I really am not exaggerating when I make this proclamation: Mothers of Massive Resistance may be the most crucial book I have read this year. I am not joking, I swear. As a white woman, I have been working diligently to do my part in activism, namely, owning up to the ways in which white women have participated in the oppression and suppression of women of color. It’s unglamorous, introspective, and uncomfortable work, but it’s one of the most vital things I can do to make real progress and use my privilege to lift up people of color in this world. This is a book I discovered through Cannonball Read. I am actually going to link to ElCicco’s amazing and comprehensive review, because her analysis is incredible. I’ll be vague about plot in my own review, as a result, and focus mainly on my own reflections that came about from reading the book.
The only thing I can really add is: damn. White women have depended on whiteness as a means of protecting their fragile ecologies for a really long time. This is not unique to 2016 and beyond. It has always been there. It’s an inconvenient truth that I have shamefully not faced up to, and now I am staring at it after reading this book and wondering how I have participated in this lie throughout my life. Like I said, this book is uncomfortable, but McRae’s unflinching historical data-gathering and analysis is deeply necessary and cuts through a lot of myth-making about the South and white women in general. She also gets at the kind of internalized misogyny that drove so much of this myth-making.
I am recommending this book to everyone I know, because it caused me to rethink history in significant ways. That’s, to me, the sign of an effective, timely, and significant book. This is not easy reading—you may find yourself raging at things that women did to perpetuate the idea that segregation was good or excuses they made to separate their children from children of color. What I hope is that we use this book to educate ourselves and our communities to develop inclusive and integrated worlds that pull everyone up, not just our own families.