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Speaking of Race

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Speaking of Race

Why Everybody Needs to Talk About Racism―and How to Do It

Harper Wave,

15 min read
8 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Talking about race isn’t easy. Here’s how to approach it effectively.

Editorial Rating



  • Well Structured
  • Concrete Examples
  • Engaging


In this instructive manual, Celeste Headlee dives headfirst into fraught territory. Stop avoiding talking about race, she says, and tackle it head-on. Her step-by-step guide walks readers through the process. She suggests entering a conversation with a plan and a goal, being respectful and speaking with empathy, while avoiding a judgmental stance. Headlee is sufficiently nonpartisan that her helpful approach functions across races, creeds and ideologies.


Racial bias is part of the human condition.

Delving into racial tensions and exploring individual feelings about race doesn’t come easily to anyone. Race is a fraught topic. Conversations about race tend to leave people feeling embarrassed or angry, yet everyone harbors some kind of prejudice about other people’s race, religion, where they live or the car they drive.

Celeste Headlee’s grandfather was a prominent African-American composer who married a white woman. Headlee’s skin is so light, she says, that many people assume she’s white, but not the elementary school classmate who referred to her using a racist slur. As a biracial person in racially fraught times, Headlee identifies with her Black and Caucasian relatives. Because she doesn’t immediately appear Black, she notes for example, store employees don’t follow her around, and she has little fear of dealing with the police.

Most Americans don’t know when they are exhibiting bias. For example, Harold Washington, the first Black mayor of Chicago, told Hispanic immigrants they should learn to speak English. Only open discussion can close such a gap.


About the Author

Award-winning journalist Celeste Headlee is a professional speaker and the author of We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter.

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