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Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America (2020)

por Ijeoma Oluo

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The Price We Pay for Prejudice and Exclusion

Oh man, just a glance at the cover of Ijeoma Oluo’s Mediocre will probably set off howls of protest from white men who have enjoyed and benefited from privilege their entire lives. That they can feel the subject of unjust assault points up one of the powerful aspects of privilege as a birthright: that it seems like the normal course of things and envelop those within it to such a degree they cannot see beyond it, nor, apparently, want to. Which is why books like Oluo’s are so important, because they chip away at the cocoon in which white men, and, yes, many white women, exist. Really, when you live in the nearly perfect world, why would you want to give it up? Unless, of course, you have a social conscious and the ability to see how much better America and the world could be with something like fair treatment and opportunity for all. Much in history and current events demonstrates not only how detrimental favoring one group over all others has been, many, many more than any writer could cram into one book, with the most recent and urgent being the spread and devastation of the coronavirus.

That said, Oluo does a good job of showing just how white privilege has deprived all of us of better lives by actively excluding non-whites and women from making contributions to our collective advancement. She touches on a wide swath of privilege in America. Among these are the obliteration of native peoples and the whitewashing of it in American history, a legal justice system that functions as yet another extension of slavery by continuing to oppress an entire American population, an educational system skewed for the benefit of whites, the active campaign from the beginning to keep women out of the workforce and at home, and more. It doesn’t take a genius to see the truth in what she reveals, and certainly not a genius to realize how much we all have sacrificed by actively promoting an unacceptable degree of mediocrity, giving advantage to the lesser in a group just because they are the right color and sex.

The right like to call acknowledging this problem of white restrictiveness and programs to address and rectify it as “awoke,” and efforts to end it by various epithets and simpleminded phrases designed to rally resistance to change. And so here you have this book, read that will be read mostly by those knowing there is a problem and mocked by the fewer readers who are happy in their cocoons.

The best advice, then, is for you to read Mediocre and ask yourself is anything Oluo highlights untrue. Keep an open mind and you might learn something. ( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
The Price We Pay for Prejudice and Exclusion

Oh man, just a glance at the cover of Ijeoma Oluo’s Mediocre will probably set off howls of protest from white men who have enjoyed and benefited from privilege their entire lives. That they can feel the subject of unjust assault points up one of the powerful aspects of privilege as a birthright: that it seems like the normal course of things and envelop those within it to such a degree they cannot see beyond it, nor, apparently, want to. Which is why books like Oluo’s are so important, because they chip away at the cocoon in which white men, and, yes, many white women, exist. Really, when you live in the nearly perfect world, why would you want to give it up? Unless, of course, you have a social conscious and the ability to see how much better America and the world could be with something like fair treatment and opportunity for all. Much in history and current events demonstrates not only how detrimental favoring one group over all others has been, many, many more than any writer could cram into one book, with the most recent and urgent being the spread and devastation of the coronavirus.

That said, Oluo does a good job of showing just how white privilege has deprived all of us of better lives by actively excluding non-whites and women from making contributions to our collective advancement. She touches on a wide swath of privilege in America. Among these are the obliteration of native peoples and the whitewashing of it in American history, a legal justice system that functions as yet another extension of slavery by continuing to oppress an entire American population, an educational system skewed for the benefit of whites, the active campaign from the beginning to keep women out of the workforce and at home, and more. It doesn’t take a genius to see the truth in what she reveals, and certainly not a genius to realize how much we all have sacrificed by actively promoting an unacceptable degree of mediocrity, giving advantage to the lesser in a group just because they are the right color and sex.

The right like to call acknowledging this problem of white restrictiveness and programs to address and rectify it as “awoke,” and efforts to end it by various epithets and simpleminded phrases designed to rally resistance to change. And so here you have this book, read that will be read mostly by those knowing there is a problem and mocked by the fewer readers who are happy in their cocoons.

The best advice, then, is for you to read Mediocre and ask yourself is anything Oluo highlights untrue. Keep an open mind and you might learn something. ( )
  write-review | Nov 4, 2021 |
As someone who loves reading arcs, this was one book I decided not to request an advance copy of. I guess I knew even then that this would require some patient reading and preferably no deadlines. And it truly hits different in the current circumstances.

I think the impact of any political book that we read this year will be colored by our feelings about the violent insurrection of Jan 6th. And considering that this book is about white male mediocrity and it’s power over every sphere of influence in this country, it feels doubly relevant after the second failed impeachment trial of 45 in the senate. The author links specific events from history to contemporaneous happenings and her own personal experiences, to show us how every structure and system in this country is built to prop up white male supremacy by oppressing everyone else. And if you follow this thread from the days of slavery to today, you realize that the failure of the second impeachment trial was inevitable - these systems are working exactly the way they were designed to - powerful mediocre white men will come to the rescue of other powerful mediocre white men so that they can consolidate all the power within their own small group and marginalize everyone else.

Discussing topics ranging from various fields like higher education, feminism, politics, sports, employment, housing etc , the author shows how in every field, the white men who have historically been in power have spent considerable amount of effort and resources to maintain the racist, sexist status quo. The author’s writing is very engaging and accessible, piercing in the way it forces us all to acknowledge our own complicity in propping up the existing white supremacist systems, while also reminding us that concentrated power in the hands of a few mediocre white men doesn’t only cause harm to women and people of color and other marginalized groups - it also causes equal harm to a majority of white men who are poor or disadvantaged in other ways, but whose feeling of entitlement prevents them from seeing the truth and instead blame everyone except white men for their problems.

I am sure there are many who will have a knee jerk reaction to even the title of this book. But going into this with an open mind will let any reader understand what the author is talking about. Despite the very difficult read this was, especially the parts where she talks about the various ways she has been harassed and threatened by white men due to her writings, I was really struck by her ending it on an emotional and hopeful note; and a call for action - because the author believes that everyone in this country can find the strength and conviction within themselves to help create a healthier version of white male identity; one that doesn’t depend on oppressing others - all we lack is the imagination. This is a very impactful and thought provoking read and I would highly recommend to anyone wanting to understand why we are where we are in our country. ( )
  ksahitya1987 | Aug 20, 2021 |
Interesting premise, poor execution. Author Ijeoma Oluo takes on a monster topic and fails in my opinion to make a coherent case that while males have systemically damaged America. The first 2-3 chapters are dreadful. Wild Bill Cody scalping native Americans and slaughtering almost the entire population of American Buffaloes? Not a good basis for condemning all. The following few chapters are thoughtful criticism in my view, with substantiation, including the chapter on education. It seems to me that her conclusions were how she started her work, not the logical summary of her arguments. Too much stream of consciousness for me on a serious topic. It made me want to read Shirley Chisholm's book so thanks for that. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
Outstanding book about racial history and what brought us to where we are today. Recommended reading for everyone. Read as an Audiobook, ten hours. ( )
  MrDickie | Jul 2, 2021 |
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