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After two-and-a-half years, hosts Sara Blanchard and Misasha Suzuki Graham have gotten used to the knee-jerk reaction the title of their podcast, Dear White Women, can elicit. So, they say they’re prepared to see one-star reviews appear on Amazon from people who haven’t even cracked open their new book of the same name (which was released October 12).
The obvious irony is that the fragility such responses betray is part and parcel of the systemic racism they’re trying to help eradicate. But the deeper layer is that Blanchard and Suzuki Graham (both half Japanese) are actually the kindest, most compassionate guides a white woman—or, really, anyone—could hope to have when approaching the difficult, often awkward work of confronting and dismantling bigotry within ourselves and our most intimate circles of family, friends, and colleagues.
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“What we wanted to model is that it doesn’t have to make you feel bad. It’s uncomfortable, but there doesn’t have to be guilt,” says Blanchard, who lives in Central Park. “As biracial women ourselves, we’ve been privy to the conversations that are happening in largely white circles. We worked hard to make it feel like we were talking to some of our friends and welcoming more people into the conversation.”
To that end, Blanchard and Suzuki Graham employ an upbeat, encouraging tone throughout the book, which is divided into three sections: On Being White In America, On Being Black In America, and On Being A Non-Black Person Of Color In America. Each pain-point-based chapter (“Excuse Me, I Don’t Have White Privilege”; “Driving While Black”; “Who Is Latinx, Anyway?”) contains three elements: Listen, Learn, and Act. Listen makes the issue relatable with a true story; Learn dives into any relevant history and context; and Act gives tangible strategies for navigating everyday situations and conversations.
For example, “All Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter” begins with Suzuki Graham’s experience of displaying the “Black Lives Matter, My Life Matters” posters her sons (her husband, the boys’ father, is Black) made for a protest by the family’s Bay Area mailbox. Then the authors detail the 2003 origin of the saying, its evolution into a hashtag, and the dichotomy—you’re either “on the side of law and order (police) or not (#BlackLivesMatter)”—that arose and grew into the false narrative that Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization. Finally, the chapter concludes with analogies and talking points to use the next time someone says “But don’t all lives matter?”—whether that someone is your co-worker, your old college roommate, or your kid.
“Your work, your family, the PTA, your book club—there are so many ways women especially have this power to influence in their lives that we are often not given credit for or don’t take advantage of,” Blanchard says. Dear White Women’s easily digestible format and concrete guidance on how to leverage those relationships to effect change is what sets it apart from important but more theoretical antiracism tomes—and what makes it ideal for group discussion, particularly for busy mothers.
“If this could be the start of an ongoing conversation for groups of women who are already talking about how to raise the kids and what sneakers are cool—if this could be one more thing that they discuss more regularly with each other—that would be amazing,” Blanchard says.