The title of “Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor,” by Layla Saad, is designed to make you uncomfortable. It intends to get under your skin and make you feel anxious. Because those who are negatively affected by the system of White Supremacy experience that kind of discomfort and anxiety on a daily basis as they navigate the world and live their lives.
This book, then, is a story, a provocation, and an invitation. On the one hand, it is a reflection by Saad on her own journey as a Muslim woman of African descent growing up in Western society (in her case, in England). On the other hand, this book challenges readers to examine how their own lives contribute to and reinforce the systems of White Supremacy that underlie Western society.
My first instinct on reading the title was to set the book aside. I have been studying White Supremacy and working in anti-racism work for many years. I felt that the provocative nature of the title and the shortness of the book likely meant that I would not get very much out of it. However, I had seen Saad’s name pop up in various forums and I wanted to learn a little more about her, so I thought I would give it a try. Plus, the subtitle was intriguing, especially that final clause “Become a Good Ancestor.” That is something I want to do. In fact, it is actually something I have thought about before, but didn’t have that wonderful phrase for. So I started reading.
Having read through the book, I now cannot recommend it enough. I have been offering this title to everyone when the subject of racism comes up, regardless of who they are or what their background is. Whether you have never through about racism before, or whether you are 30 years into a career in racial justice, whatever your racial or ethnic identity, this book is for you. Saad’s down-to-earth, practical, and organized presentation will undoubtedly offer some new insight for you into how our society works, and how it works better for some than for others.
“Me and White Supremacy” began as a 28-day experiment on social media, with thousands of participants. Over the next six months, Saad made the text available as a download, and 80,000 more people joined in. The book follows the same format, offering a daily reflection on some aspect of our culture that contributes to and replicates White Supremacy.
Each day’s topic is addressed in three ways: What is it? How does it show up? And Why do you need to look at it? At the end of each day’s 5 to 7-page chapter are a series of journaling prompts, designed to invite the reader deeper into the topic, providing particular insights and prompts for those who identify as people of color or mixed race. Each day builds on the day before, and each week builds on the week before, so that as the 28 days go by, the reader goes deeper and deeper into the subject of White Supremacy, and deeper into their own personal encounters with the various aspects of racism in our society.
This is an important book. It is a book that will open your eyes and your heart, and help you think about the legacy that you leave for the next generation. That said, it is probably a book to read with a group. The subject matter is difficult and sometimes painful, and it will help to have supportive people to reflect with.
Neighbors United-Undoing Racism will be reading this book together in the month of June, starting on Sunday, June 7, using a Facebook group and weekly Zoom meetings. If you are interested in participating, email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.