A white woman who attracted close to 2 million followers on Instagram after naming her handle, almost identically, to the book title of a best-selling Black female author has apologized for capitalizing off of her work.
Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race was published in 2018 and became a bestseller after a Minnesota cop murdered George Floyd last summer.
Jessica Natale created a popular Instagram account with the handle “@soyouwanttotalkabout” in February of 2020. It published posts about voting rights, gun reform and the sentencing of Derek Chauvin. The account flourished so well that Natale got a book deal with Little, Brown in April.
The Guardian reports that Oluo, a 2018 The Root 100 honoree, became aware of Natale’s account last year and expressed her concern in an IG story.
“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 said she got no response, but that a disclaimer was added to tell readers that Oluo was not affiliated with the account. (The Root reached out to Oluo and will update if she responds.)
“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, the Guardian reports. “It’s actually been really heartbreaking to hear from hundreds of people who didn’t know this wasn’t my page.”
The IG account was renamed to “So Informed,” “out of respect for Ijeoma Oluo.” Natale also apologized “for the harm” that she caused Oluo. Her book’s publication has been paused, she added.
“I recognise that once again people of colour have had to carry the burden of education, and I regret that my actions have increased that burden,” she wrote on Instagram. “This page is about truth and dialogue. This conversation will be ongoing. Thank you all for holding me accountable.”
Here is more from the Guardian:
Oluo also criticised the way Natale and other accounts such as hers share information. “I am not interested in the meme-ification of anti-racist and social justice work. I am not interested in making this over-400-years complex system simple for white people to digest. I’m not trying to give you an easy way to feel like you have been doing something just by reading a post,” she said on Instagram. “I hope that from here on out those 2.8 million people who come for easy, quick, feel-good information to help them feel informed will actually be connected to the people doing real work.”
We all hope that white people will stop stealing Black people’s shit too, sis. We feel your pain and are happy that at least Natale is being held accountable.