Employee book club tackles topic of race

A group of faculty, staff, and administrators has been reading the book “So you want to talk about race” by author Ijeoma Oluo. The book club, hosted by the Sociology and Criminology department as well as the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning, has met once to discuss the book with plans to meet two more times this semester. The book, which was first published in 2018, tackles such issues as cultural appropriation, microaggressions, as well as privilege.


The sociology and criminology department is hosting an employee book club to encourage discussion of race and its present-day relevance. The club is co-sponsored by the Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning and the office of the dean of students.

Sociology and criminology professor Lauren McClain chose to examine the book “So You Want to Talk About Race,” a 2018 New York Times bestseller by Ijeoma Oluo, for the club’s first meeting. McClain said the book stood out to her. 

“A friend of mine had read this book in the summer and posted about it on Facebook,” McClain said. “She’s another sociologist, and she teaches about race all the time in her classes. She said it was the greatest book she had ever read, and everyone in the world should buy it. And I bought it that day.”


“So You Want to Talk  About Race” can be described as a blunt and knowledgeable book with an upfront approach to a hot topic. The book includes analyses of microaggressions, police brutality and mass incarceration of African Americans.

McClain said the book was very relatable and provided in-depth insight on how to approach the topic of race and address it effectively. She said she believes many could benefit from reading the book and examining its themes on a personal level.

“I got the idea of the book club from the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion at WKU,” McClain said. “We talk about it, but we really don’t see much on it that’s changing. I just thought, ‘Why not start a book club and get this in front of as many people as we can and have a conversation?’”

The first meeting of the book club occurred Oct. 25 from 1:30-3 p.m. in the Mahurin Honors College multipurpose room. Faculty and staff from 37 different departments and units signed up for the club, a total of 57 people, McClain said.

The Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning’s grant accounts specialist Jo Ellen Scruggs attended the meeting. She said she joined the club to enhance her understanding of complex issues.

“I’ve come to an age where I realize there is a lot going on in the world,” Scruggs said. “I have privileges that I didn’t realize were privileges. I have two young daughters that I want to raise to be open to all people no matter race, sexuality or ability. It starts with me, so this seemed like a great opportunity for me to expand myself and the world around me.”

The meeting consisted of a series of activities aimed at provoking unfiltered and truthful conversation. Attendees were encouraged to express themselves openly about their conception of the book and how its messages apply to their lives.

Molly Kerby, a professor of criminology and sociology and director of implementation of the academic affairs quality enhancement plan, said she believes such discussions should replace less involved methods of race training. She said bias is best tackled when approached from an angle which invites personal examination.

“I’m hoping to apply everything from the book,” Kerby said. “I’m hoping that this opens eyes and that they [those interested in analysis of racial issues] are willing to want to have a conversation rather than just training.”

The club will next meet Nov. 8 from 1:30-3 p.m. in the HCIC multipurpose room to discuss another chapter of the book.

Features reporter Gabby Bunton can be reached at [email protected].