Let’s just drop this title in under the “things I could never say” category. Amirite?
Confession: I’m not finished with the book. But dammit I couldn’t wait to tell you about it.
This week has found me completely frustrated with the privileged white people of social media. It started with the comments I read on a MomsRising Facebook photo and seeped over to the comments I read regarding the Renisha McBride tweet when the AP broke the news of the guilt of her killer and how so many white folks didn’t see anything wrong with the original wording.
As an Afro-Latina, there are things said that burn me up inside and make me wonder about the world I’m bringing my child up in. A world where I have to kinda lie to her when she says she’s scared of the police because, are they really here to help US?! I have to always measure the words. One cup of reality, 2 cups of self preservation, 3 cups of love, 1/2 cup of raw, painful truth.
When I got the email asking me to review this book, I jumped at it. Then, because of the mayhem currently going on in Casa Sili, it got put on the bookcase. I picked it up knowing it had to be reviewed. Of course, the timing was perfect.
First, I will tell you that I know some pretty awesome white people who use their privilege to bring into focus some of the inequities of this world. I’m proud to call them friends and colleagues. I also know plenty of privileged white folks who show me the thing I fear the most: their blinders.
Waking Up White delves into Debby Irving’s privileged life as a white woman coming from an established New England family and finding things she never knew, questions she didn’t know to ask and truths that are hard to bear.
I can appreciate her story because it leads to her understanding of the blinders. How history is taught and the narrative it serves (white people). I have probably underline more in this book than I have my bible (okay, maybe not so much but this is definitely second). Things like:
“Racism was’t about this person or that, this upset or that, this community or that; racism is, and always has been, the way America has sorted and ranked its people in a bitterly divisive, humanity-robbing system.”
“Prior to the Wheelock course, my attempts to make sense of racism has been akin to trying to understand a game just by watching its players.”
“Advantage in the game can take several forms: male trumps female, straight trumps LGBT, able-bodied trumps disabled, Western religions trump Eastern religions, higher class trumps lower class and so on. But nowhere, as far as I can see, is any advantage as hard-hitting and enduring as skin color.”
Y’all, she gets in it. These last two quotes come after her eyes are opened to the systematic “affirmative action” that was the GI bill and how much that affected people of color to today! As I was reading that chapter, I was reminded of my girl’s grandfather recently telling of how, after Vietnam, he had applied to a university in Georgia and how they requested a picture of him. After receipt of said picture, he was placed on the “wait list” which he knew meant that as a black man, he wouldn’t be accepted.
Meanwhile, Debby’s father went all the way through to law school on the government’s dime. While Papa went on to do great things, it puts in perspective the obvious disadvantage that he and plenty of other men of color were faced with. It also showcased how this lack of knowledge affects the way that white people see things like the GI bill. The narrative is different. The idea that everyone has a chance in this country if you only work hard for it takes on a sick twist.
Debby asks questions at the end of each chapter. Questions that make us think. For me, this book gives me an understanding of what I am faced with when I encounter racism (which sadly, is every day). This book explains how the people that haven’t yet been enlightened have come to the conclusions that they’ve come to. Don’t get me wrong, there are still outright racists out there that will lynch you just as soon as look at you.
I’m not talking about those. I’m talking about the good people with good intentions that pave that road to hell that we all know exists.
I think this book needs to be read by those good people. And it also needs to be read by those of us that encounter them day in and day out. Debby expertly quotes Daniel J. Boorstin who said “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.”
I invite you to get a little education and pick up this book.
Disclosure: I was provided a copy of this book in order to review it. All thoughts and opinions are purely my own.