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  • NYS Writers Institute

Did you read Damon Young's column "Yeah, Let's Not Talk About Race"?

Damon Young (photo credit: Sarah Huny Young)
Damon Young (photo credit: Sarah Huny Young)

Damon Young is author of “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker: A Memoir of Essays,”

editor-in-chief of The Root's VSB -Very Smart Brothas, and a columnist at He was a Visiting Writer guest at two events we hosted in February at the University at Albany.

He's also a contributing opinion writer at the New York Times. His column last week, Yeah, Let's Not Talk About Race, offers an insightful and satirical take on what he calls the Serious Conversation About Racism (SCAR), which he describes as "anytime a white person encounters a Black person who writes about race — or just a Black person who just happens to be Black."

The white people who do this don’t realize (or maybe just don’t give a damn) that we’re on different timelines. You learned yesterday what white privilege means? Great! Welcome to 1962. This, however, doesn’t mean I need to engage you about it today. Or tomorrow. Or ever. And most important, maybe I’m out walking, shopping or playing with my children, or out just, I don’t know, staring at a fire hydrant because I want to give myself a break from writing about, from speaking about, from thinking about and from raging about racism, and you’re asking me to work for you for free. And that’s what it is: work. Free labor. An absolution device for your conscience, provided by me, shipped for free. There’s nothing inherently valuable for me out of that exchange. I don’t have a bucket list. But if I did, a 17-minute conversation about lynching, while in line for ice cream, wouldn’t be on it.

Side note: NY Times articles and op/eds are behind a paywall. We encourage our Writers Institute friends and followers to support journalism. Also, don't blame Damon Young for the clickbait-y headline. Reporters and columnists don't write headlines.

When Damon posted the column on Twitter, it elicited more than 300 retweets and comments:

In a New York Times story titled "Damon Young on the ‘Absurdity’ of Being Black" published in March 2019, staff writer Concepción de León asked him about the challenges in writing his memoir. He said,

"I didn’t want to encapsulate my existence as very traumatic and downtrodden, like “Great Expectations.” So much of the national dialogue about race deals with either terrible trauma or black excellence. I was more interested in the space in between, because that’s where I exist. So the challenge was finding a space between sensationalizing and also documenting and contextualizing."

We're delighted to have Damon Young telling his story and sharing his opinions and experiences. A much needed voice in these times. We hope this post expands his readership.

A selection of Damon Young's writing from The Root:

And from his columns at

Follow Damon online at:

A video clip from his Feb. 13, 2020 event:


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