This is a short and laugh-out-loud funny book about race in America, complete with goofy illustrations and quizzes. And let’s face it, we white Americans do need a guide to how not to make asses of ourselves. My personal rule of thumb is: don’t mention race, except to 1) describe a person (if you’ve noted their height, hairstyle and dress, you are also aware of their coloring) or 2) acknowledge that racism exists (otherwise, you are making an ass of yourself).
However, as Dear White People makes clear, my rule of thumb does not cover all situations. You might still go around sticking your fingers in black people’s hair, and pointing out to black shoppers that the merchandise they are looking at is expensive. (WTF? Who does these things?) If you are one of these people, you’re sure to benefit from Simien’s comically exaggerated advice (“the next time you see a black person, ask them a non-black-specific question”). If (hopefully!) you are not one of those people, you still get to raise your awareness, while laughing a lot. And if it also makes you reflect on how you can better handle thorny situations and avoid inadvertently offending the people around you, that’s pretty good for a book you can read in no time at all. Really, there’s no downside here.
Note: the only connection between this book and the movie of the same name is that they were created by the same person. It’s purely an op-ed book, but for once I mean that in the positive sense, because it doesn’t pretend to be anything else.