The author of New York Times bestseller So You Want To Talk About Race, Ijeoma Oluo, has discovered an Instagram account run by a white woman echoes a very similar sentiment and title to her work.
The account, which was formerly called @soyouwanttotalkabout and ran by Jessica “Jess” Natale, displays infographics about social justice issues like immigration, the history of policing, gender equality and race. Natale introduced the account in February 2020 and after the wave of George Floyd protests in the summer of last year, the account went from 10,000 followers in June 2020 to 1 million by August.
“I am not interested in the meme-ification of anti-racist and social justice work,” Oluo said about the page in a recent series of Instagram story videos according to Business Insider. “I would never turn people of color, disabled people, queer and trans people into footnotes of building my brand.”
“I am not interested in making this over 400-year-old complex system simple for white people to digest,” she added, referencing how accounts like Natale’s sanitize systemic issues for easier consumption. “I’m not trying to give you an easy way to feel like you have been doing something just by reading a post. That is not what I’m about, that is not the work that I do.”
Initially, when Oluo first learned about the account, she blocked the page and tried to move past it. However, she became inundated with messages from people asking if the account was run by her and on April 12 of this year, Natale announced she would be publishing her own book, So Let’s Talk About It, delving into topics such as anti-racism and Black Lives Matter.
“And so in the middle of this, while we’re dealing with the trauma of being a Black person in America, dealing with all the new weird attention on the work, I’m getting these messages from people referencing this account,” Oluo said. “They’re saying ‘Is this you? It looks like you but not.'”
“It’s actually been really heartbreaking to hear from hundreds of people who didn’t know this wasn’t my page,” the author added. “I think this whole thing was really duplicitous and really shady and it’s harmful.”
After being publicly called out by Oluo, Natale issued an apology via Instagram where she stated that she would pause her book’s publication and will rename the handle to @so.informed.
“I apologize for the harm that I’ve caused to Ijeoma Oluma,” the post began. I recognize that once again people of color have had to carry the burden of education, and I regret that my actions have increased that burden.”
“I want to publicly acknowledge the BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disability experts that have contributed their work, experiences, and voices to this page and who have been so instrumental in making this page what it is,” the statement continued.
Moving forward, Natale also pledged to create a safer space for all communities to voice their concerns and credit collaborators who contribute to the page’s success.