Review by Abbie Longmate
Starting out as an Instagram challenge designed to address and dismantle notions and experiences of white supremacy, Layla F Saad’s Me and White Supremacy has emerged in book form, triggering a global cultural movement which encourages active participation in anti-racism. In conversation with Shantel Edwards from Birmingham Book Festival, Saad highlights in the event how her book is not just a passive reading experience, but a dynamic tool of self-reflection for the reader.
As Saad explains, white supremacy, and ultimately, white privilege, are embedded into our society. In order to combat this, personal and collective change needs to take place. We need to examine ourselves and our own privilege, and this is precisely what Me and White Supremacy forces its reader to do. Saad goes on to discuss how this change, this examination, this movement, is not just a short-lived phase. It is a responsibility we should actively revisit and revise every single day. Yes, Saad emphasises, this is an extremely vulnerable process. It’s hard work. But this cannot just be a momentary movement. In light of the recent Black Lives Matter protests around the world, Saad highlights how easily such a movement can become a mere social media-induced trend, a civil rights movement taking place on Instagram. However, in order to make real, lasting change, we need to be constantly open to educating ourselves and those around us in real life too.
So, what position does that leave us in, now? Are we any closer to reaching a world where white privilege ceases to exist? As Saad and Edwards illustrate, the short answer is: no. Both speakers explain how, despite the tidal-wave movements of the past few months, it is looking unlikely that 2020 will bring about such change. Capturing this feeling, Saad states that “we still haven’t reached a critical mass point of enough people saying ‘I am committed to this process and I’m committed to building this world.’” In fact, we have barely scratched the surface. However, resources like Me and White Supremacy are a positive step on the path of anti-racist education.
Poignantly, Saad divulges towards the end of the event that she “can’t afford to lose hope, because if you lose hope, then you can’t do anything.” I think this is what I found to be the most powerful of her words in the event. No matter how easy it can feel to lose a sense of hope in anti-racist education, we must keep this hope alive in order to inspire positive change and change the world we live in.
Objectively, Me and White Supremacy is the most important, enlightening, and life-changing book I have read this year. But it isn’t a light read. It requires active participation and an open mind. It will change your life; but in the best and most powerful way possible.
The event is available to view until 1st November here.
This work was produced by participants on our Durham Book Festival Reviewers in Residence programme, a cultural journalism programme run by New Writing North Young Writers. Reviewers in Residence gives aspiring journalists aged 15-23 the chance to review books, attend events and interview authors at the Durham Book Festival. For more information about New Writing North Young Writers visit the New Writing North website.