With the requisite qualifications that I’m a cishet white dude reviewing this, please take that into consideration when reading. Call outs are, of course, fair game.
Like many Americans, I’ve dug into several books on antiracism in the wake of the uprising following George Floyd’s death. I would recommend them all. They all have knowledge and wisdom for these and all times to both address internal attitudes and reform personal politics around racism. None are quantitatively “better” than the other.
But if I had to recommend one book to my fellow white people in this moment, it would be this one.
And it’s tough to say why exactly but I’ll try. I think it’s because of Ijeoma Oluo’s writing style. She writes as if she’s having a practical, focused, difficult, emotional conversation. She doesn’t take an academic or argumentative approach. This reads like someone pouring out their soul and their experience. I’m aware that every black person who writes about antiracism does a similar outpouring of the soul. But again, for a beginner’s book, this has a way of focusing the reader inward. As she shares her stories and suggestions for curbing and eliminating white supremacy in every space from the home to the office to politics, she speaks to the reader in a way I found both practical and engaging.
I love the lyrical wordsmithing of both James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates. I learned a lot from the academic approach of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi. I feel more educated having taken in the anti-carceral arguments of Drs. Angela Davis and Michelle Alexander respectively. I was sufficiently challenged once more by Dr. Robin DiAngelo, whose ability to tease out internalized racism in her fellow white folks made me realize I still have a long way to go. There are so many other writers who have written about antiracism or one aspect of white supremacy that have left a mark.
But again, as I see a lot of my fellow white people working in this moment to change their behaviors and attitudes, I think this is the book I’d tell them to start with. Not because it’s better but because it’s personal. I truly think if you’re a white person trying to learn about how to change you’re ways and you read this and come away uninspired…I don’t know. We all learn in different ways. I don’t want to hype this book up too much for folks. Maybe something else will be more effective. But I feel like this is a great entry point to show the way.