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Ijeoma Oluo Mediocre ebook

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From the author of the New York Times bestseller So You Want to Talk About Race, a history of white male America and a scathing indictment of what it has cost us socially, economically, and politically

After the election of Donald Trump, and the escalation of white male rage and increased hostility toward immigrants that came with him, New York Times-bestselling author Ijeoma Oluo found herself in conversation with Americans around the country, pondering one central question: How did we get here?

In this ambitious survey of the last century of American history, Oluo answers that question by pinpointing white men’s deliberate efforts to subvert women, people of color, and the disenfranchised. Through research, interviews, and the powerful, personal writing for which she is celebrated, Oluo investigates the backstory of America’s growth, from immigrant migration to our national ethos around ingenuity, from the shaping of economic policy to the protection of sociopolitical movements that fortify male power. In the end, she shows how white men have long maintained a stranglehold on leadership and sorely undermined the pursuit of happiness for all.

Addressing head-on the elephant in America’s living room, Oluo uses a wealth of historical research to support her argument that our country’s default mode of propping up and centering white men not only doesn’t serve us, but is actively destructive.

As Oluo puts it in the book, “I believe that we are all perpetrators and victims of one of the most evil and insidious social constructs in Western history: white male supremacy.”

The “identity politics” that white men cling to has brought them to a dark place, Oluo said. When she looks at white male identity in America, she writes, she sees “the desperation, the disappointment, the despair, the rage,” and women and people of color become scapegoats for all the ways in which white men feel cheated out of what they believe they are due.

For the majority of us who are not white men, this might seem strange to hear, given that along with an encyclopedia’s worth of other inequities, white women still make significantly less than white men and most women of color earn half of what white men earn; men still dominate all parts of government and women still make up only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs, as Oluo reports in the book. Our world is still designed to benefit white men over everyone else, Oluo said in a recent interview with The Seattle Times.

“There’s this myth that white men are just endless potential,” Oluo said, “that so outshines the potential of women and people of color. That we can’t ever let [white men] fail,” and this belief takes us all down with it. “The amount of energy, the amount of effort, the amount of huge failures we have because we keep investing in white men never having to do better. Just hoping that if we keep propping them up, they’ll do better. It hurts us all.”

In case anyone believes that somehow liberal areas like Seattle are exempt from the religion of white male supremacy, Oluo has some bad news. “Progressive white America has to figure out and start owning whiteness,” she said.

In places like Seattle, Oluo said, white people often want to “abstain from whiteness” and say they are not part of the system of white supremacy, and they are especially not like those other white people, the kind who voted for Trump. She said it’s time for all white people — including those in liberal enclaves — to do the work needed within whiteness, and to push for the types of transformations that reject white supremacy in its many incarnations.

White people need to say, “I am not actually divorced from my uncle who voted for Trump. I am actually connected and I am a part of this, and I need to own that and figure out how to change it,” Oluo said. “The amount of white people who get to skate by just being mildly complicit in violent white supremacy just baffles me.”

Why do we accept that the natural order of the universe is that white men will be centered and the rest of us will orbit in service of them and their leadership? Oluo challenges us to imagine a different way — a new path that maximizes the potential of every person, that doesn’t waste the incredible talents and contributions of women and people of color. A path that looks at leadership and leadership traits differently.

Oluo said we do ourselves a disservice when we continue to revere traditionally “masculine” notions of leadership and dismiss leadership that we are socialized to see as “feminine.”

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