The good: I bought and read this book seeking to understand how someone could possibly think the free and amazing country that we live in is racist so that I could be educated about another’s point of view. The author is clearly intelligent, informed, and experienced about this and is very eloquent and probably accurate in pointing out many of the ways that the culture we live in has racial bias, prejudice, and makes things more difficult for people of color, sometimes pretty radically. She presents insight into something that many people do not understand well and should be making it a priority to listen and understand. Wake up and go check your privilege. If this is your goal, you will get it from this book and you should read it because most of what is in this book is helpful to that end.
The bad: The explanation that racism is implicit, unconscious, ingrained, and thus inescapable in our society robs white people of their ability to do anything about it. One can’t say anything, and one cannot say nothing because both are perceived as revealing and/or continuing the problem. The many anecdotes in the book present almost every response a person could reasonably be expected to have, and all are revealed to be perceived as racist in some way. I agree that to a certain extent one should be aware of the impact an action or inaction could have on others, but the book places so much value in the impact over intent argument that it renders any objective standard of behavior moot. If this is the guide, nobody could do anything for fear it would offend someone else. Bottom line: if you have white skin in our culture, you are the problem. Period. No escaping it.
The ugly: The only conclusions that one could come to here are just abjectly sad and I think, pretty unreasonable and in my opinion out of touch. If white people can’t do anything and can’t do nothing, what do they do about this? The author presents at the end of the book a conclusion that has a twinge of religious overtones: one should examine all the ways in which they are bad and terrible, reflect on them, ask to be forgiven, and try to identify as “less white” in a continual loop. And since there is no objective standard, there will probably never be any absolution or hope for harmony because the standard is subjective to how some, namely a person of color, will perceive your actions or inactions...Either that, or we tear down the whole system and start from scratch. I don’t think anybody wants this and I don’t think it’s helpful.
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