Leviton: You say you didn’t write So You Want to Talk about Race explicitly for white people.
Oluo: No, although I always have to write knowing that the majority of my readers will be white. I find that frustrating, by the way. White readers slow me down! [Laughs.] It’s hard being a writer who just wants to explore words and instead has to find different ways to explain the most basic things about race to white people. I couldn’t do that for an entire book.
Leviton: What has the reaction been from white readers?
Oluo: I find that the amount of white anger I get in response to my writing is inversely related to the number of words. A five-hundred-word essay online will get more criticism than a book of many pages — because, you know, who’s going to read several hundred pages of something they hate?
I’m not really interested in receiving thanks from white people, but I am interested to know what they are doing with the information. I don’t need white people to toss their privilege out, to disempower themselves. What I need them to do is look for where their relative power lies and use it for my benefit. What I want is for them to speak up in boardrooms, where policies are being made; to have a tough conversation with a Republican congressman who wants their vote — and who’s working hard to make sure I can’t vote. I only have a few ways of being heard, and you have hundreds: Go use that power.