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Me and White Supremacy review: the importance of self-examination

In light of the increased social media attention towards the Black Lives Matter movement, Layla F. Saad’s Me and White Supremacy has entered best-sellers lists the world over. The global outrage at the murder of George Floyd has translated into significant social media activism, and this has been spearheaded by the younger generations. Social media users have used these platforms to share information and show solidarity, for example by participating in Blackout Tuesday. It was, in fact, social media that led me to purchase Me and White Supremacy in the first place.

Whilst this social media activism undoubtedly has its place, Saad demands more from her readers. Speaking about her work, she states that “it is not a book that you read, it’s a book that you do”. The body of the work is sectioned into twenty-eight chapters; each is titled with an aspect of white privilege that Saad aims to unearth in her target audience – all those who profit from the system of white superiority. The work is split into four weeks, with each week split into seven days/chapters. Chapter titles are direct and make the reader uncomfortable by design, for example: “Day 4: You and White Silence”, “Day 13: You and Cultural Appropriation”.

This book foregrounds the reality that living in a system of white supremacy means that consciously (but more often subconsciously) racism is determining everyone’s lives. Saad, in Me and White Supremacy, works to root this out and bring to the reader’s attention unseen connections to racial oppression. The key to antiracism comes from this intense level of self-examination that few would dare to post on social media (or write in an article, for that matter). 

Speaking to Refinery29 about recent events, the author states: “the fear is that two weeks from now, a month from now, we’re back to where we were before. Except now it’s more dangerous because people feel like they did their part”, and she continues to say “when you move too fast and you’re moving with these unexamined unconscious racist thoughts and beliefs, you’re actually going to [continue to do] harm”. 

At the end of each chapter there are questions on which readers are meant to take time to reflect: “how have you used tone policing?”, “how have you stayed silent?”, “how have you practiced optical allyship when it comes to racism?”. Saad explains, in no uncertain terms, the ugliness of racism. To destroy it, you must first come into contact with it, and the author describes herself as the reader’s “guide” in this process. This painful level of introspection on the macro- and microcosmic levels is the only way to, as is written in the book’s subtitle, “recognise your privilege, combat racism and change the world”.   


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30/06/2020

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Jake Walker-Charles