Cover Image: What White People Can Do Next

What White People Can Do Next

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

This is a really important text and I envisage it being a huge success. I think that there are many liberal-minded white people wanting to be part of the catalyst for change, who fit the various bills mentioned by Emma Dabiri - whether unsure of what exactly to do in order to play their part, or who to ask for 'guidance'. I consider myself to be clued up on issues regarding race and inequality (given that I lecture in this area) and yet there were things that I learnt while reading - notably the downside to 'allyship'. Ultimately, the tone is antagonistic (and rightly so) but never oversteps the boundary into something that a reader may find off-putting. This is an important polemic of race as socially constructed, also of capitalism, and a useful check list of things for the reader to consider moving forward. All told, an excellent read.
Was this review helpful?
(Twitter)
@EmmaDabiri author of the groundbreaking ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ writes another superb book ‘What White People Can Do Next, looking to coalition and allyship to reach goals. @PenguinUKBooks
Was this review helpful?
In this short, yet very insightful book, Emma Dabiri dives into one of the most important discourses on race. What White People Can Do Next is a guidebook of a sort, written very precisely and directly which helped immaculately to get a message across. The author urges a reader to question and rethink labels such as 'whiteness' and 'blackness', how they came to be and when they shifted into the form we see it in today's day and age. This book is packed with historical facts that trace racism all the way to its roots, discusses the industrial and capitalistic role in shaping the racism we witness today, as well the importance and the impact of movements both online and offline. 

One of the main successes this book attained is drawing a clear line between allyship and coalition. It is often a case that a self-proclaimed anti-racist plays an ally through the image of white saviour (Black communities don't need salvation, they need equal rights), therefore such an allyship appeals to a desire to help a 'victim', constituting a reification of the power imbalance. The coalition, on the other hand, is about mutuality. The key is to expose and end institutional racism without deeper slippage into beliefs about racial identity as biological essence.

'Blackness is diverse.' This simple statement is unfortunately something that many people yet have to comprehend. It is utterly ridiculous that we still have to voice out the fact that we cannot continue reducing black people (or any group of people) to one dimension. However, we see that tolerance, understanding and respect are very often only reserved for white Christian communities. Ignorance is a huge factor that contributes to the continuation of racism and as a possible solution to this problem the author sends a clear message: Read! What I found especially interesting is the mention of the importance of reading FICTION (in addition to reading theory).

What White People Can Do Next puts capitalism, government, taxing policies and wealth distribution at the forefront of racial discourse. In this extensive essay, Dabiri, very intelligently approaches the past and the present and offers solutions that will be effective not only online and for personal gain, but also in real life, within the communities and societies. This book offered a good load of new information, interesting analysis on the subject of race and thought-provoking solutions. I hope that many people would read this book.
Was this review helpful?
This was such a thought-provoking and interesting read. 
Extremely well researched and eye-opening, while at the same time not being preachy or judgemental. 
I think this should be on everyone's to read list. Not only to read but to think deeper about the topics discussed
Was this review helpful?
This was a very interesting, insightful and well written read that I definitely took to heart.. Emma Dabiri's experience is extremely valuable and I am thankful that she has written this book to share her thoughts with us. I believe this might be my favourite book on the topic I've read.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book. I really appreciated the fact she’s irish and has that experience which I could really relate to. Only criticism was that it was a bit too philosophical at times. Although that could be said to be my failing in understanding.
Was this review helpful?
Loved this book, a passionate, well argued book, starting with how white is an artificial construct and therefore that is where to start with addressing race by recognising the artificialness of it all. Emma Dabiri is Irish-Nigerian and I really appreciated her perspective not only of calling out the racism she received from Irish people but also her incisive critique of the argument made by those Irish people who have faced discrimination who chose to work towards gaining privilege rather than working together to dismantle racial inequality. A thoughtful articulate short book. 

With thanks to the publisher and netgalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
I'm always a fan of anything Emma Dabiri does and this is no different. I found it particularly useful coming from an Irish-influenced angle which is a rare perspective but it's an incredibly helpful essay in general. In it, Dabiri offers a practical perspective on what white people who want to do the work of being anti-racist can actually do to help. What white people need to be willing to do to move forward. 

It's educational and effective but it comes with that engaging, conversational style that Emma Dabiri brings to all of her work. I'd recommend this to white people looking for how to do their part, but especially Irish people who can benefit from remembering the context of this work here. 

I love that Dabiri's willing to challenge and consider the realities of today's world in her writing. It's refreshing and really feels like a way to reflect and choose steps you can take. I'll always recommend her work but this pretty short book packs a big punch.
Was this review helpful?
This is Dabiri’s essay on using the momentum from the Black Lives Matter movement and utilising to form real change throughout society.

This is an uncomfortable but massively important and informative read. I feel it explores the topic from a different angle to other book around racism that I have read. Dabiri calls for us to push away from inclusivity and instead join to tackle institutional racism. 

The essay explores the concept of ‘whiteness’ as a system and a tool for suppression and racism and the origins of this. I learnt a lot from this and am glad to have read it.

However, I did feel the book was written in a very academic way so I think I need to have a re-read in order to fully absorb it.
Was this review helpful?
“What if we reject all of the options on offer and create our own terms of engagement?” The truly radical ideas that Emma Dabiri tends to in What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition stem from this obvious notion that in order to be free from a broken system, we have to usurp, subvert, and reject that system — an idea that seems shocking, until you remember the famous words of Audre Lorde: “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”. Dabiri is sceptical of the supposed progress that has been made, specifically in the wake of BLM protests following George Floyd’s murder in 2020; frustrated with the shallowness of our contemporary activism, the saying instead of the doing, the overemphasis on visibility and the capitalising of ‘black’ and so on. What is so refreshing in Dabiri’s work is that, although she does highlight so many flaws in current discourse, she doesn’t shy away from practical and logical approaches, suggesting solutions where a lot of contemporary writing merely wrings hands and hopes. As “the mainstream anti-racist conversation is conveniently devoid of any analysis of class or capitalism”, Dabiri insists on the importance of antiracist work needing context, being shared, intersectional. “Linking our struggles”, coalition-building, allows us “to see more parallels between the struggles of all exploited and oppressed people, across lines of race and nation.” I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it!
Was this review helpful?
This book is an important reminder that speaking truth to power means nothing unless we can back it up by actually doing something. 

That feeling bad and guilty doesn't help anyone. Dabiri focuses on shared goals and interrogating capitalism, rather than focusing on just privilege, because what can you do when all you do is talk about privilege and redistributing it, without actually changing the system that enables all the racism.

Thank you NetGalley for a chance to read and review this!
Was this review helpful?
An informative and generous book that sets in place markers for real societal change. Dabiri’s writing is phenomenal with a historically grounded analysis of anti-racism and a changing approach to social media discourse. It is up to date, following on from the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 and the upsurge in allyship and useful infographics on social media. 

This extended essay packs a punch, with every paragraph set to reframe last year’s efforts towards shared goals. My only complaint is that I didn’t have a physical copy of the book to highlight and look back on in a week or so – but no worries I’ll be picking up a copy as soon as bookshops open up again in NI!

Allyship is addressed brilliantly in this book. It underlines the role of white saviourism within allyship today – how appealing to the overwhelming good in people still pulls on dynamics based on a superiority of race. It questions the reader: what movement has ever been successful by asking people to ‘demote’ themselves?

 Dabiri urges for the energy that has been created over the past year to be funnelled into long term change rather than short term gratification. So, whilst calling out micro aggressions and racist language is really important to do, these actions should be secondary to our efforts for systemic change that decreases the powers of a small elite. Similarly, focusing on the radio silence of a celebrity figure may implicitly be a distraction from real fundamental change. 

This call for common ground and a shared goal permeates through all chapters in this book. It recognises the power of a mutual understanding across trenches (dug as a result of infinitely more exclusive groups), rather than a sense of charity that stems from guilt.

And perhaps the best part of all, Dabiri reminds us that “a revolution without dancing is not a revolution worth having” – wishing for us to constantly evolve our ways of thinking and to no longer double down on efforts that simply reinstate racial lines that separate us further apart.
Was this review helpful?
Very interesting book, Emma Dabiri takes a new approach on anti-racism. This book is thought-provoking, educative and powerful.
Was this review helpful?
I wanted to read this for my EDI group that I’m part of at work. Despite being a short book it took longer to read than I’d been expecting due to the fact that I took three pages of notes and quotations. I learnt a lot about the history of race being used a social construct, by the wealthy elite, as a way to stop poor indentured white workers from collaborating with black slaves who wanted to get better working conditions. There were many points in this book where I felt pleased to read something that reflected many of my own views. For example, I’ve found the idea of allyship to be problematic as it does make me feel like I’m trying to be some type of white saviour or that I may be viewed as such, rather than someone equally working with others to progress equality. I loved the history around black and white groups collaborating to try and progress things for everyone that has a shared interest whilst not also detracting from the fact that racism is an issue that needs addressing.

There was also some very interesting commentary around people on social media, saying the right things and being easily offended by anyone that has a slightly different perspective from them and that extremes of perspectives can generate more comments and likes, and therefore influence but for all the ‘talk’ and ‘likes’ this doesn’t practically change or improve anything, whilst working together can.

I highly recommend this read to everyone, as I think there are some really important ideas and lessons from history that we can learn from this work.

I’d like to thank the publisher for gifting me an ebook copy of the book.
Was this review helpful?
Hard to write a review of this book without using the terms "must read" and "eye opening". Certainly made me re-evaluate not only my opinion but also my behavior on all things concerning race and identity.
Was this review helpful?
https://www.instagram.com/p/CNM3-WBncP-/

What White People Can Do Next by @emmadabiri. What a smart, witty and accessible book. Dabiri parses and analyses anti-racism work and allyship, setting a roadmap that calls for coalition. Firmly rooting the definitions of ‘black’ and ‘white’ in its often-obscured historical context, it’s unlike anything I’ve read before on the subject. Clear-eyed and essential.
Was this review helpful?
Emma Dabiri’s first book, Don’t Touch My Hair was an insightful, readable exploration of ‘black’ culture and racism through the lens of black hair. This second, shorter, book, is a more practical exploration of racism born out of responses to the killing of George Floyd and the reckoning with race that followed in the summer of 2020. Equally readable, distilling academic thought through Dabiri’s engaging, conversational style, this book is a game changer for me in how to approach the questions of race, racism, and ‘whiteness’, and should provide food for thought for all who read it.

Beginning with the question of ‘allyship’ and what ‘white’ people can do in response to racial injustice, Dabiri questions the entire framing of the debate in a way other work on this subject I have read has not done. She questions the legitimacy of online activism, which she views as hollow and performative anyway, and sees allyship as just another way for ‘white’ people to see ‘black’ people as inferior and needing our help. In other words, it replicates the racism that it supposedly seeks to dismantle. Dabiri argues that this is because allyship is a product of both the construction of ‘whiteness’ (hence my use of inverted commas throughout) and capitalism, both of which combine to create a world that is inherently unequal.

Dabiri challenges ‘white’ people to interrogate our ‘whiteness’, showing that our perception of our skin colour is just as much a construction as centuries of racist rhetoric about ‘blackness’ is a construction. Somehow, those of us who have been trying to educate ourselves about racial injustice have come to understand this second construction, but, often (and certainly in my case), not that ‘whiteness’ is also a construction, created to divide the people of the earth by their skin tone. ‘Whiteness’, Dabiri reminds us, is not homogeneous. I think we ‘white’ people think it is, or there has been a failure to explore this idea for whatever reason. I know that I have encountered ideas of constructs of race before, but, somehow, I never included my ‘whiteness’ in that understanding. And Dabiri’s statements make total sense: I am not white skinned, but a combination of cream and pink, and other ‘white’ people have varying skin tones too that aren’t white.

This little book is a game changer in that it tackles head on, and in simple, but unequivocal, language, the fact that the debate we are having about race is flawed because we fail to recognise the fact that race itself is a construct, on all sides of the equation. When we begin to understand this, Dabiri suggests, we can move towards coalition instead of allyship, working in groups that are different, but have similar goals, to improve things that are bad for everyone. Instead of the rhetoric of division, which the language of ‘allyship’ perpetuates, Dabiri challenges us to think outside the box about how we might work together collectively for the greater good.

There’s a lot to say about this book. It is so nicely written in how it brings in ‘black’ cultural thought, history, and contemporary ideas, and distils all of this into such a short book in so concise and readable a way. Dabiri is effortlessly able to slip between academic language and a more conversational style, bringing important ideas to the masses in ways that purely academic texts are not always able to do. I also really appreciate her focus on the Irish context, and her reminder that racism in other countries doesn’t look the same way it does in the US, where most of the focus has been centred.

I find the ideas in this book so freeing in terms of the weight of ‘whiteness’ I have carried. I’m sitting with that going forward, and rethinking how I engage with racial injustice, even as I more carefully question and try to dismantle the myth of race itself. I hope other ‘white’ people will read this too.
Was this review helpful?
This was a refreshing and necessary book to read. Refreshing because so much of the discourse on race is driven by the USA’s cultural hegemony – whereas this book is rooted firmly in Ireland and the UK. While it does cover some of the US experience, it isn’t exclusively focussed there.

And necessary because *gestures widely*

The book is written in an intriguing style. It effortlessly blends casual and formal language. It isn’t as dense as some scholarly works of race that I’ve read recently, and that’s a good thing. It is a good mix of history, background, and practical discussion. It also contains some – rightful – rages against the current state of “activism”:

    "The nature of social media is such that the performance of saying something often trumps doing anything, the tendency to police language, to shame and to say the right thing, often outweighs more substantive efforts. "

Yes! While it may feel great to rant and rave on Twitter – it has almost zero impact. You need to actually go out and do something. Whether that’s lobbying a company, speaking to your elected representatives, or giving to charity. What we can’t do is weaponise class differences – telling people that they have white privilege isn’t sufficient to cause change:

    "We might abhor it, but if a tenuous and fragile feeling of superiority over black people or other minoritized people is all Donny has, why is he going to give that up? What is being offered in return?" 

I wrote something similar a while ago. As the book makes clear, we have to realise that racism hurts all of us. It isn’t just about those who it targets – it is a poison which corrupts everything.

One of the most startling revelations, for me was the notion of how “European style ‘formal’ education, have all imposed the ‘white gaze’.” It’s quite a concept that our society doesn’t exist in a philosophical “neutral zone”. Just like how the male gaze defines how movies are made and laws are passed, it is fascinating to understand that we have created systems which don’t reflect reality, only a subset of it. I recommend reading “Philosophy of Race: An Introduction” by Naomi Zack for more.

I think the only real flaw is that it doesn’t quite contain enough practical steps. In order to build a treehouse, it isn’t enough to say “buy some wood and assemble”. As the author acknowledges:

    "Frankly, there’s a huge gap in terms of what comes next. While we need to identify what to do, it’s important not to fixate on an endpoint or a final destination; such thinking is part of the problem. Rather we have to understand our lives as a dynamic flowing of positions. "

The chapter headings are a great précis of the internal steps white people need to take – what do you need to realise about your behaviour? – but stops a little short of concrete actions.

It’s a short, but thoroughly interesting book.
Was this review helpful?
Emma Dabiri is continuing to be fantastic and bringing us well written though provoking literature (and I don’t mean that in a really white condescending way where anything to do with ‘real issues’ is automatically ‘thought provoking’).

I think it’s great that Dabiri isn’t pandering to her white audience but instead asking them to stop and challenge their notion of the everyday instead of passing out empty social media buzz-posts.

I’d read anything Dabiri writes in the future.
Was this review helpful?
For a relatively small book, it really packs a punch!!!

Emma Dabiri's 'What White People Can Do Next' is essentially a guide on the best steps moving forward following the tragic death of George Floyd last year. The book is not merely about the last year however, it looks at the systems that have existed for centuries that has lead to systemic racism within society, and leads to events like last year. Dabiri offers separate explorations of both UK and US systems, and how moving forward it will be beneficial to view these from different avenues in order to eventually achieve a common resolution.

This book really places emphasis on the importance of coalition moving forward, and how this will be key to breaking down systems, such as Capitalism, in order to achieve a world less concerned about the idea of 'race'.

Overall, this is a thoroughly researched essay, which offers a differing view to what I have previously read. It is powerfully written, and really manages to achieve its overall purpose in a concise and strong manner. I also really liked how Dabiri interspersed her own experiences throughout, which allowed for a personal connection to the author beyond just being the author of this book. I would highly recommend!
Was this review helpful?