Author and Phd researcher, Emma Dabiri’s What White People Can Do Next is directed at a very specific audience. With a confrontational title, the message of the book is pretty straight-forward and ambitious. The text is a long essay which consists of a set of guidelines that offers white people a way to confront systemic racism that does not fall into historically cliched and ineffectual advice.
Dabiri’s central argument is that instead of relying upon the practice of “allyship” which is a form of the “white savior” complex, there should be a push towards “coalition”-building. She asserts that allyship stems from white privilege and can only go so far as its true intent is to assuage white guilt. It also leads to a type of activism that diffuses over time and does not lead to actual change. Coalitions are more effective as they are mutually beneficial to all of the parties involved and thus there is motivation to have a productive outcome.
The book is quite short and so while there are many ideas, they are not supported that well. There are statistics and quotes from experts along with anecdotes from Dabiri’s experiences being an Irish and Nigerian woman who currently lives in the UK. She frequently cites James Baldwin, a famous African American author who was a prominent figure in the 1960s Civil Rights movement of the United States. These details add some authority to the argument but not enough to truly sway a debate. However, that is not the purpose of the book, as it is meant to be for readers who are already inclined towards racial justice but who need more direction on how to address it without having to read boundless academic books.
Overall, I do agree with the message of the book as it also critiques whiteness as a socially constructed idea, along with the issues of capitalism. Its concise and palatable text provides an informative and yet comfortable reading experience. For anyone who is interested in actual productive activism and would like to have a better understanding of the systemic issues, Dabiri’s book offers an excellent introduction.
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