Dangerous Legacy of White Male America
by Ijeoma Oluo
c.2020, Seal Press
$28.00 / $35.00 Canada
By Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Truth Contributor
This year, you are going
You're going to seize
every opportunity, wrestle every bad habit to the ground,
and do better than your best. You're gonna kick the universe
in the tail. This is absolutely going to be your year –
unless, as in the new book Mediocre by Ijeoma
Oluo, someone's standing in your way, now and for a
In addition to a quiet
setting and uninterrupted time to write, on a recent retreat
for women, Ijeoma Oluo noticed that when socializing, most
of the attendees talked about men – but not the
boyfriend-husband-partner men. They discussed bad "dudes,"
particularly the white ones that largely controlled
publishing. That conversation morphed into bad men, white
men in general, that are "found just about everywhere..."
There are, Oluo says, "a
thousand memes" that feature the words, "Lord, give me the
confidence of a mediocre white man," meaning that "white
male mediocrity is a baseline" from which all power rotates,
"regardless of skill... or talent..." It's as if some sort
of higher rank should be granted just because those
individuals happen to be white men.
None of this is new. It's
been going on for hundreds of years, Uluo says, and Black
women aren't the only ones on the receiving end of it. It
exists in the West, as white men fight against white men
over land that white men stole.
We see white male
privilege all over politics, from the top down and
especially in political arenas where white supremacy exists.
It's been on college campuses, and in places of higher
education where Black people were historically denied
entrance. It's in the workplace, where Black women continue
to make far less money than their white male counterparts.
White male privilege
exists today in economics, pro sports, in language, in an
ignorance of history and the contributions of Black men and
women, and in entertainment. It's a "very dark place," Oluo
says, and there are things every American can do about it –
starting with two things: an acknowledgment that we need
white men, and an admission to our complicity in this
terrible, untenable legacy.
Got a few days to read?
Yeah, and grab a packet of those sticky-flag things, too.
Mediocre is a book that practically demands them: though
this is not a seven-hundred-page manifesto, there's that
much information inside its covers.
What's more, author Ijeoma
Oluo asks readers to think about her words, and not lightly.
This is a read-a-few-paragraphs, put-it-down kind of book,
making you live with the facts before moving forward. Oluo
uses stories to illustrate many of her points, diving into
American history, politics, and economics to help readers to
see how quietly, totally entrenched white male privilege is
and has been. Most eye-opening are her many statements of
relevancy, showing how white males enjoy other cultures
blithely, often while denigrating those very cultures.
Be prepared to give
yourself a lot of time with this book – it needs that. And
then be prepared for action, because Mediocre is
going to make you roar.