Let's Talk Race: A Guide for White People

Let's Talk Race: A Guide for White People

Let's Talk Race: A Guide for White People

Let's Talk Race: A Guide for White People


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Real conversations about racism need to start now

Let's Talk Race confronts why white people struggle to talk about race, why we need to own this problem, and how we can learn to do the work ourselves and stop expecting Black people to do it for us.

Written by two specialists in race relations and parents of two adopted African American sons, the book provides unique insights and practical guidance, richly illustrated with personal examples, anecdotes, research findings, and prompts for personal reflection and conversations about race.

Coverage includes:

  • Seeing the varied forms of racism
  • How we normalize and privilege whiteness
  • Essential and often unknown elements of Black history that inform the present
  • Racial disparities in education, health, criminal justice, and wealth
  • Understanding racially-linked cultural differences
  • How to find conversational partners and create safe spaces for conversations
  • Conversational do's and don'ts.

Let's Talk Race is for all white people who want to face the challenges of talking about race and working towards justice and equity.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780865719538
Publisher: New Society Publishers
Publication date: 04/13/2021
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 1,092,315
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Fern L. Johnson, PhD, is Senior Research Scholar and Professor Emerita at Clark University, specializing in race, culture, and language. Her publications include Speaking Culturally and Imaging in Advertising, and many journal articles. She is a seasoned speaker and workshop facilitator. Fern co-authored, with Marlene Fine, The Interracial Adoption Option, which draws on their experience as white parents of African American sons. She lives near Boston, Massachusetts.

Marlene G. Fine, PhD, is Professor Emerita at Simmons University, specializing in cultural diversity, leadership, and dialogue. She authored Building Successful Multicultural Organizations, and her articles appear in a broad range of journals. She is a seasoned speaker and workshop facilitator. Marlene co-authored, with Fern Johnson, The Interracial Adoption Option, which draws on their experience as white parents of African American sons. She lives near Boston, Massachusetts.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Bridging the Chasm— Starting the Conversation about Race
     The Importance of Genuine Conversation
     Why We Need to Talk about Race
     What's to Come

Chapter 2. Identifying Racism— Where Fiction Becomes Reality
     Types of Racism
         Interpersonal Racism
         Institutional/Structural Racism
         Internalized Racism
     Racially Identified Cultures
     Moving the Conversation Forward
         Things Not to Do
         Things to Do

Chapter 3. Erasing Our Race— Normalizing and Privileging Whiteness
     Being White
         White Privilege
         SeeingWhite Privilege
         White Guilt
     Being Black
     The Gulf between Blacks and Whites
     Bridging the Gulf
     Moving the Conversation Forward
         Things Not to Do
         Things to Do

Chapter 4. Raising Your Racial IQ—What Whites Don't Know about Living in a Racialized World
     African Americans in Historical Context
     Racial Disparities in Education
         Brown v. Board of Education
The Curriculum
         Teachers and Professors
         Student Experiences
     Race and Health
         Health Risks
         Medical Care
     Race and the Justice System
         Policing and Law Enforcement
         Evidence and DNA
     The Wealth Gap
         Institutional/Structural Racism and Wealth
         Reducing the Wealth Gap
     Moving the Conversation Forward
         Things Not to Do
         Things to Do

Chapter 5. Recognizing Differences— Cultural Misunderstandings and Misinterpretations
     Language and Communication
         African American English
         Naming Practices
         The N-word
     Social Networks in African American Culture
         Religious and Church-Affiliated Networks
         Political Networks
         Family Networks
         Social Affinity Networks
     Clothing and Hair in African American Culture
         Clothing and Style
         Hair and Heritage
     Moving the Conversation Forward
         Things Not to Do
         Things to Do

Chapter 6. Better Talk—Putting It All Together
     Guidelines for Engagement
     Talk Versus Action
     Finding Conversational Partners
     Moving the Conversation Forward
         Things Not to Do
         Things to Do

About the Authors
A Note about the Publisher

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Let's Talk Race is a solid and very practical guide to having the necessary conversations that those of us who are white are so reluctant to have with our families, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. This book will motivate you to break white silence and will support you in addressing the racism that engulfs our communities and diminishes all of our lives."
Paul Kivel, educator, activist, author, Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice, 4th edition

"Let's Talk Race is wisely conceived and masterfully accomplished. Both a primer on cultural competence and a charge to engage in genuine conversation, this book is candidly honest, brilliantly transparent, and a phenomenal resource. The two authors are grounded in decades of experience, girded with wisdom and courage, and guided by a com- mitment to illuminate hope in the presence of fear. This is a must read!"
Emmett G. Price III, Ph.D., Executive Director, Institute for the Study of the Black Christian Experience, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary

"Let's Talk Race can be part of our national racial reckoning. White mothers—like Johnson and Fine—raising Black male children straddle double consciousness where racial blindness and liberal platitudes are dangerous. The book intentionally speaks to a white audience. The hard work of talk and struggle are necessary for a white reconciling of historical facts to the current harmful narrative. Let's Talk Race is a step along a long journey to truth and reconciliation."
Tom Shapiro, Pokross Professor of Law and Social Policy, The Heller School for Social Policy, Brandeis University, and author, Toxic Inequality, The Hidden Cost of Being African American, and Black Wealth/White Wealth

"Drawing on both the best of interracial communication research and their personal experiences as white women who have navigated countless interracial conversations, Johnson and Fine illuminate the barriers to such conversations and provide practical and accessible strategies for overcoming those barriers. No book is more relevant to everyday life in the socially diverse world of 21st-century America than Let's Talk Race."
Marsha Houston, Professor, Communication Studies, retired, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, and co-editor, Our Voices: Essays in Culture, Ethnicity, and Communication and Centering Ourselves: African American Feminist and Womanist Studies of Discourse

"Let's Talk Race is a seminal book for this time. It is a desperately needed resource that will help our nation heal and live into its noblest ideals. Four hundred years after the start of slavery, America is having a racial awakening and beginning to reckon with the consequences of founding the nation on genocide, stolen land, and slave labor. As the country shakes off the husks of complacency and indifference, people of all races, creeds, colors, religions, and national origin are discovering an unprecedented opportunity to realize the aspiration of justice in the first sentence of the Constitution of the United States. If justice is to be realized, white America must stand in transformative solidarity with those who face the burdens of structural racism. This book provides a practical yet soul-enriching path forward to move from talk to action with grace, empathy, and a commitment to usher in an era of just and fair inclusion into a society in which we can all participate, prosper, and reach our full potential."
Dr. Michael McAfee, President and CEO, PolicyLink

"Ever the teachers, Marlene and Fern take care to scaffold the learning so that readers are able to build a strong foundation upon which to grow. While some of the information seems basic to me as a Black woman, I appreciate the importance of more white folks talking to one another about race because they understand the blind spots, the pit falls, the traps, and what I call "trash thinking," that needs to be composted. I hope readers enjoy the personal storytelling, the Do's and Don'ts lists, and the personal reflection prompts that are included throughout the book. Finally, I hope more of us reach a point when talking about race can be 'cathartic, healing, and joyful.'"
Desiraé Simmons, Co-director, Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice, Ann Arbor, MI

"We are 21 years into the 21st century and yet W. E. B. Du Bois' prescience haunts us: the problem of the color line is still here, painful, and seemingly indelible. That line is ever-present, separating those who will live from those who will die by acts of police violence; dividing those to be grieved from those deemed disposable; privileging those who are white while marginalizing and damning those who are Black. Let's Talk Race is a socially, politically, and existentially urgent book that details the painful reality of America's race evasion. With a call for fearless speech and courageous listening, the authors of this demanding and yet inviting book refuse to be complicit with white silence, apathy, and ignorance. The title's invitation requires vulnerability, signifies a space for collective mourning, and is honest about the profound risks in- volved. The authors, Fern L. Johnson and Marlene G. Fine, recognize the daring and radical loving requisite for talking about race and facing America's original sin."
George Yancy, Professor, Samuel Candler Dobbs, Emory University

"People of color and African Americans are beyond aware and are experiencing racial fatigue after a lifetime and decades of attempting to educate peers, colleagues, friends, and strangers about the reality of racism and its impact on every aspect of their/our daily lives. We are at a pivotal time in which white people need to become actively engaged in authentic conversations about race. Let's Talk Race is a great resource for these difficult conversations because it contains practical advice while also providing readers with a wealth of vital information grounded in facts and from reliable sources. Our country and world are in dire need of resources such as this, and I am excited to add it to my library and scholarship."
Dr. Tina M. Harris, Professor, Manship-Maynard Endowed Chair of Race, Media, and Cultural Literacy, Louisiana State University, Manship School of Mass Communication

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