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‘There Is Still Much Work to be Done’: White Instagram User Accused of Capitalizing Off Black Woman’s Work Issues Apology After Being Exposed

A white woman has issued an official apology to writer Ijeoma Oluo after her Instagram page garnered stark comparisons to the author’s bestselling book “So You Want to Talk About Race.”

Oluo’s book, published in January 2018, outlined her opinions on race in contemporary America as well as advice about the issues. It found tremendous success last summer following the killing of George Floyd.

Instagram user accused of capitalizing from Ijeoma Oluo’s anti-racist book issues statement. Photo: PBS “Amanpour and Company” Screengrab

Jessica Natale’s similarly named Instagram account @soyouwantotalkabout where she discusses topics such as gun reform and race relations post George Floyd, was launched in February 2020, 2 years after Oluo’s book was released. Her platform earned her a book deal with Little, Brown in April, around the same time she also revealed her previously concealed identity.

In an Instagram story captured by The Guardian, the author said she initially became aware of Natale’s page “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?”

The Nigerian-American writer continued, “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 her request to find out the owner being the page was denied several times. She added, “It’s actually been really heartbreaking to hear from hundreds of people who didn’t know this wasn’t my page.”

As demonstrations against police brutality grew more and more, pages like Natale’s that summarized the killings of Black people, social unrest taking place, and provided historical background, grew in popularity. Still, Oluo called the page “duplicitous and shady,” calling Natale “a white woman that is capitalizing off of the work of other people of color and other marginalized populations.”

Last week, she apologized for the “harm” she caused Oluo in a lengthy statement posted to the Instagram page, now re-title “so Informed.”  “I hear your feedback and am absorbing it as I reconsider my role and responsibilities in this situation,” she wrote.

“I recognize that once again people of color have had to carry the burden of education, and I regret that my actions have increased that burden. I want to publicly acknowledge the BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and disability experts who have contributed their work, experiences, and voices to this page and who have been so instrumental in making this page what it is.”

White Woman behind popular Instagram account ‘soyouwanttotalkabout’ has apologized following claims she co-opted Black author Ijeoma Oluo’s brand. @soyouwanttotalkabout/Instagram

She later made several promises, including committing to changing the name of the page “making collaborations on the page more transparent: Contributors will receive sole credit for their posts as well as adding a photo/bio to the post, should they be comfortable with that.”

However, Natale noted that “These are first steps; there is still much work to be done.” Her book’s publication has also been paused.

Oluo criticized 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.”

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