Reading this book puts me in the mind of what I’ve seen on TV of going to one of those televised evangelical church sessions where you pay someone to slap you in the face to cure you of cancer, only instead of a conman trying to steal people’s money, it’s an intelligent woman giving me the words to express frustrations I’ve never been able to properly explain and it is so cathartic it almost feels like an out of body experience.
Plot (yes, I’m calling this plot): Western society has been built around the accumulation of power by a tiny fraction of white men. To maintain that power, they have sold a lie to poor whites that they could become one of them, and in the meantime, at least they were better than non-whites. What this does is allow people to maintain power by virtue of accidents of birth (race, gender, class, etc – likely an intersection of identities) rather than through their own merit which actively harms our progress as a society.
The amazing thing is that she tackles this topic in a much broader way than most material I’ve read on the subject, without shying away from the dark corners of history, but with enough humor and sarcasm that you don’t end up spending the entire book wanting to throw yourself off a cliff. It is a balance I did not know was possible and it makes reading this surprisingly easy considering the subject matter. It is a gift she did not have to give us and I am beyond grateful for it.
If you struggle with answering the question of why, precisely, a dude’s swimming career or comedy career or medical career or whatever else should not take priority over his abuses of power beyond just screeching “why the hell should it?” at the top of your lungs, this book will give you the tools, facts, and connections to better understand and articulate what you already know by instinct. Even if you do a lot of reading in this area, I’m sure you’ll find at least one or two things you didn’t know, too.
I will no doubt be coming back to this book when I need a refresher.
As an aside, the audiobook is read by the author, which I love. Oluo is a very skilled narrator both in writing and orally and it probably contributed to the amount of times I had to rewind the book because I was yelling “goddamn right!” and missed something.
If you read one book this year, it should be this one. And then roll up your sleeves.