I Write About Race

Hi, I am Ijeoma Oluo, and I am a mixed race black woman who was raised by a white mother in this very white city.

I have a Ph.D. in whiteness, and I was raised in "Seattle nice." I was steeped in the good intentions of this city and I hate it.

I love this city. I love you guys. Also, I hate it. I really do.

And I'm going to talk a little bit about why. I write about race, and I'm regularly reached out to by really well-meaning white people who want to explain to me what my work is like to them as a white person and the white perspective that I'm missing.

And the only part of the white perspective I'm missing is the ability to be unaware of the white perspective.

That may sound a little arrogant, but if you are a person of color who grew up in an area like this, you understand that every decision you make, you're going, "What will white people think about this?"

But you know really quickly that if you don't know what white people want – what they're doing and why; what's going to make them mad; what's going to make them scared; what's going to make them happy – you will not be able to go anywhere.

Not only are you hyper aware of your blackness or your identity of color because there is a spotlight on you 24/7, especially in a city like this where there are five of you, you have to be hyper aware of whiteness as well.

People tell me to stop making things about race all of the time. But when you are not making things about race, you're making them about whiteness all of the time.

Every decision that you make with ease is made with whiteness. Every door that opens for you is opened by whiteness. And I know this sounds like I am taking away all of your achievements, and I'm not.

But I need you to understand that from the Constitution to our education system to our pop culture – everything that we do is steeped in whiteness.

I am drowning in the whiteness, and you can't help me if you can't see it.

Now, it's uncomfortable – it is uncomfortable to realize how much easier you may have had things. It is uncomfortable to realize that a lot of the benefits that you may have came at the expense of other people.

I have bigger things to worry about. But I will say this: It will not kill you. But if you don't see it, it will kill me, or it will kill my brother, or it will kill my son. You have to get used to this.

Do not wait until you are ready to sit down and address race to address race. Because I do not get to decide when to address race. I don't get to say, "I feel safe, I feel comfortable; I'm going to look at racism now," because racism hits me in the doctor's office. It hits me when I'm driving down the street. It hits me when I'm taking my kids to a movie.

Get used to being uncomfortable. Be the person that nobody wants to invite to dinner party.

Some of what you have, you don't deserve. But when you can see your identity clearly as it is, the good and the bad; when you can see where your whiteness is more than your heritage, more than just culture, but also a system of oppression, you then have the power to do the work to redefine it to something that you can be proud of.

But if you continue to do the work, you will have a sense of authenticity in yourself that you have never known. You will stop having to steal all of our stuff. You will have your own stuff!

If black people could end racism, we would have ended racism. We have died trying to end systemic racism. I need you to do the work in your community. And it starts with looking at the day-to-day things. 

I love you, Seattle, and I hope that we can start looking at kindness, which is honest and built with love, over niceness, which prioritizes comfort over safety. We can do this. But first you have to start with yourselves, and then you'll find your place every single day. You can make a measurable impact on not only the lives of people of color but your own life as well.

Full Article.


  1. Dear Failed Race,

    We feel your pain. Please accept an all expenses paid one way trip to your Motherland, disease-astan. Please extend greetings to your new Chinese Overlords. With 40 million failed race serfs we get egg rolls.


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