Women's Equality Day: What I'm Reading

i am woman hear me roar from my suburban backyard. 

Each month, my kid's school hosts a book club for the parents. This year, they are kicking things off with Beverly Tatum's amazing book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria: And Other Conversations About Race. Best title ever. To help readers take in what is being said about racism, Tatum suggests drawing on one's own experience of subordination--as a young person, as a person with a disability, as someone who grew up poor, as a woman. And since today is Women's Equality Day, I felt I would read her book by using my experience as a woman. I highly recommend reading it! Here's some of my favorite points taken from the first 30 pages.

Somewhere, on the edge of consciousness, there is what I call a mythical norm, which each one of us within our hearts knows "that is not me.". In America, this norm is usually defined as white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, christian, and financially secure. It is within this mythical norm that the trappings of power reside within society. Those of us who stand outside that power often identify one way in which we are different, and we assume that to be the primary cause of all oppression, forgetting other distortions around the difference, some of which ourselves may be practicing. 

Dominant groups, by definition, set the parameters within which the subordinates operate. The dominant group hold the power and authority in society relative to the subordinates and determines how that power and authority may be acceptably used. The dominant group has the greatest influence in determining the structure of the society.

Subordinates are usually said to be innately incapable of being able to perform the preferred roles. To the extent that the targeted group internalizes the images that the dominant group reflects back to them, the may find it difficult to believe in their own ability.

Dominant groups generally do not like to be reminded of the existence of inequality. Dominant "can avoid awareness because their explanation of the relationship becomes so well integrated in other terms; they can even believe that both they and the subordinate group share the same interests and, to some extent, a common experience. 

For those readers who are in the dominant racial category, it may sometimes be difficult to take in what is being said by and about those who are targeted by racism. To that extent, one can draw on one's own experience of subordination--as a young person, as a person with a disability, as someone who grew up poor, as a woman
I can't wait to read more. It's giving me such a new perspective.

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  1. I read that book during college at NYU and am reading it again now in preparation for this school year. I highlighted many of the same things you mentioned in this post! It is a great read.

  2. I am in a Masters in Teaching program for Elementary Ed. with a social justice bent, and it's been blowing my hair back in a big way, especially around this topic. I'd love to read this book.

    Gotta say, pretty awesome that your kids' school is introducing this conversation to families. It's not often that race and dominant power structures are a part of conversation, but it's so critical. For those of us already comfortably situated in that "top tier" of society (white, middle-to-upper class), we have to innate privilege of being blissfully unaware of the situation of others. Confronting white privilege is a daily task. When I hear stuff like, "Are we still talking about race?" or "I'm color-blind, we're all equal!" (a nice thought but grossly missing the point), I get so frustrated.
    Thanks for sharing this.

    1. couldn't have said it better myself. no really, i tried. but i couldn't get the words out right. thank you so much!!!

  3. Looks like an insightful read, thanks for sharing!

  4. I will be interested to hear if the author offers any solutions. The scope of the problem lies in our human nature. Totally overwhelming. And a bit depressing....no ....very depressing.

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  6. That's a fantastic book, especially for white folks (myself included), and especially for parents and teachers (again, including myself)! Thank you for bringing so much of your personal and political life onto your blog. I wish other mom blogs were less about shoes and more about vital conversations like the one this book starts. Bravo! Please keep us updated on it!


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