Review: Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America

Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America by Ijeoma Oluo
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Olou returns with another strong discussion about race, racism, and white supremacy in US society with particular attention on the dominance of white males in said culture. Her criticism is critical, biting, and on target.  Her central tenant is that in a culture that has actively cultivated white males as the center of attention in the public and private spheres for centuries, it has also created a culture where white males feel entitled to always rise and any changes to this, feels like a direct challenge to them--even though that by statistical fact, most of them are average or mediocre.  White male culture suffers from the Lake Wobegon effect where we're all trained to believe that we're above average and therefore, challenges to that on the individual or cultural level creates resentment and triggers deeply seeded racist views and actions.  The result is that culturally, we ask less of white men and expect much more from people of marginalized identities.  Olou explores this concept by a mixture of historical and cultural analysis highlighting research that draws out the unequal expectations between white men and others while also highlighting how much opportunity was granted to white men while simultaneously being denied to other people.  The intergenerational compound effect of these benefits is still being felt today through a variety of institutions (financial, educational, political, etc).  But Olou doesn't stop there, she delves into her own history, illustrating the efforts she has had to take and the ways that she has been challenged as a black woman writing about race.  These personal examples draw out in stark contrast the problems that she's identifying throughout the book.  Everyone should read this; especially white men like myself because it has the chance to be liberating. It has the opportunity to help white men realize a lot more about themselves, how they experience the world, and how they come to some conclusions and assumptions that are so very much structured by their whiteness and maleness.

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