It was wild reading this book and following the climate catastrophe unfold in Texas. It’s almost like it was published for this exact moment. While it’s understandable that Texas wouldn’t be accustomed to a snowfall and deep freeze, it’s not understandable, at least in the abstract, that its power grid wouldn’t be able to accommodate.
But I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Conservative Texas politicians immediately went on the offensive. Former Governor and energy secretary Rick Perry said the state would freeze before it accepted government help. Governor Greg Abbott blamed the nonexistent Green New Deal. Senator Ted Cruz said all kinds of dumb stuff before hightailing it to Cancun, only to be shamed into returning home.
It’s all part of the same shell game: the desire of white people to make their circumstances worse rather than have equality for all.
Heather C. McGhee’s timely op-ed in last week’s New York Times immediately put her on my radar. Her argument was simple: by giving into white supremacist policies that disproportionately impact Black people and other ethnic minorities, white people inadvertently hurt themselves financially and socially. She expands on this in her book, a book that I think all white Americans should read.
McGhee begins the book with a condensed version of racial history in America from pre-slavery to Jim Crow, framing the book with the understanding that radicalized policies trace back to slavery and its aftereffects. She then breaks the book down into different sections, covering such topics as voting, labor, finance, housing and others. In each piece, she uses examples that talk about how while these policies primarily hurt the non-white targets they’re designed to hurt, they still impact white people. Her argument throughout is the need for a multiracial coalition that stands against white power brokers who are breaking the world’s climate and tearing America’s social fabric.
What I appreciate most about this book is that I’ve always believed that racism impacted white people but I’ve never been able to articulate it aside from a few abstract examples. McGhee’s book fills-in-the-blanks for me and for any white person who are looking to expand the scope of their knowledge of how racism works.
I would say that while I highly recommend the book, it comes with some caveats: It’s written in a very academic way that reads dryly. There were times when it was tough to track McGhee’s arguments and some of the chapters could have been better developed.
Nevertheless, this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive answer for every facet of systemic racism. It’s meant to be a gateway for understanding the many-tentacled way in which it works. It’s a book for this moment and I can’t recommend it enough.