After watching Emmanuel Acho’s popular online video series, I was inspired to read his accompanying book by the same name. Released late last year, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man is an exceptional book tackling some of the hardest questions people have about race. According to Acho, engaging in these conversations is a necessary and pivotal step we must all take on the road to addressing systemic racism and achieving true racial justice for all, despite how uncomfortable they may be.
Structuring each chapter in the same way, Acho presents real questions he has received from viewers of his video series before giving thoughtful and empathetic answers to help readers better understand the ways in which racism impacts the daily lives of people of color (POC), as well as how it has adapted over time to uphold white privilege in our society. A sampling of these questions include the following:
- “How do you bring race up with minorities? I honestly have so much fear of saying something wrong and being labeled as a ‘racist.’ I’m sure things will come out wrong, or sound unaware because they are. But how will I learn if we can’t discuss?”
- “Do you believe that, with time, white privilege can be eliminated? Also, when I think about white privilege, I feel guilty and ashamed.”
- “What systems are racist that need to be changed now? I have heard arguments about things related to housing and schools not being as well funded, which both seem to be more economic issues than race issues. I can see how in the past the now-grandparent generation may have suffered from racism under relining and other practices that are now illegal. I also see how that can have lingering effects. However, I see those racist issues as having been dealt with.”
In response to each question, Acho gives a brief background of the topic at hand, addresses why it may be uncomfortable to bring into conversations, and provides numerous ways for readers to not only talk about it, but also take meaningful actions as a result of these dialogues.
Overall, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Whether you are looking for yourself, or for a friend or family member, this is the perfect title to begin learning more about the roots of systemic racism, the influence it has within our society today, and the steps you can take to become actively anti-racist. Acho not only writes in a very accessible way, but also offers readers grace and patience as they make their way through the pages. Additionally, Acho has compiled an exceptional list of further resources readers can consult in order to learn more; he lists several books, essays, reports, movies, podcasts, and music, as well as websites and additional topics to research.
I also highly recommend watching Acho’s online video series! If you are interested, you can find all of the episodes here.
This book is also available in the following formats: