Ijeoma Oluo’s new book ‘Mediocre’ confronts white male power head on
‘White male mediocrity is a baseline, the dominant narrative, and . . . everything in our society is centered around preserving white male power regardless of while male skill or talent,’ she writes.
“White male mediocrity seems to impact every aspect of our lives, and yet it only seems to be people who aren’t white men who recognize the imbalance.”
Those words from Ijeoma Oluo’s new book ”Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America” (Seal Press, $28) out now, succinctly sum up the problems with a society that values white maleness above all others.
The book’s title hearkens back to a plea by writer Sarah Hagi in 2015: “Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man.”
Oluo isn’t insinuatingall white men are mediocre.
“What I’m saying is that white male mediocrity is a baseline, the dominant narrative, and that everything in our society is centered around preserving white male power regardless of while male skill or talent,” she writes.
Slavery and backlash to the Great Migration. The takeover of indigenous lands andgenocide of Native Americans. Modern-day politics across the political spectrum. Higher education’s racist roots and continuing struggle to deal with racism. Oluo’s own experiences with Internet trolls, including the endangerment of her son.
These are among the examplesthat Oluo, author of the 2018 best-seller “So You Want to Talk About Race,” invokes in the well-researched yet highly personal that shines a spotlight on racism and white supremacy.
Among the key takeaways from the book:
Both sides of political aisle have white-male biases
Though Oluo finds President Donald Trump’sracist rhetoric abhorrent and problematic, she doesn’t spare his political opponents. She takes President-elect Joe Biden to task for flip-flopping on busing to desegregate schools in the 1970s and calls out Bernie Sanders’ angry white male supporters, aka the Bernie Bros.
Before them, there were self-described liberal white men who infiltrated and co-opted social justice issues for their own means, including feminist activists Floyd Dell and Max Eastman.
And since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley — four progressive women of color dubbed “The Squad” — were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, they’ve faced criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike.
“In 2017, four confident, talented, unapologetic young women of color were elected to U.S.Congress, and everyone freaked the [expletive)]out,” Oluo writes. They’ve “been called everything from racists to terrorist sympathizers for daring to believe that their communities were worth representing and worth fighting for.”
Racism’s legacy continues In higher ed, sports
Historically racist systemsinhigher educationpersist,and women and people of color continue to try to catch up with the head start that white men were given through land-grant university funding and the GI bill that paid to send many of them to college following World War II.And when students of color seek equal treatment and opportunities, as they did when the University of Missouri football team united together in protest in 2015, they often are villainized or penalized.
The same goes for professional athletes, including Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback other NFL teams refused to pick up after he knelt during the national anthem to raise awareness about police brutalityandracial inequality. Primarily white team owners and managers “preferred having less effective rosters over having to deal with thebacklash of allowing Black protest,” Oluo writes.
Cycle can be broken
Systems based on promoting white male mediocrity arebad for white men, too, Oluo writes. The social construct of white aggression and dominance locks them into “cycles of fear and violence — where the only success they are allowed comes at the expense of others, and the only feelings they are allowed to express are triumph or rage.”
But Oluo is hopeful that, though there are many historical inequities and current factors at play, there is a way to break the cycle.
“The path we are on right now is the same one that has brought us only death and despair for hundreds of years,” she writes. “We must break free. We must start making better and more informed choices — with our votes, our wallets, our media, our societal expectations.”
Read more at USA Today.