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.”
“It means that you do this work because you believe in something greater than your own self-gain.”
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.