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Let's Talk Race
A Guide for White People
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.
- 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.
Fern L. Johnson, PhD, is Senior Research Scholar and Professor Emerita at Clark University focusing on race and culture. As a white parent of African American sons, she co-authored The Interracial Adoption Option. She lives near Boston, Massachusetts.
Marlene G. Fine, PhD, is Professor Emerita at Simmons University focusing on cultural diversity and leadership. As a white parent of African American sons, she co-authored The Interracial Adoption Option. She lives near Boston, Massachusetts.
"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 commitment 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 involved. 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."
Dr. Tina M. Harris, Professor, Manship-Maynard Endowed Chair of Race, Media, and Cultural Literacy, Louisiana State University, Manship School of Mass Communication
Reading Guide for Book Clubs
We include personal prompts and conversation prompts throughout the book that we hope you will find useful as you read and discuss the book. Many of them would be fine to use for a book club discussion. These additional questions might also help you get started talking with members of your book club.
Click for the reading guide