Me and White Supremacy (Book Review)

I’ve been doing art for the last two or three years, enrolling in classes on how to draw and paint faces. Let’s talk about white privilege in art classes. First of all, in 2020 there are still paint colors called things like “flesh.” Other names include nude or buff. They match my skin tone. If I want to paint darker people, the colors are things like butterscotch, cinnamon, chocolate, coffee.


Think about that for a minute. The color that matches my skin is labeled to show that it’s intended to depict skin, but the darker colors are labeled as food. Food. How often are you painting a cinnamon stick? Are you painting cinnamon sticks more often than you’re painting brown people?


Every class shows me how to paint a white woman. I finally enrolled in a class that showed how to paint various ethnicities and, while I did learn how to paint different skin tones, I can’t unequivocally recommend the class for BIPOC. The woman teaching the class was working from the premise that white was “normal” and that other ethnicities are defined by how they deviate from the norm. She even caught herself at one point and realized she’d said something “wrong” but instead of making a change, she laughed nervously and went on a ten minute rant about how all she meant by “normal” is that white people are the ones you see around you everyday.


So this is white privilege. I can enroll in an art class and know that the class is for me. I belong. If it’s a class on drawing or painting faces, I know that I’ll learn to draw and paint people of my ethnicity, who share my skin tone. I can take optional add-on modules for “variety.” I don’t need to take them to paint people who look like me. I can exist in an art class and never paint a single face that’s different from my own.

Me and White Supremacy is a book that challenges you to examine forces like this that shape your experience, whether you’ve been aware of them until now or not. The author calls it:

… a one-of-a-kind personal antiracism tool structured to help people with white privilege understand and take ownership of their participation in the oppressive system of white supremacy.

p.3

The book is set up to be used over a four-week period. Each day you’ll be introduced to a topic and then given journaling exercises about your relationship to that topic. Topics include:

  • white privilege
  • white fragility
  • tone policing
  • white silence
  • white superiority
  • white exceptionalism
  • color blindness
  • anti-blackness
  • racist stereotypes
  • cultural appropriation
  • white apathy
  • white centering
  • tokenism
  • white saviorism
  • optical allyship
  • being called out/called in
  • white feminism
  • white leaders
  • your friends
  • your family
  • your values
  • losing privilege
  • your commitments

The final chapter is called, “Now What? Continuing the Work After Day 28” and there is an appendix for using the book in a group, which borrows from books by Christina Baldwin like Calling the Circle and The Circle Way and the suggested structure will seem familiar to anyone who has read a Starhawk or Reclaiming book.

Why read this book and work through it? As the author explains:

If you are a person who wants to become a good ancestor, then you know that this work is some of the most important work that you will be called to do in your lifetime.

p.6

5 out of 5 stars

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor

Layla F. Saad

Sourcebooks, 2020

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