“How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World” by Layla F. Saad (2020)
This is the book for me: I am white and regard myself as Supreme, although not for that reason. So this “deep-diving self-reflection tool” sets a 28 day work schedule of “reflective journaling and inner excavation.” I did the work: but an alternate journal is set out below. This one-of-a-kind personal antiracism tool, an activist education program for confronting white privilege and dismantling white supremacy, helps us honkys check our privilege and “take ownership of [our] participation in the oppressive system of white supremacy.” It’s a tailor-made manifesto for developing your reeducation camp, madrasa or yeshiva curriculum. It takes on the white monolith and its deliberately unconscious bigotry. White supremacists are taught here to focus not on intent but the damage done, after being “called out or called in.” To say this book is remarkable is an understatement. It has been violently praised by activists and critical race theorists; we find it remarkable for slightly different reasons.
First, we need to ascertain credentials, like all white supremacists do. Layla Saad is “a widely read writer, a globally sought speaker, and a popular podcast host…passionate about creating Inspiration, Education & Activation for personal and collective change in the world. Layla’s work is driven by a powerful desire to become a good ancestor; to live and work in ways that leave a legacy of healing and liberation, especially for black girls and black women. Layla is unapologetically confronting the oppressive systems of white supremacy and patriarchy, while offering important teachings and tools for transforming consciousness, cultivating personal anti-racism practice and taking responsibility for our individual and collective healing” [from her website]. Her work is introduced by Robin DiAngelo, author of “White Fragility,” who tells us that it has been her “consistent experience leading antiracist education over the last twenty-five years that most white people don’t really want to know what to do about racism if it will require anything of them that is inconvenient or uncomfortable.” (That hit me where I live).
Next, we need to understand what white supremacy is, exactly. The author helpfully supplies a reliable definition from Wikipedia: the belief that white people are superior to those of other races and thus should dominate them. At this point, discouraged that the book might not apply to me, I skimmed ahead and was heartened to learn that I am actually immersed in “an ideology, a paradigm, an institutional system, and a worldview that [I] have been born into by virtue of [my] white privilege.” It “perpetuates harm through discrimination, abuse, racist stereotypes, and criminalization.” Simply, I have been “asleep and unaware” of my power over “BIPOC,” as in, “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.” Without knowing it, I “had shut down a part of [my] humanity in order to participate in white supremacy.” So I was caught in a Kafka-trap; I couldn’t walk out, because I loved character too much baby…rather than epidermis pigmentation. Therefore, I decided that I wouldn’t publish my White Supremacy Journal, responding to leading questions of the ‘when-did-you-stop-beating-your-wife?’-variety: rather, I decided to set out what Hitler might have written:
SAAD: White Privilege is “an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “Meant” to remain oblivious” (quoting Peggy McIntosh). she continues: “In the absence of white supremacy, white privilege is meaningless.” It is a “deeply held social construct that there are biologically different races and that one race is superior to the others.” Her journaling prompts included asking how one held white privilege, what positive and negative experiences flowed from the privilege and how power was wielded over BIPOC.
HITLER: “The precondition for this [the Will of Nature] does not lie in associating superior and inferior, but in the total victory of the former. The stronger must dominate and not blend with the weaker. The negative is Blood mixture and the resultant drop in racial level is the sole cause of the dying out of old cultures. Positively, All the human culture, all the results of art, science, and technology that we see before us today, are almost exclusively the product of the Aryan. Eternal Nature inexorably avenges the infringement of her commands.”
SAAD: White fragility involves defensiveness whenever a white’s complicity in a system of oppression designed to benefit him/her/other is raised. Prompt: “How do you feel when you hear the words white people? do they make you feel uncomfortable?”
HITLER: “If we were to divide mankind into three groups, the founders of culture, the bearers of culture, the destroyers of culture, only the Aryan could be considered as the representative of the first group.”
SAAD: White privileged use Tone Policing [akin to airport henchmen asking exasperated customers to lower their voice when they haven’t raised it – Ed.] to stifle discussion by BIPOC about racism. Prompt: “How have you discounted BIPOC’s real pain over racism because the way they talk about it doesn’t fit with your world view of how people should talk?”
HITLER: “‘… it is criminal lunacy to keep on drilling a born half-ape until people think they have made a lawyer out of him, while millions of members of the highest culture-race must remain in entirely unworthy positions; ..while Hottentots and Zulu Kaffirs are trained for intellectual professions.”
SAAD: White Silence involves failure of white supremacists to extirpate racists, not attending Black Lives Matter marches, staying silent when witnessing other white supremacists using their white privilege, white fragility or tone policing against BIPOC. “White silence is violence.” Note that “Introversion is not an excuse to stay in white silence.” Reflective Journaling Prompts: “How do you benefit from white silence?”
HITLER: “the innermost essence of all organization requires that the individual renounce putting forward his personal opinion and interests and sacrifice both in favor of a larger group.”
SAAD: White Superiority is proven by the 1940s ‘doll tests’, updated in 2010 to demonstrate that white branding dominates BIPOC branding (apologies if “branding” is triggering). The idea of whitey’s superiority is the “very foundation of his white supremacy“, and it has been inculcated from childhood, conditioned by media, established by fashion, and emphasized through cultural appropriation and the narrative of the white savior. Reflective Journaling Prompt: “Think back across your life, from childhood to where you are in your life now. In what ways have you consciously or subconsciously believed that you are better than BIPOC? Don’t hide from this. This is the crux of white supremacy. Own it.”
HITLER: Gladly. All the human culture, all the results of art, science, and technology that we see before us today, are almost exclusively the creative product of the Aryan. This very fact admits of the not unfounded inference that he alone was the founder of all higher humanity, therefore representing the prototype of all that we understand by the word ‘man.’ He is the Prometheus of mankind from whose bright forehead the divine spark of genius has sprung at all times, forever kindling anew that fire of knowledge which illumined the night of silent mysteries and thus caused man to climb the path to mastery over the other beings of this earth. Exclude him-and perhaps after a few thousand years darkness will again descend on the earth, human culture will pass, and the world turn to a desert.
SAAD: White Exceptionalism is the “belief that people with white privilege are exempt from white supremacy” and hence excused from “antiracism work.” “White exceptionalism is the hurt “Not all white people!” response when BIPOC talk about white people’s behavior.” Reflective Journaling Prompt: “In what ways have you believed that you are exceptional, exempt, “one of the good ones,” or above the conditioning of white supremacy?”
HITLER: I was absolved of the charge of racism by Whoopi Goldberg.
SAAD: “On Day 7, we do not take a day off, because BIPOC do not get to take a day off from (your) white supremacy, but we do reflect.” Reflective Journaling Prompt: “What have you begun to see and understand about your personal complicity in white supremacy that you were not able to see or understand before you began this work?”
HITLER: “A state which in this age of racial poisoning dedicates itself to the care of its best racial elements must some day become Lord of the earth.”
DAYS EIGHT TO FOURTEEN
SAAD: The author suggested that the 2nd week of the important work be kept private and confidential or only shared with other people with white privilege. It covers Color Blindness (which is not anti-racist, but rather “an act of gaslighting”, “a magic trick designed to absolve people with white privilege from having to own their complicity in upholding white supremacy“), Anti-Blackness (opposition or hostility toward black people), Stereotyping and Cultural Appropriation. “…though a BIPOC can hold prejudice against a white person, they cannot be racist toward a white person.* They do not have the power (which comes with white privilege) and the backing of a system of oppression (called white supremacy) to be able to turn that prejudice into domination and punishment in a way that a white person would be able to if the tables were reversed.” “Cultural appropriation happens when there is an imbalance of power and privilege – a dominant or privileged culture appropriates from a nondominant or marginalized culture. Cultural appropriation does not work the other way around…What white supremacy once denied to and vilified in entire races of people it has discriminated against, it now appropriates and commodifies. This is racism, and it must be wrestled with.”
Reflective Journaling Prompt: “In what ways have you superhumanized parts of the identities of Indigenous people and POC while dehumanizing other parts?”
HITLER: (chose – naturally – to ignore the confidentiality stipulation, and published this global rubric): “In a bastardised and niggerised [sic] world all the concepts of the humanly beautiful and sublime, as well as all ideas of an idealised future of our humanity, would be lost forever.”
DAYS FIFTEEN TO TWENTY-ONE
SAAD: The 3rd week of work contemplates Allyship, “a lifelong process.” Note however that “a person with white privilege does not get to be the judge of whether what they are practising actually is allyship, because what they might deem to be allyship could actually be white centering, tokenism, white saviorism, or optical allyship instead.” We traverse the concepts White Apathy (“deadly in its passivity“), White Centering (“the belief, whether conscious or not, that whiteness is “normal” and BIPOC are “other”” – “a collective ego” (!), “an invisible net holding up white supremacy“), Tokenism and Optical Allyship (using BIPOC as cannon fodder for white virtue signalling), and White Saviorism (“a form of colonialism…all it takes is a selfie or two with a Black or Brown child…often without parental consent…”). One Reflective Journaling Prompt: “How is your worldview a white-centered one?”
HITLER: “The two types will rapidly diverge from one another. One will sink to a sub-human race and the other rise far above the man of today. I might call the two varieties the god- man and the mass-animal.” The new, godlike Aryan would rule over the inferior races, the “mass-animal””.
DAY TWENTY-TWO TO TWENTY-SIX
SAAD: The initial part of week 4 deals with white supremacists’ concordat with other white supremacists: our white supremacist feminist sisters, our white supremacist leaders, our white supremacist friends, our white supremacist families and our white supremacist values. [As I once wrote, “Don’t expect the workers to unite; they’ll side with the bosses ‘cos they’re all white.”] White feminism, having white privilege, understand the patriarchy but has “marginalized BIPOC from its very inception” at the discrimination intersection. White leaders must be called out or called in for white-apathy-centering-saviorism-tone-policing-tokenism, and commit to doing deeper antiracism work. We must call out to our white supremacist family and friends or be guilty of white apathy and white silence. One Reflective Journaling Prompt: “What contradictory values do you hold that hinder your ability to practice antiracism?”
HITLER: “My concept is of a new order – a new order, I tell you, or if you prefer, an ideological glimpse into history in accordance with the basic principle of the blood. A new, rules-based international order, where the Volk shall have nothing but a chicken in every pot, a VW in every garage, a black, oriental, semitic servant at each door, and happiness.”
SAAD: “We are coming full circle now…You will…have begun to realize that in order for change to happen, you must lose some of that privilege. I am not talking about “using your privilege for good” in some sort of white saviorist super ally kind of way…Being willing to lose privilege looks like: Taking responsibility for your own antiracist education…Having racial conversations with other white people…Donating money to causes, movements, and organizations that are working toward liberation and dignity for BIPOC…Paying more money to more BIPOC businesses, entrepreneurial ventures, and projects…Showing up at protests and marches for BIPOC…Taking up less space and allowing BIPOC to take up more space so that they can be heard and their leadership can be followed.” One Reflective Journaling Prompt: “What risks must you be willing to take? What sacrifices must you be willing to make?”
HITLER: We must concede that Blood mixture and the resultant drop in the racial level is the sole and inevitable cause of the dying out of old cultures, and hence we must embrace the new racism, the BlackLivesMatter-Critical Race Theory racism! A new Hitler! A black Hitler, black, pure and proud! The right Hitler for the right future! A Hitler tailor-made for the 2020s, the 2030s and 2040s, 3000!
SAAD: You now understand “the burden of white privilege and what it means to be personally complicit in the system of white supremacy…” Reflective Journaling Prompts are to “write three concrete, out-of-your-comfort-zone actions you are committed to taking in the next two weeks toward antiracism.”
HITLER: (1) Marriages between citizens not of related blood are forbidden; (2) Extramarital relations between citizens of unrelated blood are forbidden; (3) Citizens may not employ in their households female citizens of unrelated blood.
And to think before I started this journey I signed up to this sort of white supremacy evidenced in The Tyranny of Guilt: *”Progressive thought is blind when it suggests that there can be no antiwhite racism or an anti-Semitism among the formerly oppressed or the young people in the projects because they themselves have suffered from this evil. They are the victims; they are exempt from the prejudices that affect the majority of the population. But the reverse is true: racism is multiplying at exponential rates among groups and communities, taboos are collapsing, and everything is explained in terms of physical characteristics, identity, purity, and difference. And this is a racism that is all the more certain that it is right because it is regarded as a legitimate reaction on the part of the persecuted.” (my emphasis). What is most remarkable about Saad’s book is the bland, dogmatic and invidious utterances, and edicts, on every page, without any supporting evidence or justification, the very acme of imbecilic arrogance. The triteness and presumptuousness are Awesome. Me and White Supremacy is Mein Kampf in reverse, only much funnier.