Saturday, June 12, 2021

Janeane speaks with authors Fern L. Johnson and Marlene G. Fine about their thought-provoking book, Let’s Talk Race - A Guide for White People



Let’s Talk Race

A Guide for White People
By Fern L. Johnson and Marlene G. Fine


Let's Talk Race pulls no punches as it examines why white people struggle to talk about race, why we need to talk about race, and what obstacles preclude conversations that promote racial understanding and social action for racial equity.

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, and prompts for personal reflection and conversations about race.


LISTEN to the conversation featuring 
Fern L. Johnson and Marlene G. Fine



The authors talk about:
  • 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 work towards equality.

Fern L. Johnson, PhD, is Senior Research Scholar and Professor Emerita at Clark University, specializing in race, culture, and language. Her publications include Speaking Culturally and Imaging in Advertising, and many journal articles. Fern co-authored, with Marlene Fine, The Interracial Adoption Option, which draws on their experience as white parents of African American son

Marlene G. Fine, PhD, is Professor Emerita at Simmons University, specializing in cultural diversity, leadership, and dialogue. She authored Building Successful Multicultural Organizations, and her articles appear in a broad range of journals. She is a seasoned speaker and workshop facilitator. She lives near Boston, Massachusetts.


Praise for Let’s Talk Race

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 com

mitment 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 count less 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

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