‘Many white people hear the words white supremacy and think that does not apply to me, that they don’t hold that belief but rather that they believe that all of us are equal and that they don’t modify their treatment of people based on the color of their skin. What this book, which is a deep-diving self-reflection tool, will help you to realize, however, is that that isn’t true. White supremacy is an ideology, a paradigm, an institutional system, and a worldview that you have been born into by virtue of your white privilege.’
Layla F. Saad’s book, Me and White Supremacy, has become a world-wide phenomenon, and whoever hasn’t read this needs to get a copy ASAP.
We learn about Layla Saad at the beginning of the book. She is a Black Muslim woman. After reading this book, I honestly adore her. Her dedication to wanting to change the world, change perception, and change lives is so inspiring. She wants to become a ‘good ancestor’, someone that changes the future for generations to come, and I believe everyone needs to strive to be a good ancestor as well.
Aimed at white people, Layla Saad has written a guide book to help white people not only understand racism and their privilege, but she has given the steps necessary to act and not be complicit. Saad breaks down barriers, tears away the kid gloves and is brutally honest. And that is what we need. The truth. She splashes us with the harsh reality of the lives of BIPOC.
Although aimed at white people, her book educates everyone. I have learnt so much from her insightful words. Saad has questioned things I would have never even thought of and she has provided readers with a step by step process to learn, understand, educate, act and teach. One major thing I appreciated was how Saad didn’t use overly big words to sound smart. She went straight to the point, defined words and phrases clearly, and used language that readers can universally understand.
Saad brings to light how racism has been around for a long, long time and it has not resurfaced now, but never went away. It is here in our time after hundreds of years, where the people who had created this system are long gone. Racism isn’t only shown through violent outbursts and crude language; it is here in our society, subtly weaved into our governments, our justice systems and our communities. She exposes how racism is everywhere and that there is no place that doesn’t have racism because it has become intertwined into our lives.
Saad discusses how racism is a social construction that we cannot seem to rid ourselves of. She claims how white privilege comes to play even at an unconscious level and makes white people behave in certain ways. She raises awareness to the fact that white people will always have a privilege that people of colour will not, thus making them superior and supreme. She is telling us that white people, as much as they claim to understand, at the end of the day will never be able to comprehend the difficulties that people of colour face. White people cannot fathom the racism that is knitted into communities, societies, work places and all lives for BIPOC. She makes it abundantly clear that white people will never face this form of treatment, whether they are women, within the LGBTQ community or follow a certain religion, because their skin colour protects them from certain behaviour and treatment that BIPOC face on a daily basis. Saad explains: ‘It is important to understand that white privilege is separate from but can intersect with class privilege, gender privilege, sexuality privilege, age privilege, able-bodied privilege, or any other type of privilege.’
Separated into twenty eight days, her guide book discusses new topics in each week. The first week is her teaching us the foundation of white supremacy. From day one to day six, she discusses white privilege, white fragility, tone policing, white silence, white superiority, white exceptionalism, and then a review of it all on day seven. Some of these terms I have never even heard of and so I was eager to learn and educate myself. Saad is so blunt in her use of language and I really liked that she didn’t use alternative words but used words that may make readers feel uncomfortable, such as ‘supremacy’ and the constant repetition of ‘white’. I feel that it is her brutal honesty that makes this guide book so impactful and effective.
Layla Saad, to me, is an educator. In this book she tells the readers that we should have a notebook with us when reading this so that we can jot down our feelings and emotions. She even provides us with reflective journaling prompts. At the end of Day 1, she asks her white readers: In what ways do you hold white privilege? What negative experiences has your white privilege protected you from throughout your life?
Some may criticise her for singling out white people, but I believe this confrontation is necessary for the world to really change and move forward. Saad asks soul-searching questions that force her white readers to acknowledge that they have privilege, whether they are aware of it or not. She is not trying to make white people feel bad for their skin colour, but rather she wants white people to understand that they have this privilege that BIPOC do not, and how they can stop being complicit to racism. Saad writes: ‘The aim of this work is not self-loathing. The aim of this work is truth – seeing it, owning it, and figuring out what to do with it.’
In week two, Saad focuses on Anti-Blackness against men, women and children, as well as discussing racism according to cultural appropriation. She writes about the different forms of racism and breaks down this acronym, BIPOC, and focuses on each word separately. She states, ‘The reason why I specifically chose to cover anti-Blackness separately from indigenous people and POC is because Black people also experience anti-Blackness from these groups.’ This really resonated with me because as a Bengali Muslim girl, I grew up in an area with the majority being south Asians. My primary school, secondary school and sixth form all had students who were mainly Bengali. I witnessed racism in the form of mockery by young kids towards the very few black students. Saad continues, ‘I invite you to break down the acronym POC more deeply, because different racial groups experience white supremacy in different ways.’ She talks about different ethnic groups and the racist stereotypes that they are associated with.
Additionally, Layla Saad considers feminism when it comes to racism, or rather main-stream feminism, which she defines as ‘white feminism’. She claims, ‘It is a feminism that is only concerned with disparities and oppression of gender, and it does not take into account disparities and oppression of other intersections that are just as important, including race, class, age, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity and so on.’ It is often expected that BIPOC put aside their issues with racism to focus upon the issue of sexism as women band together in sisterhood. However, Saad encapsulates how to ask BIPOC to put gender before race implies that BIPOC should put their different identities in a hierarchical order, which is wrong. She claims how she is not Black then woman, but is Black and woman.
I hope that everyone reads Saad’s work because it is so insightful and thought-provoking and emotive. It is upsetting that it took the horrendous death of George Floyd for the world to gain awareness of the severity of the lives of BIPOC. It is disturbing that even today in a modern world, diversity is still an issue. The fact that skin colour is what makes people act horribly and treat others differently is so distressing. Why should people of colour have to be forced to face such atrocious treatment when at the end of the day we are all human?
The world cannot continue like this. I do not want future generations to have to face the same issues that have risen for centuries. Racism needs to end.