Cover Image: Letters to My White Male Friends

Letters to My White Male Friends

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Member Reviews

Obviously I'm not the audience named in the title, seeing as I'm female, although I am White (I feel weird whether or not I capitalize that "w.") But in other ways, I am not the audience - I'm not in charge of anything. I'm not a decision maker. I'm the person at the bottom, pointing out how leadership does not reflect the base. Every time the book took a turn toward business decisions, I was surprised. In retrospect, I find myself wondering if this entire premise is sexist - are there so few white women in power that we can't be held accountable for racism? Hm. Do I feel insulted because I belong to a group without enough power to be considered a problem in this area?

But this is not about me. And the final message, which I took as meaning it might be just about time for all these powerful white male dinosaurs to step aside and make room for a more diverse future, well, I like that.

There's a lot of good information in this book. If you are a White man in a decision making position, you may find it helpful, especially if you want to evolve, rather than step aside.
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This is a powerful and much needed book as part of the canon of essays that help white people like me revisit my memories of growing up and living in this world and see it all in a new light.  As a white person, I do not ever have to "code switch" or carry the weight of "being a credit for my race."  I did not have teachers who lowered expectations about my potential because of my race.  The beauty of the format of Ross' book is it allowed me to shatter the myth I had that in my elementary, middle and high school, the black kids in my class had equal treatment/opportunity as I did because we were all middle-class.  This myth certainly did not hold true when I got to high school.  His book revisits his socialization inside white-dominant institutions and by doing so, it flipped the lens for me on how the experience for my black classmates was vastly different than my own due to systemic racism and bias.  Ross gives a searing portrait of law school and working in not-for-profits organizations whose mission is to serve BIPOC communities but are led by white people who write a check or do the "band-aid" actions to assuage guilt.  But the work never gets to the root causes of systemic racism.  I myself work in not-for-profits and this depiction is painfully accurate.  In his final section about action - he poses a series of questions for the reader -- I highlighted these for my reference and self-reflection because they are difficult but crucially important questions we each need to face as a white person.  

I highly recommend this book.
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This book is a series of letters (or rather, personal essays) that targets a very specific demographic - middle-aged, white men with higher education, and who are part of the mid-/upper-class group of managers, directors, entrepreneurs, and CEOs. Essentially, this is a book for the most privileged of privileged men. I suppose the full title of this book should be "Letters to My Rich White Male CEO Friends".

These are men who are "typically coddled and appeased." If there is an issue about race in their company, they often hire others to provide a quick seminar on the subject (and to check off a box on their to-do list), while they sit back, distance themselves from the conversation, and consider it a job well done without having actually done anything to better themselves or their company in the long run. This series of letters in this book is a call-to-action for these men to do better and to better their companies from the top down. They need to open their eyes to the prevalent racism that exists within their companies and in the broader society. 

This book discusses various topics related to racism. One of the topics that I really enjoyed reading about was Dax-Devlon Ross' discussion on privilege. Unlike other books on race that I've read, Ross recognizes his own privileges in terms of socio-economic, education, and citizenship status. I thought he did a great job comparing white privilege with his American privilege and how it is often very easy to forget your status and take your privileges for granted. However, with that being said, he also emphasized that Black people are not exempt from racism no matter their social, economic or educational background. Racism doesn't care if you're rich or educated - it works solely on the stereotypes associated with skin color. 

I also enjoyed reading the author's letter regarding non-profit organizations. While these organizations are supposed to help the poor and disadvantaged, they are not as benevolent or as equitable as we may think. The underlying purpose of most charities is tax avoidance and wealth preservation of rich white men, and the charities themselves often perpetuate white saviorism and appropriates stereotypes. While these organizations have helped many people, it is harmful to have them continuously run and managed by white men. 

I went into this book knowing full well that I'm not the target demographic but I still took away plenty from this book. I also think this book does a good job writing for its target demographic. Ross is a lawyer and he certainly writes like one - the book uses a lot of big words and cites quite a few legal cases and often approaches problems from a business perspective. For the most part, the letters read like a series of college essays with arguments supported by facts and by the author's personal experiences studying at elite schools and working alongside powerful white men.
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I’ve been reading a lot of books on social justice in the past few years and this book is exactly what it claims to be: a series of letters addressed to white men as if they were friends. A marvelous book particularly for someone wanting to learn more as a gateway book into social justice. A first, but certainly not final, step along the path.
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This book made me think, it made me uncomfortable, and it provided me with some beginning steps to start doing the work.
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This book has such an important narrative. I, as a white person, have been trying to better understand how I've been socialized and how I can improve. Ross's writing comes across as direct, but not necessarily accusatory.
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Eye opening, interesting and inventive are just three adjectives I would use to describe this book. I highly recommend this story.  It’s an important narrative in the battle on racism.
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