Is it fair to say that this issue is quite current? My fitness book club had this book on their list since before the CrossFit scandal, so it’s fair to see that they were ahead of the curve on this one, and I’m proud to be part of the team.
Still, is being proud of what they did enough? What should I do more to tackle white supremacy?
Contrary to other books (some that I will read), this book has homework. Difficult homework, to be fair. There are four weeks worth of reflection and analysis, and each days you have a set of questions to answer.
Why is a book on racism giving you homework? Because if you don’t change your ways, institutional racism will not be vanquished. I will comment on some of the works, because I think they resonate heavily with what we can see in the news.
Before we start with the daily work, one quick part is dedicated to present the author, Black Muslim British citizen. Even in the UK, she witnessed racism while growing up, so even if the US is worse in its systematic penalization of Black people (penalization as in incarcerate them and keep them in prison for any small reason when white people like Epstein or Weinstein don’t get imprisoned until decades of pression on the justice system change their protectors), the UK, Europe, and generally all the countries have institutional racism, more often than not against Black people and other people.
I was worried at first that the author will also use religion in the mix, but actually no, she didn’t (slavery and discrimination is not restricted to the Judeo-Christian world, it start quite before the Roman Empire became “Chistian”). She is very down to Earth, pragmatic and efficient.
Let’s start with the first week. It tackles all the basics of white supremacy, which is white privilege, white fragility, tone policing, white silence, white superiority and white exceptionalism. One of the most important is the second one on fragility. This is exactly what is happening with the statues of Churchill. The fact that we question old figures of authority drives people to a protection system that forbids them to seethe reality. It’s also a big indicator that racism is not about creating a safe place where you can talk about things. Racism is violence, so untangling its grasp on society will shake things up a lot. It’s the opposite of a safe space. I would even say that this can finally destroy the absurd notion of a safe place. There is no safe place at the moment for Black people (and there are no proper safe place for transgender people either). We need to be able to face our violence against them, reflect on it to be able to get rid of it. This is exactly the concepts of superiority and exceptionalism that created these safe places (with tone policing).
The second week goes further: color blindness, anti-Blackness against Black Women, anti-Blackness against Black Men, anti-Blackness against Black children, racist stereotypes and Cultural appropriation. I knew some of the bias against Black people because of my work on feminism as well, but I didn’t consider that white women were not always considering Black women as their equal in the fight. I did recollect memories from my childhood when a new girl came in my primary school (whites and Turks only) and I don’t think she felt welcome. Neither their parents. I also saw recently Woddity speaking about the CrossFit events. There are only white people, how welcome would an athlete of color be? In France, we don’t really make a difference between Black people and the other ethnicities, except white Caucasian. France put their immigrants in shitty suburbs and is wondering why there are crimes there. It’s a full societal problem that racism created and that enable it to be self-sustaining.
The third week digs deeper: white apathy, white centering, tokenism, white saviorism, optical allyship and being called out/in. Saviorism is probably why Churchill is so much a problem right now. In France, some people even want to put in the law that colonization helped civilizing countries. It’s also very white centered. Niqab as well, I never understood the problem of fighting against this dress until reading the book. I may not agree with the dress, I always thought it was denigrating the women underneath, but I was dehumanizing them, I was the savior of their civilization, coming in and giving them the light of truth and wisdom. It’s not my place. I can’t just use one of my friends as a token to say I’m not racist (remember The Big Bang Theory episode where Penny says that she is not racist because she is supporting her Indian friends and Bernadette tells her that’s racist?), I cannot say I do something already, so I do enough, I’m not American anyway, so I do enough by just saying I’m not racist?
The final week dives into white feminism, white leaders, your friends, your family, your values, losing privileges and your commitments. By that time, I’m already emotionally drained, but the most-core work still needs to be done. As I’ve said, feminism didn’t really support Black women, our leaders often hide themselves behind “we already do a lot” or “we are not the US” or “there is no such thing like police brutality”. That’s being a chicken to keep the right-wing votes. I want to tell my friends we are not doing enough, same with my family. Same with people that say they are following the same “religion” than me (Yes, I’m calling on you, American Evangelic pastors, when was the last time you read the Bible? Where was the last time you reflected on how you interacted with people? Why aren’t you giving the other cheek? Do you really think that Jesus would behave like the police does? That he would support Trump? He went to the outcasts and that’s where he preached, you keep with your white friends and family, you want to have your guns when Jesus preached the exact opposite, I can call you liars and hypocrites, like the Temple merchants that Jesus throw out, because that’s what you are).
I had the impression people should fight their own battles and that you could be a silent supporter. I did tell a few of my friends that their values don’t match their actions, but clearly it wasn’t enough. It’s tokenism and apathy.
What I did note though is that to make this journey, you need empathy, which is something people seriously lack in the modern society. I know of a few people in my immediate entourage that have this issue. They may even say they are socialists. We all have fragile egos that don’t stand questioning oneself. It’s actually a self-esteem problem because we want to be celebrated as good people, and the work of this book will clash with this internal representation.
News flash everyone: we failed utterly.
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Book review: Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World”