White Woman Accused of ‘Capitalizing’ Off Black Author’s Book About Racism With Instagram Account

The covers side by side: So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo (2018) and So, Let’s Talk about It: A Tool Kit for Unlearning by Jessica Natale (October 2021). Composite: Basic Books/Voracious

The white woman behind an Instagram account with almost three million followers has apologised for the “harm” she caused to bestselling black author Ijeoma Oluo.

Oluo’s examination of race in America, So You Want to Talk About Race, was published in 2018, and hit the bestseller charts in the wake of the killing of George Floyd last summer. Jessica Natale’s similarly-named Instagram account @soyouwanttotalkabout was launched in February 2020, tackling topics such as voting rights, gun reform and the sentencing of Derek Chauvin, laying out information in a series of slide-shows in muted tones. By April this year, Natale had landed a book deal with Little, Brown, and revealed her previously-concealed identity.

Oluo had said that Natale’s decision to name her Instagram account @soyouwanttotalkabout was “duplicitous and shady”, describing her as a “white woman that is capitalizing off of the work of other people of color and other marginalized populations”.

Oluo said in an Instagram story that she first became aware of Natale’s account last year. “Last summer in the middle of this global uprising for black lives, the popularity of my work … skyrocketed. And so in the middle of this, while dealing with the trauma of being a black person in America … I’m getting these messages from people saying … is this you?” she said. “I’m like, this is exactly one word short of my book title that is currently selling out in stores everywhere, and it’s talking about race and other issues. So I reached out to the page and I was like, this is really similar to my book title, I would like to know who is behind this account.”

Oluo, who has 521,000 followers on Instagram, said her question about the identity of the person running the account was “completely ignored”, but a small disclaimer was added to let readers know Oluo was not affiliated with it. “I knew from their response this was a white person immediately because otherwise you wouldn’t ignore that question of who’s behind this account,” Oluo said. “It’s actually been really heartbreaking to hear from hundreds of people who didn’t know this wasn’t my page.”

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SOURCE: The Guardian, Alison Flood