"When Layla Saad began an Instagram challenge called #meandwhitesupremacy, she never predicted it would become a cultural movement. She encouraged people to own up and share their racist behaviors, big and small. She was looking for truth, and she got it... Thousands of people participated in the challenge, and over 80,000 people downloaded the supporting work Me and White Supremacy. Updated and expanded from the original edition, Me and White Supremacy teaches readers how to dismantle the privilege within themselves so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too"--
Ms. Saad’s general attitude in Me and White Supremacy is that everyone is guilty of supporting white supremacy. She does not consider those who have already confronted their prejudices, nor does she care what color your skin is. She has separate instructions for white people, people of color, and people of color who are light-skinned or may pass as white. That is the only distinction she makes as she guides readers.
Ms. Saad’s attitude, that we are all guilty of condoning and supporting white supremacy, may be offputting for some readers. Honestly, I struggled to accept this attitude at first because there is no space within Ms. Saad’s instructions for those who have already started confronting their inner demons and who have started to do the work. After all, I can’t be as bad as someone who hasn’t done any introspection on this topic, right? I shouldn’t have to do the same work they do. But the simplicity of Me and White Supremacy is that we all have to do the work regardless of who we are when we come to Ms. Saad’s guidance. No matter how enlightened you might be, there is always work we need to do. White supremacy is as systemic as democracy in the United States; to combat it, you must be conscious of this fact and remain vigilant against falling back into a way of thinking that is so acceptable.
Another unique touch Ms. Saad brings to Me and White Supremacy is the lack of focus on white supremacy in the United States. Instead, Ms. Saad puts forth examples of white supremacy around the globe, showing that racism is rampant worldwide, even in places you would not consider. By positioning white supremacy as a global issue, she eliminates some of the standard, geocentric false narratives people tell themselves when trying to convince themselves, or others, that they are not racist. Also, it is refreshing to read an anti-racism book that does not limit itself to racism in the United States only. The U.S. is no longer the leading global superpower, no matter how many Americans may wish it were still valid, and it is time we expand our scope beyond our borders.
Set to last 28 days, Me and White Supremacy and Ms. Saad break each day of reflection into smaller chunks. Some of the topics you must reflect on are upsetting, and the emotional and mental toll they can take each day can be significant. Ms. Saad also does this because it ensures that no aspect of white supremacy goes unreflected along the journey. The important thing is to do the work and write down your answers to the journal prompts. Take it seriously and work through each scenario she presents. When you do that, no matter how wrenching the topic or disturbing you find your answers, you will make good progress on becoming an anti-racist.
As the narrator, Ms. Saad’s voice is pleasant to listen to. Her diction is crisp, and her words are clear. I found her voice a little too soothing and was glad each chapter is relatively short, as I know she could easily lull me to sleep with a little more time. I also believe her demeanor throughout the audiobook is uncompromising. She doesn’t hesitate to state hard truths, nor does she equivocate or try to ease her message. Her unapologetic messaging within the workbook and the strict demeanor she maintains while narrating can be a bit overwhelming. The trick is to remember that Ms. Saad is not here to judge us but rather to help us become better friends, neighbors, partners, coworkers, parents, siblings, and people.
Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad is not for people who aren’t willing to take the time each day to sit down and reflect on their answers to such topics as white privilege, male privilege, racism against Black women, Black girls, Black boys, and Black men, among others. When you reflect on such topics and write down your answers, your brain makes a connection that you will be less likely to forget. This means that the next time you run into such a situation, you are less likely to respond in a racist manner or a manner that supports the systemic racism that already exists. I recommend this workbook if you are beginning to learn what it means to be anti-racist or practice good allyship. People who have already started that journey can still learn a lot about themselves, too, and therefore should not be quick to ignore this powerful workbook. We owe it to future generations to make the world a better place for them, which means confronting and breaking down white supremacy wherever it exists.
White people who haven’t been deeply in anti-racism work for years.
In a nutshell:
Author Layla F Saad offers a 28-day education and reflection on how to fight racism.
“This is not a personal growth book that is designed to make you feel good about yourself.”
Why I chose it:
I’ve seen others reference it in a lot of places.
So, I’m not brand new to anti-racism work. But I might as well be, because the reality is that as a white woman, I’ve just not had to think about race and racism that much. I was raised in the US, thinking of white as the default - a character in a book would be assumed white unless identified otherwise. I mostly consumed books, media, art by white people. I wasn’t raised to be overtly racist, but I certainly wasn’t raised to be anti-racist.
I think this book is an excellent place for white people to start really wrestling with the society we live in, the thoughts in our heads, the experiences we’ve had, and the harm that we have caused. As Ms Saad states in the quote I pulled, this isn’t a self-help tome that you can display prominently so people know you’re in the work. It’s a book that helps you as a means to the end of reducing racism, both that perpetuated by you and by those around you.
The book stems from a 28-day challenge Ms Saad led on Instagram. The book has an introduction to prepare the reader, and a conclusion, with the majority of the book focused on four seven-day challenges. Each week focuses on a different area, building upon the previous work: the basics; anti-Blackness, racial stereotypes, and cultural appropriation; allyship; and power, relationships, and commitments.
She covers ideas you may be familiar with: tone policing, white privilege, stereotypes, and optical (or what I’ve also heard referred to as performative) allyship. She also talks about things that perhaps haven’t been on your radar, like white exceptionalism (assuming you’re ‘one of the good ones’ who doesn’t need to do this work).
Each day ends with reflective journaling prompts. And the thing is, you have to do them. It’s not just about reading them and answering them in your head. It’s about setting aside the time, every day, to get dirty. To get deep into what you’ve done in the past, what you’re doing now. And eventually, how you commit to change.
It’s not easy. Some of it is painful. Actually, most of it is. It SUCKS to peel back more and more layers of white supremacy and see the world in a different way, and start to grapple with this new reality. But it’s necessary.
You won’t finish this book and suddenly stop being complicit in white supremacy. Marking this as read on Goodreads and then forgetting about it can’t be an option. If you’re going to read this, please really read it. Take in the words, internalize, and then work to do better.
The book ends with an exercise of writing out my commitments to anti-racism work as specifically as possible, and to print it out and put it somewhere I will see it every day, which I’ve now done. I also know I will go back through the journal often, to remind myself of what I’ve learned and what I have still to do.
To my fellow white people, I hope you’ll pick this up, so we can continue to reduce the harm we’re causing.
Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Keep it. Reread it.
The author assures us the aim of the work is not self-loathing, but it's hard not to feel bad when you come face to face with your failings. I know I am going to struggle to break out of the comfort zone my privilege provides me -- and I can easily see myself retreating to my cocoon -- but I hope I will eventually be better than that.
White moderate: someone more devoted to order than justice. Who prefers a negative peace, with the absence of tension, than a
I think the POV in these books is always interesting and this one, coming from a black Muslim woman who is not from the United States, adds an interesting dynamic.
Prejudice versus racism. She explains that the difference really comes down to who is in a position of power and can use their racism to hurt or take advantage of the other racial group. I had not thought of it that way before.
White apathy - when white people claiming how exhausting it is. It ignores people who deal with racism every day and are not able to just step back from the issue, even if they’re dealing with similar things (like having young kids).
Something that only includes white people (like Friends or Cheers) is for everyone, but if it only includes black peoples, it’s just for black people. That’s treating white as “normal” and anything else as different.
“In essence white fragility looks like a white person taking the position of victim when it is in fact that white person has commited or participated in acts of racial harm.”
I could indulge in wishful thinking, hoping that every white person would read this and do the work, but that is unrealistic. However, I wholeheartedly recommend this book to those who are ready to sit down, be brutally honest with themselves, and start making changes on both personal and systemic levels. For a longer (video) review, check out Danika at The Lesbrary's Book Riot review.
You can work through this book on your own, but I think it would be even more valuable to work through in a group so you can share and discuss the issues and your own thoughts and experiences - and Saad includes specific guidelines for this at the end.