When author Izoma Oluo’s first book, “So You Want to Talk About Race” was published in 2018, the world did not know the names of George Floyd, Bryo Taylor or Ahmed Erby, nor the ‘fates’ that would impress him.
Nevertheless, Trywon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner and a long line of black people have lost their lives in police and vigilante violence in recent years. In addition, Donald Trump’s presidency had uncovered deep cracks around race, social justice, and inequality that exploded on the streets of America and beyond this year.
Now comes “Mediocare: The Dangerous Legacy of White Mail America,” (Seal Press) that examines white male supremacy and its impact on America for generations.
In one passage, Oluo writes: “I don’t believe that white people want to be born who want to dominate. … We need to do more than be free from the oppression of white people. We also have to imagine a white manhood that is not based on the oppression of others. … we should start asking what we want white manhood to be, and what we will no longer accept. “
This interview is lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
How can you say what some might say is the title of a very provocative book?
Izyoma Oluo: I didn’t find it very exciting at the time. The idea of mediocre white people and the harm they cause is nothing new. As a black woman, I and my partner are very familiar with it. I have always tried to call one thing one thing. So when the title came to me it was very immediate. Then when people were like, “Wow, this is a provocative title,” I was like, ‘Oh, aren’t we liking this anymore?’ ‘
How did this book come together?
Oluo: When the inspiration for “Mediocre” hit, I immediately knew that I was going to write this book. This book really enhanced me as a writer. I already knew that this was going to be a more complex book than my first, but I had no idea that I was going to do it while being targeted by white supremacists, or during an epidemic, or a global revolt for black life Will write during But I like the book very much, I think it is a great book and I am proud of it.
The book came amidst racial unrest and opposed the demand for change. Is “mediocre” directly or indirectly related to the struggle of people of African descent?
Oluo: This book clearly states how this country should maintain the exploitation and oppression of black people to protect white male power and white male arbitration. We will not only look at our history in this book, but we will also recognize that we have had to struggle against the violent protection of white male power.
What do you want people to get away from the book?
Oluo: I want anyone who reads this book to see that we are not just talking about some bad friends, we are talking about intentionally constructed identities and systems of power. I want everyone to see what this costs us and to test how we each support these harmful norms and systems. I particularly want people who have the advantage to benefit from their white male power or their proximity to white male power. And for people of color – especially blacks and natives – I also want this book to stand against the collective gaslighting of our media and history that tells us that this is not happening, we are no longer against cruelty The pattern or plan is not the face, that we are just unlucky. I want it to be reinforced that what is happening to us is real, and that we have every right to demand better.
There is a new wave of successful black writers who are children of African immigrants like themselves. How does this background inform your work?
Oluo: for me? This is unlikely for other children of African immigrants. My father came here from Nigeria to go to college in the 70s, met my mother, fell in love, all that jazz. But when I was a child and my brother was about a month old, he went back to Nigeria during the 1982 coup and never returned again.
I was raised in Single Mom – a white American woman – in Seattle. I did not speak to my father until a few days before he died. I do not have intergenerational trauma of American anti-blackness, outside of my father’s limited experience. I know that he suffered a lot from colonialism and especially the Biafran War. But I know that there are parts of the Black American experience that I cannot speak, even though every day of my life I have lived as a Black American.
There are a lot of Black American experiences. And the experience of children of Black immigrants is complicated by various forms of privilege and disadvantage, connection and isolation. Where I can see that my specific experience really informs my work is in distant family relationships with other Nigerian Americans, seeing the adjustments coming from a country shaped by the history of white supremacist colonialism, but that The current promoters of violent hegemony are often Black people as companions, a place where white supremacy and anti-black money are very upside-down and in-your-face. It helps my work to remember that when we talk about racism in America, we are also talking about global white supremacy and capitalism.
You told us earlier in our phone call that you do not expect to be a published author. Please share some of your travels.
Oluo: As a financially struggling black single mom, I thought I would have the freedom to make a creative career, just something I had never entertained. I wrote for my survival, because I was tired of realizing that I was not present in the broader narrative of social issues in America that I was writing at night and at lunch break, never even letting my truth out. Was not trying to do anything except bring. . But writing was connecting with people, and I was suddenly being asked to write.
When I signed the book deal and I got it for the first time, I paid a four-month mortgage payment – because writing, in fact, doesn’t pay off, especially Black women. I did not know the pace at which my career would move at that moment, I was relieved not to lose my home yet. It has been a wild journey.
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