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June 2021

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What White People Can Do Next by Emma Dabiri

Written by , Posted in Reviews

Best for:
White people looking for perspectives on the best ways we can effectively dismantle white supremacy and the institutions connected to it.

In a nutshell:
Author Dabiri shares her thoughts on where some of the current anti-racism focus is misdirected, and offers alternatives.

Worth quoting:
“What we do require here is an understanding, not so much of an intersectionality of identities, but an intersectionality of issues.”

“My fear is that much of the anti-racist literature is an iteration of the same process of maintaining and reaffirming whiteness.”

“What would be truly radical would be to sound the death knell for the fiction that white people constitute a race and that this race is imbued with any ‘natural’ abilities unavailable to others.”

“Language is of course not irrelevant, but the capital B – while coming from a place that understandably is attempting to confer more status on to the world ‘black’ — seeks to reinforce a way of seeing the world that we should be disrupting and unraveling.”

Why I chose it:
It sounded interesting.

Review:
The back cover pretty much tells prospective readers what they can expect:
“Stop the denial. Stop the false equivalencies. Interrogate whiteness. Interrogate capitalism. Denounce the white saviour. Abandon guilt.”

Dabiri is not so much interested in how white people can be ‘allies’ as we’ve come to know the term. She wants us to work to build coalitions. Think about Fred Hampton, and how he got different groups to all align in the Rainbow Coalition – Black Panther Party, Young Patriots Organization, and Young Lords. Groups that today we might look at and think all have different interests, but the reality the systems of capitalism and white supremacy is fucking all of us over. We all have an interest in dismantling those systems. And it’s not about white people feeling ‘sorry’ for people not racialised as white, or guilt over it.

I also appreciated Dabiri’s discussion about race and the challenges with leaning into the separate ideas of race when it is a fully social construct; specifically how a lot of the anti-racism work that is out there today is focusing on emphasizing difference without (white) people really fully understanding what it means to be racialized as white. I especially felt this after having just read Angela Saini’s Superior.

This is one of those books that needs to be read multiple times. There’s so much here, even though the book itself is a relatively short 150 pages. But Dabiri doesn’t need more space – she makes her arguments strongly within the brief but full chapters.

Recommend to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it:
Recommend to a Friend

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