“If I had $1 for every white person who has asked me if I’ve seen [the Chris Rock movie about hair] and then proceeded to educate me on the problems with my own damn hair and the Black hair industry I’d have enough money to keep myself in Indian Remy for life.”

In Chapter 11, Oluo describes being at a work dinner where her white colleagues discuss the “problems” Black women have with their hair. Although these colleagues likely believe they are demonstrating sympathy, they are actually exerting control over Black women’s bodies the same way that America has always done. No one has the right to tell another person how to style their hair, especially when that person hasn’t asked. Yet white people often comment on many aspects of the Black body without request, explanation, or justification and then proceed to claim that they meant well.

“What matters is that somebody was hurt. That should be the primary focus. The fact that you hurt someone doesn’t mean that you are a horrible person, but the fact that you meant well doesn’t absolve you of guilt.”

In Chapter 12, Oluo describes the daily experience of living with microaggressions, comparing them to being punched in the arm repeatedly. She emphasizes the cumulative effect rather than each individual act. Because microaggressions are small comments or behaviors, those perpetrating them might feel like they shouldn’t be a big deal. But when a minority person has experienced 15 that day and 1,500 that year, they add up. They hurt, and a well-meaning person should acknowledge the hurt they caused rather than the hurt they feel at being caught saying something they shouldn’t.

“Reinforce that good intentions are not the point. ‘You may not have meant to offend me, but you did. And this happens to people of color all the time. If you do not mean to offend, you will stop doing this.’”

In Chapter 12, Oluo offers suggestions for Black people experiencing microaggressions, one of which is to shift the focus from a person’s intentions to the results of their actions. Doing so demands that the person at fault recognize that Black people have the right to their feelings, validates their experiences, and returns agency to them.