HCAU Book Club: September 2020

HCAU Book Club: September 2020


While 2020 may seem like the biggest write-off year to ever exist, it’s worth remembering that it didn’t just give us the Covid-19 pandemic and nothing else. It also awakened a surge of racial awareness throughout the Western world following the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Derek Chauvin, a police officer who pinned Floyd to the ground and knelt on his neck until his breathing stopped. Such an event, alongside the fact that it was not in any way shape or form the first of its kind, fuelled the Black Lives Matter movement, and gave many of us the desire to learn more about the racism that exists in our society and how we can combat it at both an individual and a collective level.

Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race offers a guide which addresses the foundations of the racial divide present in America. It provides useful advice regarding the ways in which people may be able to discuss race in a way that inflicts as little harm as possible. It recognises that, for white people, their experiences will never match up to those of black people, and their conversations must reflect that fact. Each chapter deals with a different question about race and racism which Oluo herself is often faced with, and so traverses the difficult topics that people often do not know how to respectfully navigate.

As Her Campus Aberdeen’s first book club pick, we had a lot of thoughts and feelings. We saw the book as being incredibly accessible and ideal for people at different levels of understanding, however those with a deeper understanding of systemic racism and the more subtle complexities associated with race may feel that this book is merely a starting point. Oluo’s voice, and the personal experiences which she weaves into each chapter, provide an extremely understandable context to each of her points, offering analogies, metaphors, and stories which really hammer home the real-life impact of racism in areas that, as white people, we may have never even considered. While her tone appears to be rather blunt, and rightly so considering the subject matter that she is dealing with, we couldn’t help but notice the subtle notes of empathy and hope which she follows her bluntness with. Speaking often from the perspective of being a mother of two black children, we witness the pain that Oluo feels as she watches her kids experience the racism which she is addressing throughout the book. The bluntness, which is born from such pain fuels the book further and, again, truly hammers home the real life impact of racism in the 21st century. It seems fitting then that Oluo’s language and the format with which she concludes each chapter seeks to encourage proactivity amongst its readers, offering potential solutions to smaller issues, and the ways in which the wider community can begin to combat the larger issues.


So what did we learn?


Iona – HCAU Secretary:

  • How to apologise properly
  • How I can deal with my emotions if I mess up


Lucy – HCAU Treasurer:

  • The importance of checking yourself and the little things you subconsciously do that may be considered racist


Megan – HCAU Editor:

  • The importance of checking your privilege
  • The little, seemingly minor, things you wouldn’t even consider that are actually impacted by race


Carlyn – HCAU Head Editor:

  • The importance of sitting with your discomfort when it comes to racial issues
  • Realising that while you may believe you are, you are not always innocent


Overall, So You Want to Talk About Race is a book that HCAU absolutely recommends if you are keen to form a foundational knowledge of the impact of racism in America. Additionally though, if you feel that you already have a decent knowledge on the topic, Oluo offers practical solutions to each and every issue she address, which I personally have not come across very often. So if you want to begin tackling racism on the individual level but don’t know where to start, this is definitely the book for you – a solid 8/10 stars!