, I'm talking fast to get it all out. Not because I’m angry, because I’m not, really. I know it's not my friend’s fault that what he’s saying is the prevailing narrative, and that it's seen as the compassionate narrative. But it’s a narrative that hurts me, and so many other people of color.
This promise—you will get more because they exist to get less—is woven throughout our entire society.
What keeps a poor child in Appalachia poor is not what keeps a poor child in Chicago poor-even if from a distance, the outcomes look the same. And what keeps an able-bodied black woman poor is not what keeps a disabled white man poor, even if the outcomes look the same.
“You can’t just go around calling anything racist. Save that word for the big stuff. You know, for Nazis and cross burnings and lynchings. You’re just going to turn people off if you use such inflammatory language.”
If we have cancer and it makes us vomit, we can commit to battling nausea and say we’re fighting for our lives, even though the tumor will likely still kill us.
How do our social justice efforts so often fail to help the most vulnerable in our populations? This is primarily the result of unexamined privilege.
We couldn’t say, in front of Nick and Amy, “The kids all called us niggers and your children laughed.” So we just sat silently and I tried not to cry.
But instead what I was standing in front of in that airport was a caricature of my culture. A caricature of the vibrant decorations and festive music. Everything I'd loved about African food had been skinned and draped around the shoulders of a glorified McDonalds.
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.
Some modern and fairly well known examples of cultural appropriation by the dominant white culture in the West are things like the use of American Indian headdresses as casual fashion, the use of the bindi as an accessory, the adoption of belly-dancing into fitness routines, and basically every single “ethnic” Halloween costume.
Think of artists like Elvis Presley who have been canonized in the annals of music history for work that was lifted almost wholesale from the backs of black musicians whose names most Americans will never know.
That “legitimacy” bestowed by whiteness actually changes the definition of rap for the American culture.
The director looked at me pleadingly. He didn't need training. He knew a lot of black people. He grew up with black people. He was practically black himself. He just needed to talk. With me. He repeatedly insisted that if I could just sit with him in a bar and talk this out with him, whatever had caused him to drunkenly repeat “nigger” at a dinner table surrounded by people of color would never happen again. But I did not want to talk with this man, especially not over drinks […] I wanted this man to take some action for change.