Gays Reading

Ijeoma Oluo (Be a Revolution)

February 13, 2024 Jason Blitman Season 2 Episode 39
Ijeoma Oluo (Be a Revolution)
Gays Reading
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Gays Reading
Ijeoma Oluo (Be a Revolution)
Feb 13, 2024 Season 2 Episode 39
Jason Blitman

Jason and Brett talk to Ijeoma Oluo (Be a Revolution) about actionable steps for making social change, the importance of diversifying where you get your information, doing your own research, outlining a blueprint for being the catalyst of change.

Ijeoma Oluo is a writer, speaker, and internet yeller. She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller So You Want to Talk About Race and, most recently, Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America. Her work has been featured in the Guardian, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among many other publications. She was named to the 2021 Time 100 Next list and has twice been named to the Root 100. She received the 2018 Feminist Humanist Award and the 2020 Harvard Humanist of the Year Award from the American Humanist Association. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Show Notes Transcript

Jason and Brett talk to Ijeoma Oluo (Be a Revolution) about actionable steps for making social change, the importance of diversifying where you get your information, doing your own research, outlining a blueprint for being the catalyst of change.

Ijeoma Oluo is a writer, speaker, and internet yeller. She is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller So You Want to Talk About Race and, most recently, Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America. Her work has been featured in the Guardian, the New York Times, and the Washington Post, among many other publications. She was named to the 2021 Time 100 Next list and has twice been named to the Root 100. She received the 2018 Feminist Humanist Award and the 2020 Harvard Humanist of the Year Award from the American Humanist Association. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

**BOOKS!**
Check out the list of books discussed on each episode on our Bookshop page:
https://bookshop.org/shop/gaysreading | By purchasing books through this Bookshop link, you can support both Gays Reading and an independent bookstore of your choice!

Join our Patreon for exclusive bonus content!

Purchase your Gays Reading podcast Merch!

Follow us on Instagram
@gaysreading | @bretts.book.stack | @jasonblitman

What are you reading?
Send us an email or a voice memo at gaysreading@gmail.com

Jason Blitman:

Recording in progress.

Brett Benner:

in progress. Hello. How are

Jason Blitman:

Thank you, Zoom, Siri.

Brett Benner:

Yes. Do you know that now in our casting sessions we, some of the sessions are in zoom for actors who we do a live zoom session for some actors. And so what we'll do is we'll say your cue for action is series voice recording in progress.

Jason Blitman:

Oh, that's so funny.

Brett Benner:

It's hilarious. We have a whole thing. Happy Tuesday.

Jason Blitman:

Happy Tuesday to ya.

Brett Benner:

Yeah, exactly. A couple new books coming out today. One which I just absolutely loved, which is, It's so funny because I always hold it up for you to see and for all our audience who can't see. But Ten Bridges I Burnt by Brontes Purnell. I just thought this is so fantastic. It's a memoir in verse. I think he's just fearless and brilliant. And I love this. So excited that it's out in the world.

Jason Blitman:

I know. I got a copy and I need to read it to you. You were, after you were talking about it, I I am so excited today that, the last days of the Midnight Ramblers by Sarah Tomlinson comes out. Sarah Tomlinson was one of the folks who was at this Palm Springs Book Festival that I was telling you about, and the logline of the book is Perfect for fans of Daisy Jones and the Sixth and Almost Famous, a gripping debut about the complicated legacy of a legendary rock band and the ghostwriter telling their story. Three rock and roll icons, two explosive tell all memoirs, one ghostwriter caught in the middle. And I can't get it soon enough because I'm so excited. And Sarah is a ghostwriter, so she has

Brett Benner:

Oh, wow.

Jason Blitman:

And what I'm obsessed with is that she's been writing for Ages and she's written her own memoir and she's been a ghostwriter for so many people and her dream was to publish a novel and this is her debut novel and I'm so excited for her! Yay Sarah Tomlinson! Happy Pub Day. Was there anything else you wanted to shout out?

Brett Benner:

Oh, you know what else is coming out today? And I hope we don't butcher this last name. Cause I'm prone to do that, but the resort is out by Sarah. Oaks, what do we say? Oaks,

Jason Blitman:

would guess Oaks. OCHS.

Brett Benner:

Welcome to paradise. We hope you survive your stay. Thriller. For all you thriller fans, that is out today.

Jason Blitman:

Three other things.

Brett Benner:

out.

Jason Blitman:

And on today's show, we, on today's show, on today's episode, I guess today's show.

Brett Benner:

It is a show. Say

Jason Blitman:

show, oh my god we have Ijeoma Oluo who is certainly best known for Her book, So You Want to Talk About Race an interesting polarizing figure, and I am grateful to talk to her about her new book, Be a Revolution, which just came out. And yeah, here's a little about it. She is a writer, speaker, and internet yeller. She is the author of the number one New York Times bestseller, So You Want to Talk About Race?, and most recently, Mediocre, The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America. Her work has been featured in The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Washington Post, among many other publications. She was named to the 2021 Time 100 Next List and has twice been named to the Root 100. She received the 2018 Feminist Humanist Award and the 2020 Harvard Humanist of the Year Award from the American Humanist Association. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

Brett Benner:

that 10 times fast.

Jason Blitman:

Harvard humanist, American humanist is a hard, is a weird word to say.

Brett Benner:

humanist, especially when it's early. Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

I know. And, as always, if you like what you're hearing, share us with your friends, follow us on Instagram at GaysReading, like us and subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.

Brett Benner:

All of the Books that we talk about on this podcast, as we said before, on our bookshop. org page, you

Jason Blitman:

Yes, of course.

Brett Benner:

links.

Jason Blitman:

Links in the show notes. And on that note, I'm Jason,

Brett Benner:

And I'm Brett.

Jason Blitman:

and enjoy this episode of Gay's Reading.

Brett Benner:

Reading.

Jason Blitman:

I appreciate you squeezing the gays in. In between your travel and recording and the holidays.

Ijeoma Oluo:

Always room for the gays.

Jason Blitman:

That should be our tagline. Always room for the gays.

Brett Benner:

That's for season two. we are in season two. That's what's crazy. I forget. We are in

Jason Blitman:

mostly I'm like a big fan of your life Instagram posts. Like I've been on the journey of like your kids and growing up. tHey're growing up into old humans. I'm so excited for you. And The elephant in the room is that we're both white guys talking to you. Also you 51, 000 emails in your inbox. It stressed me out from the moment, the very first page of the book. You said they just live there now. And that was hilarious to me. What's the number up to now? Dare I ask?

Ijeoma Oluo:

I have to check my phone because that's the one that actually gives me the number, like in bold. So here's the thing too, is I think through that one, what's really funny is I literally only did. One of the boxes, because the total number is actually 286, 400, which it's telling me right.

Jason Blitman:

Oh my god.

Brett Benner:

But I want to say 175, 000 of those are like Costco or like they're all those like

Ijeoma Oluo:

I'm not, yeah, I just don't touch it at this point. What are you going to do? I'm not cleaning that out. It's not happening. Exactly.

Brett Benner:

I've tried to, haven't you even tried? I have, but you ever, have you ever tried? Like I've at least tried to go through and say unsubscribe. And that takes up so much damn time that then I'm like, you know what? Screw this. It really does. And I don't even actually think it works. I think they probably just put you on another list.

Ijeoma Oluo:

It does. Yeah. I know. I actually had a young person I know called me and said, Hey, I'm, short on funds. Is there any little chores I can do? And I couldn't think of anything. And I was like, you know what, you want to go through my email box and unsubscribe me from things. And we did that for a couple of days and subscribe me for hundreds and hundreds of lists. And it, gave me about a week of peace before everything just was back. It didn't,

Brett Benner:

Oh, my God.

Jason Blitman:

So that, if the book didn't make my heart pump enough, that at the very beginning, it like kicked me off not to be super cliche about it, but the cover alone,

Ijeoma Oluo:

Isn't it beautiful?

Jason Blitman:

I am obsessed with it. I want it as a poster, a it's like art, but also it's this deep call to action. a good reminder, and artful, all at the same time, and the sort of boldness of the demand. You really know what you're getting yourself into when you crack open the cover.

Ijeoma Oluo:

Right.

Brett Benner:

The book says, be a revolution, how everyday people are fighting oppression and changing the world and how you can too.

Jason Blitman:

I know. I like felt empowered just opening it. Then I read the thing about the 51, 000 emails and I was like, oh my god, I have to close the book.

Brett Benner:

Could you be like, before we get into this, we could just for our listeners who aren't familiar, can you just do like an elevator pitch of what the book is and how you came to write this as your Hmm. Hmm.

Ijeoma Oluo:

yeah, certainly. So I'll say I'll start with how I came to write it because I think that has a lot of to do with why it is what it is. So I, my first two books, so you want to talk about race and mediocre they were very successful books. I'm very proud of them. But they were very brutal to write, especially mediocre spending months and months. neck deep in like white male supremacy in this really deep violence while also experiencing a lot of violence, in our home being targeted, but also, 2020 is when media came out. So we're talking, in the thick of it. And it was really traumatizing. It had really serious impacts on my mental health and. And my relationship with writing, writing wasn't really, it wasn't fun, I was really feeling drained and had to sit with myself and think, I'm telling people all of the time, I'm telling especially Black people not to sacrifice themselves to white supremacy and to make sure that the best of yourself is going to your community and what you love and here writing that I loved so much had really started to feel like this work that I needed to do. Instead of, when I was a little kid and I said I wanted to be a writer, I was not saying, and I'm going to write about white supremacy, like that was not my dream. And I was just really exhausted. And I wanted to take some time to go back to being a student of writing and to experiment and really And so Mediocre was going to be it for a while, as far as writing explicitly about issues of race and gender. And then a couple of things happened. oNe, our house burned down. And when our house burned down the outpouring from community That we had been long, worked with for community projects and things like that especially with the artist relief fund over the in the beginning of the pandemic the love and support that came was just overwhelming. It was amazing and watching this network and remembering that we were part of this vast community of people who. Help each other and carry each other and do amazing work that keeps us alive in that real everyday sense. It doesn't make headlines I realized like this is the thing as people are emailing me, I wish there was something I could do There's nothing we could do This is actually why we're here This is why I you know and my partner and my kids as a black family Like why we were here and still standing after this devastating fire after so much And I really wanted to highlight that. I wanted to take away that excuse of it's too difficult. I don't have the right degrees. I don't have, the right credentials. I don't have the time, the energy. And I also wanted to, shine a light on the people who have been doing the work. I really

Jason Blitman:

Mm.

Ijeoma Oluo:

Them to be celebrated and seen, and their journey through it to be seen. And so that's what I did. And I, proposed and, luckily Harper one was and Rakesh were very excited. My editor Rakesh Shatia, we're really excited about it and. I moved forward and got to spend a lot of time with really beautiful movement workers, got to meet a lot of amazing people. And it was absolutely one of the most, fulfilling writing experiences. But the goal really is to show people what's being done. To celebrate what's being done. And to give people an entryway into work or into supporting work. Regardless of where their interests may lie. If they want to make a difference at the intersections of systemic racism, they can. And I really want to That to be clear to people, regardless of your skill set your level of privilege, your racial or ethnic identity, there is something you can do.

Jason Blitman:

To go back to the first piece of how this book came together, something that you say is the book can be described as a community project. I felt like I was immersed in this whole community of movement workers and was able to then see them in this spectrum and you can find your place somewhere along there. Later in the book, you say. One thinks that you are either an activist in all capitals or you aren't part of a movement at all. I will speak for me, for myself, I think that is where I feel like my feet get in the cement, right? It's if I'm not going to solve racism and because as the important work that I want to be doing I don't know what I can do. But the reality is, and then later, or earlier, you say, no matter who you are, if you want to be involved in the revolution, there's space for you. Other than reading the book and figuring it out and doing the work for yourself, which everybody should be doing, obviously, is there an entry point that you most often recommend to people of okay, this is a, have this appetizer and that will set you off on the right path.

Ijeoma Oluo:

Yeah, absolutely. What I would say, and also what I would say a lot of other people said in the book as well is start local. So start local and start with your interests. Where you have interests, where you already have a working set of knowledge of any particular thing. And trust me, as like someone who's written one of the most popular books on race, I get emails from, Every sector where there's an issue around race. If you love knitting, there is anti racist work to be done in the world of knitting. And I know because I get the emails, like there is there. a space for it. And so start local, start small, start with your interests and then start looking for what you don't know. So start looking at the racial dynamics of the space. So start paying attention with that racial lens, so if it's, let's keep going with knitting. If you love knitting look at who's making your knitting patterns, look at who's making money from them, look at who's showing up at the craft shows, right? Look at who's blogging is, becoming big, right? And start paying attention to that, look at what types of patterns, look and see how many, maybe you have patterns that are being culturally appropriated, right? In a way that can be really harmful. And start paying attention to that and then start looking once you start to realize maybe particular patterns at what other people have been saying within this space. And so once you realize what people of color have been saying within that space, issues that people of color have been having Then you can start to say, where's my privilege relative to this? Where do I have any little bit of influence and find that identify it according to what other people have said they need and then invite people to join you. And so starting there, you're going to be able to dive in. You'll have this kind of smaller space with. a limited impact, which also means limited harm, to be able to study, figure out what works, and then you can start, adding on. And once you realize patterns within there, you're going to start to see those same patterns in other things. And if you're realizing that knitting conventions have definite racist undertones and the only people invited are white people, then you're going to notice, Oh if you're also into comics that Comic Con has similar issues as well, and you can start to move on or just branch off and, all these days, or you can go, what about the fibers and who's farming the these textiles and, what are the labor conditions for the people doing this, right? So there's always more that you can add on there, but it's a great place to start. And it's. Where you can have, while it's a smaller impact, it is felt more, because you do have more power within those smaller spaces that you're already familiar with.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. And to say adding on it's not adding on overnight for our listeners. It is adding on over as much time as you need. It's like when you're ready for the next thing, that's when it's, that's when you can add on to it. It's these incremental changes that you can really make. And for our white listeners to establish and understand your privilege for me, a great place to start. is So You Want to Talk About Race. I cracked open my copy of the book and I was like, Oh, uh huh. And in the back, I have all of my privileges written down. And it was a nice reminder of where I fall and and was a great primer for Be A Revolution. Not, it is not a necessity, but it is definitely a nice reminder to embark on be a revolution with sort of an open heart as a white person and not feel like, not feel like you're getting scolded. Cause that isn't what the book is. Something I'm curious to get your opinion on is the sort of binary world that we're living in right now. I am not a sociologist, I'm not a journalist, but from my little corner of the world, it feels like the sort of extreme binaries are part of what the problem is. Even what I said about, activist. non activist, right? And I was saying to Brett earlier, even just talking about being pro choice doesn't mean you are pro abortion, right? It doesn't, it is not about the binary system of it all. I've used an example earlier in a different episode about being a vegetarian. If every once in a while you crave Meat, you're allowed to eat meat when you crave it, that doesn't take away your vegetarian ness. That sort of degree of binariness, is that something that, what does that mean to you? What do you, why do you think that is?

Ijeoma Oluo:

I mean, I think there's a couple of things. One is, we, the internal work is the hardest work of anti racism, and it's the work that people avoid, and a lot of times people get stuck in that binary because that's a really great way to avoid the internal work. People are either, racist or anti racist, and not anti racist, which means, Seeking out racism, even in themselves, right? It means that you can have this card that can be taken and given and taken and given. And you're always externally focused. And that means you're always looking at other people and being like you're doing this wrong and If you start realizing the nuance and start realizing that we are all works in progress that we, none of us were, I actually just wrote about this in my newsletter, babies don't have a political ideology. They don't have any need for a political ideology. Everything that we know, and we say, we know that we say we've believed forever is something that we've learned and. That requires being open to that, requires being open to reconciling with how you've caused harm. With opening up space in your ego for this more nuanced view of who you are. And I think that's really scary for people. And so I would say, especially when it's been so easy for people to display status that gives them this kind of identity, that also makes it really fragile. If it's really easily won, it's really easily lost. And so you shared the right post and suddenly you're an anti racist icon. It's also as easy as someone finding some old tweets you sent for that to be taken away. Instead of being we define this by your deep commitment to this really kind of difficult sticky work and to, recognizing when you've done harm. And it is a serious problem that we don't do this because The truth is we act like the binary is really polarized, but it's not. What we have is a very, we have these ideals around what is truly progressive and then we have Various types of harm that people are allowed to live in and all be part of this amalgam of harm, and you don't even have to agree on it like you can be someone who says they're anti racist and be anti queer. And once that's identified they're still home for you in this kind of bigotry soup. And.

Jason Blitman:

Sure.

Ijeoma Oluo:

And and it's tricky because harm is real. So saying, oh, welcome to the anti racist movement, even if you're anti queer, like that's not feasible. Because that is increasing harm. And there is no way to be effectively anti racist and be anti queer. But what we don't have is, it seems to be in many ways, a sustained commitment in getting people from these kind of mixed spaces. Over and educated and nurtured through and where that work is done. It's often expected of those with the least amount of bandwidth is expected of people like me. It's expected of black women.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah.

Ijeoma Oluo:

Oh if you can teach them and move them and what we actually need is a better process for it. But that means investigating and being willing to be open to the ways in which all of our. Harm shows up. All of our bigotry show up. Once we say we're going to do that, then, that puts everyone at risk of being found out for the ways in which they haven't, they still have work to do. And it's sad because that's such beautiful, important work. And it's such enriching work. Hard as it may seem, but until we have real conversations about how to handle conflict, how when we're recognizing harm to address it without casting people out, what real accountability looks like, because it doesn't look like Will we just give everyone a hug and it's over? Like that's all, those are all things we have to really discuss and start practicing and probably starting on a smaller scale and working out, it's something people have talked about. It's, it's something that especially a lot of abolitionists who practice as far as like conflict resolution, mediation around it with abolitionist principles have been doing day in and day out. out. But for most of us, even movement workers, it's not something we've integrated into our practice because it's just not something we've ever been taught.

Jason Blitman:

that's really interesting. I think that sort of in and of itself, anyone who's attempting the work, the soup of it all is where we're like, okay, now I'm swimming this way and now I'm in the soup swimming that way. And us doing the individual work to really understand how to get out of the soup. And maybe the soup isn't going anywhere anytime soon. So it's we're worried about, I'm like really leaning into this metaphor. That's, this is not good. mAking a taste more palatable, which is like not necessarily useful either. It's about pouring out the soup and starting over. It's let's not try to make it taste better.

Ijeoma Oluo:

Yeah, absolutely. It's like my favorite analogy around that is it's like icing a poison cake. Like you can ice it as many times as you want. If the poison's baked in, it's baked in. And you have to address that, start over, better ingredients, and then, you'll have something that you can work with, but it's really difficult work, and it's really rewarding, and I've tried to practice it myself, like I wrote in the book, I'm trying even with parenting to look at abolitionist principles, and I tried this with my son the other day, and it was so funny because we were having a, dispute about homework. And he just was so upset and just blew up at me and I was like, Hey, you know what? This isn't fair to me. I'm an actual person. It is part of my job to make sure that homework gets done, to the degree that you don't have the added stress of whether or not you're going to pass this class. I also think that homework is ridiculous, but yeah. There are, I'm not trying to get perfect work out of you. We're trying to make it so that you can get through high school. And I said, so let's come together. Let's figure out how we want this to work between the two of us. How do we want this relationship to work when I have this responsibility? And he just looked at me and he was like, are you mocking me right now? nO, I'm trying to be an abolitionist parent. He's just tell me what you want me to do. And I'm like, that's what I've been trying to do.

Brett Benner:

Oh, my God. And then you found out he was in the marching band.

Ijeoma Oluo:

Yeah, exactly. Yeah. It's just not, it's not easy. It's really complicated. And the expectations, he was even like, no, as my parent, you're just supposed to tell me what to do. And I'm supposed to get mad. And then you're supposed to threaten to ground me. And then we get it done. And I'm like, I don't want a relationship to be that way. And he just was like, but that's. It's difficult. I would much rather just think that you're the meanest mom in the world and push back against you and then get the homework done under threat of losing privileges, it's hard, but that, when we look at movement work, when we look at why people are afraid to mess up, it's that same dynamic. Just tell me what to do. If I mess up, you might cast me out. Maybe I won't ever take a risk. Maybe I won't do anything I wasn't told to do. Maybe I'll decide it's not for me altogether. That we have to investigate that.

Jason Blitman:

aNd even what you were describing, your interaction with your son, it's let's just be a parent and child the way that parents and children are supposed to be. And it's that's the problem.

Ijeoma Oluo:

Exactly.

Jason Blitman:

how we all engage, right? It's no, let's just do that thing as we've always been told it's supposed to go. It's no. Let's break it down because we have that power.

Brett Benner:

There is a different way of parenting that's happening today, I know certainly the way that I relate to my children is so different than the way my parents related to me, and I'm the exact age to my son as my father was to me, but I'm very conscious of all of those things. Also being aware of the fact that we're a queer family that, there's, that's an element in it. There's no mother involved. I'm very aware of that with my daughter, the way we're approaching all these things in the conversations we're having, even especially the conversations we're having around race, around gender, these things, I can't even fathom having.

Jason Blitman:

Something I'm curious To unpack a little bit, often you'll use words like demand or support when it comes to the being a revolution in part. What do those mean to you?

Ijeoma Oluo:

Yeah,

Jason Blitman:

ask that almost quite specifically in the sense of like, how does one demand something?

Ijeoma Oluo:

right. Absolutely. I would say one thing that we look at that's important to look at is the difference between what we think we should automatically have, that we would be outraged to not have, versus what we think would be a nice to have. And a lot of times, honestly, people treat racial equity like a nice to have, especially people with racial privilege. So the way that you would demand that, if you went into a restaurant and you sat there for an hour and no one helped you, you wouldn't, it wouldn't be nice to speak to the manager, right? You would

Jason Blitman:

Yeah. Yeah.

Ijeoma Oluo:

came in here, this was an expectation, it is what is to be of you. And yet, oftentimes we're talking about race, people are like could you ask more nicely? Could oh, I didn't like the tone of this right like as if it isn't something that we should wake up and expect, we should expect equity we should expect to be, To be treated, not even fairly like to be seen to have safety those are expectations that we should have as we move through the world, we should expect to be represented by a representative. Presentatives, right? And these are things that you can demand. And so I'm clear in that because I want people to think about and get into that mode of, it isn't, oh, it'd be great if they could do this. It's they should have been doing this all along and we absolutely have the right as our privilege in our relationship to this, whatever this power construct is to demand that and, and then support is really about, Recognizing when you're not in the center, and it isn't about you and it isn't even about your outrage. It's about supporting those who are primarily impacted and who are doing the primary work. And so that really is about taking other people's leads and those people may well be demanding, and they may attend to you and say I need you to

Jason Blitman:

Mm

Ijeoma Oluo:

Where that comes from isn't going to be your own innate sense of I've been wronged here if you're not centered and that's. It's important because I think these things should outrage everyone, right? Racial injustice should outrage everyone. Ableism, transphagy, all of these things should be outrageous. But when you're looking at that, the outrage should be on behalf of the love you have for people for those primarily impacted. And therefore you look towards them and what they need. It's guidance and it's not about making you feel better. It's not about you getting, revenge or what they owe you. And it's so easy to get mixed up in that, it's so easy to be like, Oh, I just want to feel better about this. And I'm so mad at them. And so I want them to pay for what they did to this person because it made me feel bad. And that's not helpful, you know.

Jason Blitman:

and we, I say we as in white people, we feel, I feel like we generally speaking pick and choose when we want to mind our business. I'm just like, no, white people, we can see, we have eyes and we're aware of our surroundings. And when we're at a restaurant and we, when we see that the table next to us is people of color who anyone who looks or anyone who looks different than you do, it is our responsibility to support and demand that they are in turn treated the same way. And I think it's very easy because of our privilege as white people to ignore that and move on.

Ijeoma Oluo:

To define what action you take based on what moves you. And that can be really harmful because there's a lot of racial bias in that. If you may not see why something matters to someone, you may not see why, it impacts someone. I'll always remember someone telling me that they were in a hostile work situation and they said, Oh, it got better. My boss read your book. And this was significant race. And I was like, what? Oh, wow. Okay. Cause often I hear people go, Oh, we had to read the book and then people decide not to do anything. And it was awful, right? She said, no, it's actually better. And she said, you know what it was? It was funny. Was it was the chapter on driving and she was reading it and she just loves driving so much. She couldn't imagine being afraid to drive. And I was like, okay, that's cool. And also shitty. Like I would love it. If it wasn't, I waited until I found something I love that was impacted before I could say, this is a real. thing,

Jason Blitman:

Mhm. Mhm.

Ijeoma Oluo:

Because there may, that may not happen. You may look at this and say, this is so different from my lived experience. And so waiting until it triggers you. Until you're like, Oh, I, I can put myself in their shoes and see how that would hurt. That's always going to be harmful because that, that the lived experience and people of other races between disabled and non disabled people, like it's vast and the difference is vast. And so it means that we only react when someone's getting killed on camera by police. Or, these sorts of things, when what kills us every day is a lot smaller, a lot more subtle. And the same people who were, marching in the streets for George Floyd would tell us that, when a doctor doesn't listen to you about your medications, it's not that big a deal. But that's more likely to kill me. And so that it's really important that we remember that empathy only goes so far and that we have to make a conscious choice to say we believe people and when they say that this matters and this is what we need to do. Even if it doesn't give us the heart feels to go out and make that difference we have to do it

Jason Blitman:

And just for the sake of clarity, for any listener who is maybe multitasking and not properly connecting dots, this is a different thing than supporting locally in your community a movement that, that means something to you and that you're interested in. That this is an entirely different idea.

Ijeoma Oluo:

so that's a good way to just get started in a space of expertise. If a friend comes to you and says this happened to me, and it was racist and I need your support. You don't go I don't really see it. Exactly. Yeah,

Jason Blitman:

no, exactly. So I just wanted to like, say that out loud for anyone who might have a hard time connecting those dots. I, they shouldn't. Our listeners are very thoughtful, but just in case, so many of these stories they're important to hear and to see and they shine a light in corners of movement work that most people, especially white people do not typically experience and see for themselves firsthand. There were some that you say. surprised you or moved you the most? I know the disability chapter you mentioned being one in particular that, that moved you. Can you talk a little bit about that, or just in general, maybe a story that surprised you?

Ijeoma Oluo:

I would say the disability chapter was one that really helped shape the whole book. As I was diving into these spaces. I've always had a lot of relationships with disabled movement workers because they've always been at the forefront, honestly, of pretty much any movement sector, and doing this really hard work, and Yeah, it wasn't a space I had been deeply involved in. And for a long time, I had been trying to, be respectful of my privilege as someone not. Seen as visibly disabled to not take up space in spaces and which, in the book, you can see the areas where, I was wrong or had overcorrected in that. But what it also meant was I wasn't deep into this work. in a way where I was able to really have a holistic view of the importance of a strong foundation of anti ableism and a strong understanding of the intersections of ableism and racism. And that chapter just really You know I set out with the book being like, people are going to go in this section, and I just tossed it up in the air when I realized that when I started speaking with disabled activists of color, that they were working in every single sector in really powerful ways, and often the most ignored for the work that they're doing, the most under, under resourced, underfunded and the work they were doing was saving so many lives, regardless of disability status. It really challenged me. It challenged me personally and my idea around work and the work that I do of my own identity as disabled and the importance around that and doing my own work around that. But it really also just set this different structure for the book. I realized actually with that chapter, I actually couldn't write the book at all, couldn't even start until I was done with all of my interviews. Because it was Teaching me so much and people were deciding for themselves in our conversations where they were going to go in the book. And I really didn't have any say over that. And that, that became really apparent with that chapter.

Jason Blitman:

Wow.

Brett Benner:

You have this section that really spoke about the war of a mountain imagination. And one of my things is always, especially in we're heading into this cluster of another election. How. To fight this constant misinformation that gets out there about so many things, even the idea when after George Floyd happened, the whole movement of defunding the police and the way that was used to say what it is or what it actually was how do we move to combat that when it's like social media is so it is what it is.

Ijeoma Oluo:

And I think it's really important that we recognize a couple of things, because I've been in, the writing game for a while, social media game for a while, but I also worked in digital marketing for a good decade. I worked in tech before I was writing. And What we have isn't actually more. We don't have a greater problem with misinformation. We just have access to more of it. Because the truth is before we had social media, you just had these major papers that were doing all the filtering for us. And. We weren't hearing the stories, weren't seeing what was happening on the ground. We weren't under, we weren't knowing who was being killed by the police. We didn't have access to that. The misinformation was quieter. It didn't have to be so sensational because it didn't have to compete with anything. But now it has to compete with the increased access also of truth, right? So as we have the increase of access to truth and all of these different truths out there, of course, the propaganda machines have to be more creative and they have to, come up with all these different untruths to try to balance that and counter that. And so I want people to recognize that because we're not actually in a worse situation than we were before. It feels like it because it feels so much bigger. But I would much rather have to filter through a hundred untruths to find a hundred truths than have to filter through ten untruths to hopefully maybe get one, and so I want to say that because what the antidote to this is to diversify where you're getting your information from pay attention to the voices that you've learned to trust, start paying attention to where they're getting information from and social media is great for that because you can see who's sharing what and so instead of just, reposting. Right now I'm working very hard around issues in Palestine, instead of just reposting people, I'm always telling people if you see that I've reposted someone, go follow that person, because they have, there's a wealth of information they have that I trust, that you can look and do your research on as well. And then I'll also say to people, if things just seem to be really scratching those information itches for you. Be a little skeptical, right? Things, the truth is messy. The truth is always messy. It's so rare when we're looking at complex social issues that we really think and be like, oh, this is exactly what I thought. Oh, I feel so affirmed. Everything in here is exactly what I wanted to hear. Because that's just not how humanity works.

Jason Blitman:

Yeah.

Brett Benner:

so much we were talking earlier. There's so much nuance in all of this. It's not just black and white all the time.

Ijeoma Oluo:

Exactly. And so be skeptical. And sometimes things are as extreme as they seem, but there is still something you need to know that would complicate that a little bit. And so looking at that, clicking on all the links that are shared, going a little bit deeper is really important. But also just really diversifying these things. Ask yourself, who am I getting my news from? If you're just clicking on CNN every day, You're not getting, you're not only not getting enough news, but you're getting heavily filtered and skewed news, It's, there is a little difference between saying I click on Fox News every day and I click on CNN every day, because what is missing from both. Are really how our most vulnerable populations are impacted by our systems and you may find more demonization of vulnerable populations on one end and the absolute erasure of them in another. At the end of the day, the end result is the systems get to have the same impact. They've always had. And looking and saying, how many disabled people am I following? What disabled people of color am I following? What indigenous activists am I following? Who am I following in the environmental? space and what, what race and ethnicity are they, as far as the classes of people I'm following, geographically, am I following some people from rural areas? Am I following people from cities, getting that diversification of where you're getting your information is really important. And then just follow it up. And if every time, especially because, when I share something, I'm sharing it to. 500,000 plus people, right? I if it feels like ooh, I got shit. People gotta know. I have to pause and be like, okay, why is this is hitting something like, dopamine wise in me. probably designed to do that. And I need to take a minute and look at, look into it before I go further.

Jason Blitman:

You talking about Raphael being so cool, it took me so long to read the book. First of all, it's dense and made me want to do a lot of things, but what really took the time was I started Googling every person in every

Brett Benner:

I know, right?

Jason Blitman:

because I was like, I'm obsessed with every single person in the book. It's really, to call it terrific, again, I don't mean to simplify it in that way but as a white person who ate up and devoured So You Wanna Talk About Race, I did the same with Be A Revolution. It really shook me in the way that it needed to, and it shook me by the shoulders in the way that it needed to. And I'm

Brett Benner:

both, we ended up using the entire,

Jason Blitman:

we have so many tabs.

Brett Benner:

like a porcupine now.

Jason Blitman:

and thank you for doing the work and making it accessible for people like us who need to learn and can open their hearts and have that capacity. Talking to you is giving me a lot of anxiety. Cause it's like talking to the expert. I'm like, you know, I'm starting my local campaign and I'm like, now go talk to the president. I'm just like, Oh, okay. I want to say I'm sorry that you're a woman of color who wrote this book and now I'm like, thanks for writing this thing with is a resource for me. If not enough of us are thanking you, I just want to be one of the people to thank you. Because it's getting consumed. It's getting heard. And I look forward to enacting my revolution, whatever that might look like.

Ijeoma Oluo:

Thank you. Thank you so much. And I appreciate the thanks and I wrote it for a lot of people and

Jason Blitman:

Mm hmm.

Ijeoma Oluo:

hope that people would read it and want to do something and thank you for it's a big book. I had to cut a whole chapter that I loved so much

Jason Blitman:

What was the topic? Yeah.

Ijeoma Oluo:

it

Brett Benner:

we touched on it lately.

Ijeoma Oluo:

Yeah, it broke my heart, but it was not a small chapter, obviously book is very long and I didn't want to cut anyone's voice and we're hitting the point where we're like, okay, you're not Barack Obama and also a lot of people just pretended to write read all of that book because I haven't and I haven't read it. But you can't really put out a 500 book and be like, Yeah, and I wanted people to read it and I will, that content will be out. I will put that out because it is important, but also there's enough about conflict resolution throughout the rest of the book, that was a, it was, there's always that one heartbreaking decision you have to make in order to get a book out, especially one like this where I could have gone on forever. So thank you for reading it because it's still quite, it's still quite a thick, it's still quite a thick book. Yeah.

Jason Blitman:

I think all of your books really are by design intended to be resources and gone back to and referred to and, you don't need to read it in one sitting. You can really take your time with it. And I think that's just, again, an important, don't let it overwhelm you because it will, so really take your

Brett Benner:

And it's also like you said earlier, you can jump into a certain section. It's designed so it doesn't have to be a linear experience. It

Ijeoma Oluo:

Yeah, and that's books like this, and so you want to talk about race, especially I design in that way when I have ADHD. So it's often how I read and how I go back to books. It's also how I write. I don't write linearly. And, but I wanted people to say this chapter really appeals to me, or this is a problem where, you know, sticking point I'm in. Let me go back to it without being like, Oh no, now I have to go back another chapter. I think it all works together. I think the flow of it works really well, but I know that also if you're in a class and the teacher wants to teach a particular chapter, I wanted them to be able to pull that out and teach it. And that, I want this book to be useful on everything. If I'm going to put this much work into this things, I want people to use it. I want it to

Brett Benner:

Yeah, absolutely. We so appreciate you coming on here today and taking the time. We appreciate your honesty and your work you're doing

Jason Blitman:

Everyone check out Be a Revolution. You could grab it in our bookshop. org page. That is linked in our show notes. And, all the things. Like

Brett Benner:

and we'll see you

Jason Blitman:

rate us, review us, and we'll see you next week! Bye