- 1 Book Summary - Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
- 1.1 Key Insights
- 1.2 Key Points
- 1.2.1 Being white and looking white comes with privileges, even if you don’t realize it.
- 1.2.2 You have to act against racism.
- 1.2.3 Cultural appropriation is another form of domination.
- 1.2.4 Stereotyping adds to and enforces racial biases.
- 1.2.5 Claiming color blindness or focusing on the presence of other races doesn’t mean that there isn’t also racism.
- 1.2.6 Be prepared to acknowledge mistakes.
- 1.2.7 Combating white supremacy, becoming an ally, and being anti-racist requires lifelong effort.
- 1.3 The Main Take-away
- 1.4 About the Author
Book Summary - Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad
If you are white, you are part of white supremacy. This doesn’t mean that you are purposefully racist. But white supremacy has been part of western society for so long that it is now part of everyday culture.
When steps are taken by white people to embrace diversity and confront white supremacy, it can often go wrong. Declarations of color blindness can be as harmful as intentionally racist actions.
If you want to become an ally to Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), you have to learn more about your own white privilege. You have to understand that white supremacy is not just about extremist views, but also about the everyday framework of society that maintains the racial divide.
Being white and looking white comes with privileges, even if you don’t realize it.
If you’re white, you probably don’t feel that you are particularly privileged. You might think that you have just as many obstacles as people of color. But just because you think that doesn’t mean it’s true.
The reality is that white-centered culture is so ingrained into society, you are not even aware of the privileges you experience. From the history books on western civilization to retail marketing, everything is focused on the white cultural identity.
If you’re a parent, white privilege means not having to explain to your children why some people are mean to them. Because being white means that a discussion about racism can be a choice, not a necessity.
White privilege applies to those who can pass for white too, even if their ethnicity is not white. People with lighter skin get the same benefits of white privilege even if they don’t feel white.
So, even if you don’t agree with the racist overtones of white privilege, it is something that exists and that you are permanently associated with based on your skin color.
You have to act against racism.
It’s easy to say that you are not racist and it’s probably true. However, white supremacy and racism are not just about you. It’s a part of western society and it is something that BIPOC have been dealing with for generations.
You have to be able to address the subject of racism without taking critiques of white privilege and white supremacy personally. Tackling racism means taking a critical look at the past actions of society and thinking about your part in them.
So, while you may not consider yourself racist, take a moment to look at the bigger picture. Though you may not agree with the racial divide that occurs in society, do you take any action against it? If someone is being racist in your presence do you call them out or say nothing?
Inaction against racism can be just as harmful as being the antagonist. Do something to prove you’re an ally against racism. This doesn’t mean taking extreme measures to prove your support but taking sensible ones such as educating yourself about the real issues for BIPOC.
Becoming part of the conversation around racism and white supremacy is an important part of advocating for BIPOC. Taking apart racist attitudes is not just the responsibility of those it affects the most, it is also yours.
Cultural appropriation is another form of domination.
You might believe that adopting aspects of another culture is a form of flattery. Imitation after all should be perceived as a compliment. In reality, cultural appropriation can be seen as a way of taking away someone else’s identity.
No matter how you frame it, cultural appropriation is a form of identity theft. It occurs when a dominant culture tries to take something they find admirable about another. Appropriation is another way of saying that BIPOC culture is the property of white culture to do with as it pleases.
When you take something from another cultural identity and force your own identity on it, this is not equality. You might think that your efforts improve race relations but really, they just widen the divide.
Stereotyping adds to and enforces racial biases.
If someone made assumptions about you because of where you are from or what you looked like, you would be offended. You would argue that someone is basing their judgment on a fabricated stereotype and you would be correct.
Often, non-white people experience prejudice that is based on stereotypes. These stereotypes may not seem offensive to white people but the truth is, that many of these judgments are deeply rooted in racist perceptions of a person’s ethnicity.
If you’re not sure what this means just take a look at the television shows or movies you watch. Often the character parts for non-white actors and actresses are based on superficial stereotypes. Imagine being an actor every role you are offered has you cast as a violent criminal.
Stereotypes like these feed into a long-held racial bias that you probably haven’t experienced first-hand. These fictional stereotypes marginalize people and perpetuate the ongoing racist caricatures that already exist.
Claiming color blindness or focusing on the presence of other races doesn’t mean that there isn’t also racism.
So you want people to know that you personally are not racist. You argue that you don’t see color, you see people. You also like to highlight the diversity in your social group. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior is nothing more than surface-level engagement.
Arguments such as color blindness actually do more harm than good. While the core of the argument may intend to show that you believe we’re all people, you’re actually denying people the right to celebrate their uniqueness.
When you say you don’t see color, it is the equivalent of saying despite your skin color I still see you as a person. Without intending to, you are adding more fuel to the white supremacy fire.
Surface-level actions intended to combat racial inequality are more likely to have the reverse effect. That’s because a lot of the time the result of the actions mostly benefits white culture, or puts white interests first.
You can see it in almost every aspect of society. In Hollywood, it is more likely to be a white person helping non-whites than vice-versa. Even if the larger story is about issues faced by BIPOC, the focus will be on the white hero who saved them from their misery.
The same can be said for global nonprofits who use overseas projects in developing countries to highlight the good that white society is doing. In both instances, the central story is about how white culture saves non-whites, building the myth that white culture is superior to BIPOC.
Be prepared to acknowledge mistakes.
You are probably thinking that no matter what you do, you will never be seen as an ally. However, the criticism has been about superficial engagement and choosing not to engage when things become too difficult.
To really be an ally of BIPOC you need to be consistent in your support. Simply reposting an anti-racist statement on social media does not make you an ally. You need to be aware of your own position in society and acknowledge your own white privilege.
It’s okay to be wrong about things. There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes or not knowing everything about systemic racism. But be willing to continuously learn and accept your own mistakes, especially when they are pointed out to you.
Combating white supremacy, becoming an ally, and being anti-racist requires lifelong effort.
Becoming an ally and standing with BIPOC takes more than slogans. It takes an investment of time, a willingness to educate yourself, and action. In short, it takes work, but it’s worth the effort.
If you want to understand the many challenges facing BIPOC, make the effort to teach yourself. It’s not the responsibility of BIPOC to educate you, you need to make the effort to learn for yourself. Arming yourself with knowledge about the issues helps you to educate others too.
Be vocal and engage others in discussions about white-centered culture. If you want to help dismantle the culture of white supremacy, be active in the conversation. Being silent does more damage than good.
You know that you have privileges that others don’t. However, being born with privilege doesn’t mean you have to accept it if you don’t want to. Take actions that support BIPOC. This means taking part in marches, volunteering to help with causes, and patronizing BIPOC businesses.
If you think about it, these are relatively easy steps to take and they can help make incremental changes to the existing system of white supremacy. Will you be able to change everything all at once? No, but you will be helping to make things more equal in the future.
The Main Take-away
White supremacy is the foundation of western society. You play your part in supporting its existence even if you don’t realize it. Even if you don’t feel you’re racist, you may be benefiting from white privilege.
There are other things that you may not realize are part of the problem. Stereotyping based on race, even if it may seem benign, can enforce biased views. Cultural appropriation can also support supremacy and domination.
If you want to be an ally to BIPOC, you have to dig deeper than the surface-level acceptance. Pointing to the presence of a non-white colleague or friend isn’t enough. You also can’t just claim you don’t see race. Color blindness doesn’t make you not racist. It means you’re ignoring racial differences, including the injustices you want to fight.
To be an effective ally, you need to stop putting yourself first and learn more about BIPOC. You don’t have to always get it right. Just keep learning and finding ways to help. You can do more if you consistently support and amplify BIPOC voices, helping to make meaningful changes in society.
About the Author
Layla Saad started a social media trend of #MeAndWhiteSupremacy. The purpose was to challenge people to think about how they fit into white supremacy for 28 days.
She created a popular “Me and White Supremacy Workbook” which was available as a digital download. In six months, it was downloaded more than 100,000 times. A number of celebrity endorsements helped its popularity.
The British author is also the host of the Good Ancestor Podcast.
Saad was born in Wales and obtained her law degree from Lancaster University in England. She lives in Dubai with her husband and two children. This is her first book.