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What White People Can Do Next: From Allyship to Coalition

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INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER In the spirit of We Should All Be Feminists and How to Be an Antiracist, a poignant and sensible guide to questioning the meaning of whiteness and creating an antiracist world from the acclaimed historian and author of Twisted.

Vital and empowering What White People Can Do Next teaches each of us how to be agents of change in the fight against racism and the establishment of a more just and equitable world. In this affecting and inspiring collection of essays, Emma Dabiri draws on both academic discipline and lived experience to probe the ways many of us are complacent and complicit—and can therefore combat—white supremacy. She outlines the actions we must take, Stop the Denial
Interrogate Whiteness
Abandon Guilt
Redistribute Resources
Realize this shit is killing you too . . .  To move forward, we must begin to evaluate our prejudices, our social systems, and the ways in which white supremacy harms us all. Illuminating and practical, What White People Can Do Next is essential for everyone who wants to go beyond their current understanding and affect real—and lasting—change.

176 pages, Paperback

First published April 1, 2021

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About the author

Emma Dabiri

5 books379 followers
Emma Dabiri is an Irish-Nigerian author, academic, and broadcaster. Her debut book, Don't Touch My Hair, was first published in 2019.
Dabiri is a frequent contributor to print and online media, including The Guardian, Irish Times, Dublin Inquirer, Vice, and in academic journals. She is known for her outspokenness on issues of race and racism.
She now lives in London, where she is completing her PhD while also teaching and continuing her broadcast work.

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Profile Image for s.penkevich.
964 reviews6,817 followers
February 9, 2023
Recommended read for Black History Month!

If you are involved in organizing or theorizing on progressive avenues through society, particularly regarding racism and economic inequality, Emma Dabiri has a condensed course you need to check out. Despite the title, What White People Can Do Next is a rallying cry to decenter whiteness and disconnect it from its economic implications in an attempt for a more efficient and inclusive movement towards social and economic equity, environmentally sustainable society, and a more just socioeconomic system. While Dabiri doesn’t deny it is an arduous process, she outlines a course of action to combat white supremacy and inequalities that is highly based in the theories of Fred Hampton, James Baldwin and Angela Y. Davis among others, that centers on coalition building and economic class solidarity. ‘I just need you to recognize this shit is killing you, too,’ she writes in a bold cry for unity across racial lines she details as socially constructed hierarchies of power. Fresh, sharp and very forward thinking, Emma Dabiri untangles many aspects of antiracist theory to reexamine and reapply racial politics and anti-capitalist theory in a very well argued pathway towards tangible change.

What interests me is thinking about the ways in which a vast array of oppressions or forms of disadvantage might have a common origin.

There are endless reasons to love your public library. I’m lucky to be able to be a part of one, which also means I’m lucky to know people who dedicate themselves to informational freedom and the betterment of their community. These truly are the people to learn from, which is how I had this book recommended from a friend with an incredible ability of societal analysis and always has helpful insights (and our discussion of the book really helped me shape my understanding of it, so my presentation of it here is the result of our collective conversations). We both sit on the library inclusivity committee so we get to devote a lot of energy to these topics, which I love. Anyways, this book was one of the most engaging lessons in social theory that scratched many cerebral itches but also felt highly applicable to everyday life. This is one of the best aspects of Dabiri’s ideas because they can be applied to anyone in any aspect of their lives as a way to more clearly identify and subvert oppressive social constructs. If anything, this is one of the most productive angles of activism that manage to reach across the aisle without feeling like you are compromising your beliefs. Dabiri’s book is a punch up at white supremacy and is a ‘call to abolish a concept, an idea, an ideology, ne that was unambiguously created to divide people, a tool with which to manipulate the exploited to keep them from acting in their own long-term interests.

But where to start? ‘Instead of organizing to create substantive change, we are squabbling with each other over words,’ Dabiri writes. You may have seen this, as it seems much of our antiracist or racially aware literature is centered on testimonies and analytics over and over to once again prove that racism exists, is systemic and is emotionally damaging. The opposition stalemates much progress by refusal to admit or accept this is true, causing us to continuously try new angle and analyse society more efficiently. We tend to stay stuck reassessing terms and finding more marketable representation, but, as Dabiri points out Black people can be represented while still doing poorly (the publishing industry, for example, has slightly increased employee inclusivity but the growth was almost entirely in entry level positions and low-tier marketing jobs and not administrative, decision making positions with financial security.) While we seem to have a general idea of what we don’t want and want to fight against, ‘we find it much harder to articulate what we do want.’ This book is about finding what we want and moving forward with it because ‘until we can come up with a convincing counternarrative we are unlikely to achieve the antiracist world we claim to desire.

While Dabiri’s book could very well function as an entry point into antiracist and abolitionist thought, it does help to come with a bit of background reading (So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo tends to be my favorite and most encompassing book to recommend when at my bookstore or library jobs). In what feels akin to the idea of writing rules where you need to learn and understand them in order to progressively break them, Dabiri critiques and reassesses the recent increased output of antiracist literature in ways that speaks to opposition points by finding common ground but then showing them a more productive way to approach their criticisms. Allyship or activism centered on righting wrongs or undoing guilt, she argues, is counterproductive and if the goal is removal of guilt ‘the action runs the risk of being useless, if not detrimental,’ as goes many of the criticisms of using White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism in organizational learning about racism due to its centering of white feelings. ‘My fear is that much of the antiracist literature is an iteration of the same process of maintaining and reaffirming whiteness,’ she writes, and opens the book with a discussion on how concepts of allyship tend to inherently violate this as well.
With its reliance on information rather than knowledge, its fetishizing of privilege without any clear means of transfereal, as well as the ways in which it actively reinforces whiteness, allyship is not only not up to the task, it is in many ways counterproductive.

A major reason, she argues, is that ‘a commitment to allyship with black people doesn’t automatically mean you don’t think black people are somehow inferior: it means you don’t think they should be treated discriminatorily as a result.’ She talks about how so much of antiracist literature seems to be offputting for white people because they see it as having to give something up, and she argues we should work on messaging that draws them in on class lines. Because, as she will unpack, whiteness is ‘is an erasure, a generic term that collapses crucial distinctions in order to consolidate capital,’ and even those who identify as white are often othered and ousted from the elite circle that uses whiteness, power, and economic mobility to keep poor whites down as collateral damage in their system to oppress minoritized groups.
[T]he sense of superiority encoded into whiteness remains a very effective ruse to distract “white people” from the oppression many of them experience keenly; the pressure of financial precariousness, the unaffordability of a home, the erosion of healthcare and education, or any of the other countless deprivations endured while trying to “make a living” in a world that has become increasingly unlivable.

Dabiri argues that if people can realize they too are being destroyed in their complicity with this system, we can chart a more unified course forward that addresses systemic issues of capitalism in order to achieve greater liberty and standards of living for all.

On this note, I’m curious of the discourse of this book with other women activists of color. Dabiri calls for coalition building—highly influenced by Fred Hamton’s coalition building such as the Rainbow Coalition centered around a socialist movement that united many groups—that has meet with scrutiny and arguments in other books that white groups tend to co-opt the movement and push out their Black partners. Ijeoma Oluo, for instance, has a chapter in her book Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America that criticizes Senator Bernie Sander’s (as she does in this article) for what she says is inflating class struggle over racial struggle and details how this is a frequent setback when trying to coalition build with white socialists. Dabiri herself argues the two are inextricably linked and need to be addressed as so, though I’m interested in reading and thinking more on how to productively coalition build with these potential issues in mind (as well as issues of patriarchy and women or quer activists being sidelined and silenced by cishet men, as Audre Lorde wrote about). ‘Of course,’ Dabiri writes, ‘it is vital to remember while coalition building that we cannot subsume everything under one single structure, but that is exactly why we need coalitions of shared interests…far more persuasive to be presented with a clear vision of the type of society we want to create because we all stand to benefit from it.’ However, she does caution that ‘not everyone “calling out” the system wants to create a more just one. There are plenty who merely seek access to the levers of power for themselves.

Stripping humans of meaning in their lives, beyond their racial identity, creates a fertile breeding ground for violent forms of nationalism--state,racial, and ethnic--to grow.

In order to understand how to subvert white supremacy, Dabiri steps into history to show how racial categories became an economic construct to divide and oppress. This is an important aspect as it identifies all the ways whiteness has become a dominant feature upheld by laws such as Jim Crow and redlining. This also nudges towards ideas of Critical Race Theory and how when there is legal progress ‘the breakthrough is quietly cut back by narrow interpretation, administrative obstruction, or delay’ as Richard Delgado writes in Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. The codification of racial categories into law, she argues, began in 1661:
Before 1661, the idea of “white people” as a foundational “truth” did not exist. The Barbados Slave Code, officially known as An Act for the Better Ordaining and Governing of Negroes, announced the beginning of a legal system in which race and racism were codified into law, and is where our understanding of “White” and “Negro”—as separate and distinct “races”—finds its earliest expression.

Her brief yet effective historical context, that even addresses how our concepts of self-improvement sprouted from the linguistic soils of capitalism, leads to her conclusion that ‘racial categories were invented to enshrine the idea of white supremacy,’ and in order to destroy white supremacy we must delegitimize it by not centering it as a binary in antiracist work as well as simultaneously addressing capitalism.

Many of the cherished categories of the intersectional mantra—originally starting with race, class, gender, now including sexuality, nation, religion, age, and disability—are the products of modernist colonial agendas and regimes of epistemic violence, operative through a Western/Euro-American formation through which the notion of discrete identity has emerged.
-Jasbir K. Purar

If most of our language and scope of addressing racism is couched in the rhetoric and worldviews of colonialism and capitalism, how can we properly undo it from within? Or, as poet Audre Lorde says, ‘The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House.’ Dabiri calls for thinking and acting from outside these limitations and that activism must also be committed to decolonizing our ideas of activism. While she understands the purpose of capitalizing the B in Black, she also argues that it is legitimizing racial boundaries that remove nuance in a way similar to how whiteness flattened cultures into one category for economic power at the expense of individuality and heritage (Dabiri does point out how antiracist ideas vary country to country due to the racial politics and landscapes of each and admits in America there is less emphasis on individual culture already due to melting pot ideas which makes the 'melting' into a general category of “whiteness” even easier, making 'whiteness' what people mean when they say a melting pot culture in order to exclude anyone who doesn't internalize these standards). This is also based, she says, in how immigrants such as the Irish or Polish were considered non-white until they gained enough collective capital to be “accepted” into whiteness in the US. It's like finding a cheat code in a video game so everyone you decide should have an advantage can all play as the same more powerful character while everyone else has to use ones that don't have the same advantages. Dabiri uses bell hooks’s argument against the capitalization of her own name as an example as well because hooks ‘uncapitalized her name to focus on her ideas rather than her personality’ and Dabiri's argument is we should focus on individual culture's instead of an umbrella term that, while it may offer collective unity, is based in the same theories that oppress them in the consolidation of whiteness.

Another major aspect of this book is the criticisms of social media and the commercialization of activism. She talks about how so much of social media is just posturing and sharing information but rarely knowledge, while often being more concerned with who is more marketable than who is actually making progress.
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.

She also argues that simply “calling people out” is not as helpful as taking action in movements against those actions, but adds ‘do both if you must, but certainly don’t let the latter distract you from the former.’ Much is to be said about the ways we play into capitalism algorithms that market our ideas for profit by participating in them, and she expands on this in interesting ways.

What if we reject all of the options on offer and create our own terms of engagement.

Emma Dabiri’s What White People Can Do Next is a refreshing step forward that is able to eloquently and accessibly address complex systemic issues in order to affect change in the world. While fairly short and quickly readable, this is an essential resource that covers a vast range of topics and shows how they are all interlaced. The rejection of Eurocentric thought and colonialist frameworks (quite well represented in Natasha Brown’s novel Assembly), helpful rebuttals to common criticisms (‘Lots of groups have prejudicial attitudes; the damage is done when these are shored up by power’) and the call for coalition building is an empowering and inclusive plea that we should all listen to. This book makes the information understandable and applicable to everyone and is an essential read for those working towards progress.


Exploitation and inequality are the operating logic of capitalism.
Profile Image for Morgan M. Page.
Author 8 books734 followers
April 18, 2021
Emma Dabiri wades into the anti-racist handbook industrial complex with this short but surprisingly radical text. While most of the other anti-racist guides aimed at well-meaning white people on the market tend to focus on micro-aggressions, unpacking privilege, and individual ways of being less problematic, Dabiri pushes us to reject the increasingly neoliberal trend of inclusivity and join together in a truly coalitional politics that may actually be able to address institutional racism.

The demands are straight forward: understand coalition; stop the denial; stop the false equivalences; interrogate whiteness; interrogate capitalism; denounce the white saviour; abandon guilt; pull people up on racism; stop reducing black people to one dimension; read, read, read — and dance; redistribute resources; recognize this shit is killing you, too; and post-activism. Each is expanded upon in brief chapters, making an overarching argument towards an anti-capitalist and ecological-centric coalition to end whiteness as a system and ensure the future for all life on earth.

This book is really worth your time.
Profile Image for The Artisan Geek.
445 reviews7,262 followers
Want to read
February 23, 2021
I have read bits and pieces of Dabiri's work previously and am very interested in giving this book a go. Racism is a complex and often very tricky topic to talk about and so I am happy to have this book as a conversation starter in the future.

You can find me on
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Profile Image for Hena J. Bryan.
3 reviews211 followers
April 5, 2021
Hello Bookish Babies,

I recently read 𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘞𝘩𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘗𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘊𝘢𝘯 𝘋𝘰 𝘕𝘦𝘹𝘵 by @emmadabiri and felt inspired to share my main takeaways from this insightful, radical essay.

Emma’s interrogation of whiteness explores how racism (and other subsequent results of isolative measures including colourism, featurism and texturism) is deeply rooted in capitalist agendas aimed at wealth creation and retention.

Dating back to imperial Britain’s US settlement and slave trade efforts during the 16th century, 𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘞𝘩𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘗𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘊𝘢𝘯 𝘋𝘰 𝘕𝘦𝘹𝘵 speaks on racism being a carefully crafted tool that helped, and still aids, capitalism. Emma writes “… in many ways race and capitalism are siblings,” a statement that I understand but don’t necessarily agree with; the extent of my disagreement being found in the closeness of the familial relationship.

Whilst capitalism as an economic system thrives on the exploitation of one group of people for the material gain of another – a definition that once lent itself entirely to racism – racism is now the bitter ex-wife that is separate to capitalism, but is still healing from the trauma of being wed.

𝘞𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘞𝘩𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘗𝘦𝘰𝘱𝘭𝘦 𝘊𝘢𝘯 𝘋𝘰 𝘕𝘦𝘹𝘵 is a thought-provoking look at white allyship and racial coalition that confronts whiteness (supremacy, denial, guilt and saviourism) by telling white people to accept that colonisation, imperialism and racism is at the root of their current privilege.

By examining the attitudes of poorer white people during 16th century US settlement, we find that capitalism was created to uphold the elite.

This led to poorer white people developing feelings of animosity and resentment towards the British Empire as capitalism byway of colonialism highlighted the class difference between the rich and the poor.

It wasn't until the elite passed laws that segregated poorer white people from slaves – by weaponising whiteness and attaching it to superiority and privilege – that racism was birthed in a bid to settle white on white tension.


I really enjoyed Emma’s exploration and believe that this is a necessary text.


Be sure to follow my Instagram for more bookish updates: @Henajbryan
Profile Image for Brandice.
911 reviews
May 5, 2022
What White People Can Do Next offers guidance on how to move beyond allyship. Speaking out against racism remains critical but to progress and create lasting change, action must be taken beyond just speaking out.

I found the first half of this book to read very academic and formal, enough that I considered setting it aside, but I’m glad I didn’t. I don’t think the tone shifted in the second half as much as I just found the content itself more engaging.

“We need to do things differently. It can no longer be business as usual. It is a matter of urgency that we craft responses to racism that don't themselves reinforce a reinvestment in racial categories as absolute and unchanging facts of life. We need to expose and end institutional racism without deeper slippage into beliefs about racial identity as biological essence.”

At 150 pages, the book is worth the read — Major themes include but are not limited to denouncing the white savior, ending false equivalencies, redistributing resources, and postactivism — 3.5 stars
Profile Image for Elena.
766 reviews260 followers
February 19, 2023
In ihrem Essay "Was weiße Menschen jetzt tun können: Von »Allyship« zu echter Koalition" lässt die Autorin und Dozentin Emma Dabiri, in der Übersetzung von Dr. Marion Kraft, ihre Gedanken hin zu einer gerechteren Gesellschaft wandern. Genau diesen Weg zeigt sie präzise auf und macht vor allem eines klar: Weißes "Allyship" und performativer Online-Aktivismus reichen ihr nicht aus. Diese würden vielmehr unterdrückerische Mechanismen wie den White Savior Komplex bestärken und aufrecht erhalten.

Die Autorin plädiert stattdessen dafür, die rassistischen Kategorien "Weiß" und "Schwarz" als Unterdrückungsmechanismen des Kapitalismus zu erkennen, die nur einer (reichen) herrschenden Klasse nützen, die immer mehr Keile in die Gesellschaft treiben möchte, um ihre eigene Macht zu erhalten. Sie wirbt für echte Koalitionen und Verständnis dafür - um es mit ihren eigenen, treffenden Worten zu sagen -, dass uns dieser Scheiß eben letztlich alle umbringt.

Emma Dabiri ist in ihrem Essay ein Balanceakt gelungen: Sie kritisiert Formen des Aktivismus, spricht ihnen aber nicht ihren Wert ab, sondern macht vielmehr deutlich, dass eine Konzentration auf kleine Rädchen ohne Bekämpfung des Systems an sich nicht zum gewünschten Ziel, der Lösung von repressiven und klassistischen Denksystemen und einer besseren Welt für alle Menschen, führen kann. In mir hat das Buch sehr viel angestoßen, und mir zahlreiche neue Denkansätze geboten. Besonders toll fand ich zudem das Kapitel über Schwarze Literatur, in dem die Autorin eine Leseliste Schwarzer Schreibender an die Hand gibt.

"Was weiße Menschen jetzt tun können" ist zugleich unangenehm zu lesen, weil es sehr entlarvend ist, andererseits durch seine Kürze und Prägnanz aber auch ein echter Pageturner. Von mir gibt es eine große Leseempfehlung!
Profile Image for Aoife - Bookish_Babbling.
316 reviews326 followers
October 21, 2021
Eeep - this got way longer that I'd anticipated. SORRY! 🙊


Great collection of thought provoking essays shining light not only on how racism but classism has affected the USA as well as the roles + often vastly differing ripple effects seen in the UK & Ireland in particular; the two other countries this author has resided in. Her lived experiences vary wildly and deepen the conversations that need to happen. We can all (I hope) recognise that racism does not exist in a vacuum; not everyone’s experience is the same therefore there can be no one solution to fix all! Conversations are obviously musts, but we also all need to be open to *listening* - Emma has insightful takes on the role of social media and preformative activism. Her first essay’s comparison of the abolitionists to modern day activism is mind opening! 📝
In a market that can sometimes seem US-centric (particularly on GR) it is refreshing and *needed* to hear/discover/be reminded that while what happened/is happening in the US is important to talk about it is far from alone in these experiences and classism/wealth inequalities are inextricably linked with dismantling the hierarchy that has long failed many but the priviledged who sell the aspirational dreams. My dissertation for my undergrad took a rather superficial (with hindsight) look at the colonisation of Algeria by France and the Congo by Beligum…a country that should NEVER be excluded from these conversations! Don’t get me wrong I am definitely nowhere near an expert and sadly have forgotten much of what I studied/wrote then…I need to remedy this. Europe has plenty to answer for/reckon with as well, soz have wandered somewhat off topic! 🙈

Dabiri’s stance on anti-racism & allyship may seem radical and/or polarising to some, especially post-2020, but her penchant for asking questions is an inspiration and revealed such a wealth of information with much food for thought + many recommendations for future reading/self-education with the quotes she has included. I foresee a rabbit hole in my very near future. 🤓

Her writing is a delightful mix of educational essay style and colloquialisms peppered throughout as she speaks “normally” (for a person raised in Ireland) with some cursing and a wonderful explanation of yer’wan which I hope was not only in the audiobook but is also present in print. 🤩
I felt it lent an accessibility to the topics that put the reader somewhat at ease and more open to contemplating the questions she is posing.

Her feeling that 2020 has the world balanced on the precipice of either something new but really hard to achieve or risk of falling harshly backwards is one that has played on my mind and is something we all need to be mindful of as we reopen...what kind of world do we want to live in? Are we truly ready for the changes that are needed & the struggle it could take to achieve them? Equality in all its forms, Climate, etc – a potential dismantling of the status quo when those who benefit the most are often in the driving seat 🤔

All these issues/worries are interconnected and the fact that Emma Dabiri has managed to pack international, historical, statistical & highly thought provoking words into 100odd pages blows my simple mind and keeps the cogs turning with so many more questions. I do not think I am doing this reading experience justice, please pick it up and come back to talk with me about it – there is too much for me to fit into this “review”…but obviously I needed to talk about it 🤗😅
Profile Image for Phoebe.
84 reviews12 followers
March 11, 2021
This was an intelligent, thought-provoking and educating essay. It looks at what white people need to actually do to create change in relation to racial justice.
This book is unlike any other racial justice books or essays I have read. Emma Dabiri takes a different stance on anti-racism compared to what I have commonly seen, especially during 2020. A focus is put on shared goals, interests, and interrogating capitalism, rather than focusing on privilege. Dabiri argues that no change, or little change can occur without coalition. Her discussions on the biological terms/labels of ‘white’ and ‘black’ and how she believes they should be erased, due to them only reinforcing racism and the exploitation of one group of people, opened my eyes. She disputes allyship and privilege, focusing rather on forming kinships that defy the divisions that were intended to weaken.
I think this book was very well written and researched. It made me think about how I can get to the root of the problem to do better and it enforced how mutuality is so important. Mutuality rather than charity that is so often performed.
I would recommend this book as it offers clear points that cause you to question your behaviour and provides you with new ways of thinking without conforming to the terms and advice of online discourse surrounding anti-racism.
Thank you to NetGalley and Penguin Press UK for sending me an arc to review.
Profile Image for Terence Eden.
90 reviews8 followers
April 2, 2021
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.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
3,669 reviews2,661 followers
July 28, 2021
This is clearly in the mold of 2020’s antiracist books, but Dabiri wouldn’t thank you for considering her under the same umbrella. She doesn’t like the concept of allyship because it reinforces unhelpful roles: people of colour as victims and white people as the ones with power who can come and save the day.

Dabiri is Irish and Nigerian and grew up in the USA and Ireland. Her experience of racism was overt, including verbal and physical abuse. She challenges white people to stop the denial: ‘whiteness’ and ‘blackness’, though artificial constructs, have been with us since at least the 1660s, so racism is a system we have all been born into. “We’ve been conditioned to see the world through that lens for centuries. … over that you have no control. What you do have control over is what you do next.”

Dabiri emphasizes that monolithic categories like white and Black flatten a huge diversity of people and experiences. Hers is a political approach: She wants readers to interrogate capitalism and think about how resources can be redistributed more fairly. Her notion of coalition is about identifying common ground and shared goals. “On the most basic level, we have to see our struggles as interconnected because they are, and because we are.”

Reading this was like encountering an extended TED talk. I wasn’t taken enough with Dabiri’s writing style to seek out her previous book, but if you have an interest in the subject matter you may as well pick up this 150-pager.

Originally published on my blog, Bookish Beck.
Profile Image for Alexandra.
536 reviews
January 2, 2023
Poorly thought-through social commentary on the race front. A mishmash of personal opinion and popular “wokeness” that is a front for socialism aka. Untested communism aka. Benevolent totalitarian dictatorship

Not going to lie and say I did more than skim through the book. I stumbled across this in university [the only segment I read through was presented as a paper] hence that was on my reading list. Even my extremely left-leaning liberal professor was less than impressed and ripped the piece to shreds.

This is jumping on the bandwagon behind DeAngelo and Kendhi and the other con artists praying on people's good intentions, leveraging tragedies and historical unfairness [too the tune of original sin, martyrdom, self-flagellation, repentance confession, hail maries, and all the trappings of a new inquisitory religion]. It seems to be so easy to complain about “the system” and its “permanent or structural” problems while profiting from those systems. I doubt these authors have forsaken their phones, laptops, cars, clothes, etc. All proceeds from these books should HAVE to be donated to other non-published authors. After all, that’s how collective works right? the few work for the many? Equal in everything (mostly poverty but whatever right?)

This book glorifies ideals of utopia that look good on paper but resulted in the catastrophes in Cuba and Venezuela, completely ignoring how much good capitalism has done in the world, particularly the developing third world… this author is intentionally or unintentionally incredibly ignorant and with the power of google in the world this kind of foolishness almost has to be intentional by default. Hence I freely give the labels of charlatan and grifter, con artist and scammer.

Time would be better spent reading a Thomas Sowell or Martin Luther King Jr Book
The gulag archipelago or man's search for meaning… hell reading some urban fantasy or chick lit would be time better spent.
Profile Image for jess.
71 reviews14 followers
December 20, 2022
"we find ourselves at the dawn of a civilization ready to be remade anew."

First of all, if you haven’t read this book, go read it.

Antiracist narratives have gained popularity in the last few years, mostly due to the brutal murder of George Floyd; which led to outpouring displays of solidarity and far more visibility to the Black Lives Matter movement. During these circumstances Emma Dabiri created an online resource called What White People Can Do Next, which this book is an expanded version of. Despite its title, which is meant to be a provocation, the purpose of this book is to stop making whiteness the protagonist when race is being discussed. Dabiri manages to pack really important information in this tiny book in a way that is accessible to everyone. For a really insightful review on this book read s.spenkevich’

I can’t stress enough how much impact this book’s had on me, I’ll definitely recommend it to anyone who is interested in learning more on how race has shaped our lives and what to do to change it.

Bottom line at the beginning because I'm going to be rambling a lot: Don’t make whiteness the protagonist of your speech! Don’t be patronizing! Don’t just engage in social media activism! Read, read, read, and dance!

Capitalism controls every aspect of our lives, and as the author points out while providing historical context, the invention of 'race as social construct' came about to "justify the exploitation of one group of people for the material benefit of another". It’s common to see microagressions in the spotlight, but is also necessary to see the bigger picture. Class is often downplayed when discussing race despite being an important factor. White people even though they don’t experience racism, often have diminished life opportunities, which the author claims it serves a possibility to build coalition. Many of the ways of dividing people is by making them fight and making them feel one is a threat to the wellbeing of the other, and unless you’re a wealthy white cisgender heterosexual male (see how many unless) you’re bound to be a part of one or more 'marginalized' group(s), and it should be in your interest to liberate yourself from that. The word privilege is widely used, but the author proposes to use power instead, since most of the people talking about privilege don’t have it, because of their class struggles. The idea is not that privilege doesn’t exist, but if we want people to unite as equals, constantly pointing out a privilege narrative does little good since it continues to perpetrate the idea that we are inherently different.

"Like all human beings, black people are motivated by the whole range of human emotion, and not all of these motivations will be altruistic."

No one is inherently good, or bad, or anything really, people are molded by a lot of different things, and skin color is not one of them. However, we have adopted the image of Black people that has been laid out for centuries, where Black women were made for service, are submissive, selfless, narrow-minded, suited for domestic work only, and Black men are angry, animalistic, hypersexual, violent criminals.

It’s common to hear that someone is 'not being black enough.' All over the media, there are examples of how Black people should act, because being Black comes with these set pre-assumptions that being white does not. It’s natural to hear people commenting on someone, and making emphasis on the fact that the person they’re talking about is Black, as if you’re supposed to know what that means, to understand what is not being said, and when you called them out on it, they get defensive and say that they use the term 'white' when they’re talking about white people, but let’s be honest, they don’t; and what’s worse is they probably don’t realize they’re doing it, because they never interrogate their whiteness.

"Whiteness as a truth and as an unnamed system of knowledge remained unchallenged. White perspectives continued to be seen not as “white perspectives” but as objective truths, while black perspectives continued to be perceived as just that: deviations from the norm. Whiteness was not named and it was certainly not questioned."

One of the most common tropes when discussing racism is the white savior. Stories of people of color that center around the benevolent white person, who is not afraid to face backslash from their conservatives societies because they’re fighting for the 'greater good', might be well intended, but tend to eclipse narratives told by actual people of color, making them passive observers to their own stories.

Little to no mainstream antiracist literature actually questions 'whiteness', it is assessed as an undeniable truth, and all we can do is aim for white people to be more 'considerate'. Wanting to abolish whiteness is not meant to be an attack on white people, we should be wanting to scape that concept that was created to divide us as well. We need to question everything, rather than accepting what has been passed down to us, because it clearly isn’t working. "The White Savior can only exist because of the power imbalance generated by white supremacy, so it’s paradoxical."

Recently online activism has become the mean to do any kind of activism, replacing actually doing something with, well, a performance. The need to follow what’s 'trending' in social media plataforms is somewhat counterproductive, because these hollow, worthless gestures become the standard thing to do, and even if people argue it gives 'visibility', what's the use if no work is actually being done in the real world.

"The internet has often facilitated dissemination of information rather than knowledge." Being fed what to think is easier than actually putting in the work to think for themselves, so people accept whatever comes their way without a doubt, and even if that's not the case, and you want to help or know more about what can be done, it’s easy to fall for fake news and clickbaits.

The Black Lives Matter protests in 2020 became huge on social media with a lot of supporting messages to the cause, but the author speaks about how it made many of her pears angry since it felt like a trend. "Isn’t that the substance (or lack thereof) of online activism more generally? As a representational tool, isn’t it by its very nature performative?"

Is necessary to actually do something in real life, social media should be the place where people share what possitive things are being done in order to change the system and be inspired by other people rather than the place to post something to calm their conscience.

"What type of movement encourages you to build others up by diminishing yourself?"

The system we’re currently living in depends on exploitation and inequality, so any cry for unity threatens that, and because of this, the people who benefit from it want to accentuate our differences.
"we should try to understand our lives as a dynamic flowing of positions" as opposed to the rigid identity norms that have been imposed by capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy.
"Capitalism has colonized the most intimate quarters of human experience." Capitalism evolved into a competitive, highly individualistic system, and that defines the way we interact with each other, the environment and it motivates the way activism is being made. Interpersonal privilege over equality.

So we’re forced to define ourselves, "insert race/gender/sexuality/class/disability." and as a consequence we are divided, and each fighting for their groups rights when, in the end we’re all fighting for the same reason: Collective Liberation.

Right now it feels like you have to identify yourself before giving your opinion about something, and according to the way you describe yourself you’ll be judged regardless of the actual value of your words. It’s like people don’t care to listen.
"we need to move away from thinking about individual “good people” to developing just systems."

The author proposes coalition over allyship as a way to achieve this, defining the latter as an individualistic process that would only separate us more. Instead "coalition is about mutuality. It reframes the task as identifying common ground—while attending to the specificities of racism—that all can strive for and that all will benefit from." It’s solidarity as opposed to charity. She bases this, on coalition building that have work in the past.

We all need racism to end, we are not doing people of color a favor. Victimizing them is really dehumanizing, and incredibly damaging. "We need policies, programs, and incentives.". These are the changes we need. Right now, the focus is on microagressions, that, yes, need to be eliminated as well, but the problem is bigger than that.

"Racism continues to affect people emotionally, psychologically, and in terms of both access to and denial of opportunity. It continues to be responsible for the death and diminished life opportunities of more black people than we will ever be able to name. As the most basic starting point we need to acknowledge that before we can move on. And move on we must, because “whiteness” as a system is destructive, not just of racialized others, but of everything that it envelops; and while we’re busy trying to survive and to overcome racial oppression, we remain distracted from what is possibly the biggest threat we face—the destruction of our very biosphere."
Profile Image for Amanda Hupe.
953 reviews58 followers
August 21, 2021
“History is now. We are living it. If we can’t accept the past and how it affects wealth and opportunity and knowledge production and value systems, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.”

Last year, I read Emma Dabiri’s book called Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture and I learned so much. I was so pleased to receive What White People Can Do Next, courtesy of Harper Perennial and Emma Dabiri! This is a collection of anti-racist essays on what we need to do to completely dismantle systemic racism. With the surge of protests after the murder of George Floyd, many of my friends mentioned that all of their white friends and followers were coming to them to ask what they need to do—except Black people shouldn’t be doing the work. Black people are tired and then to expect them to educate everyone on racism is unfair. Emma Dabiri also received many of the same questions which led to this book. Another major theme recently is inclusion. However, Emma Dabiri argues that we need to abandon inclusion and allyship and form a coalition to truly make permanent changes. She also says we need to “Stop the Denial, Interrogate Whiteness, Abandon Guilt, Redistribute Resources, and Realize This Shit Is Killing You Too.”

“It is crucial to connect the dots between the origins of global capitalism and colonialism, and the invention of race.”

This is a quick read but don’t be fooled. Emma Dabiri takes a simple and straight-to-the-point approach with these essays. We all know what needs to be done, it is just about following through and holding government and corporations accountable. Colonialism changed the world and centered whiteness. This gave way to capitalism. Capitalist organizations center themselves and push everyone else down and the people who suffer the most are Black people and other communities of color. Emma Dabiri is adamant that breaking the establishment of capitalism will result in the right changes to become an anti-racist country filled with liberty and justice for all. This has been another phenomenal collection by Emma Dabiri, it deserves all the stars.
Profile Image for Oyinda.
674 reviews161 followers
October 25, 2021
Book 349 of 2021

3.5 ✨

This book wasn't written for me but I still appreciate the content. I absolutely loved the author's first book, but this didn't resonate with me in the same way.
Profile Image for My_Strange_Reading.
533 reviews87 followers
April 4, 2022
Wow. What a short and powerful read. I learned so much, and I encourage everyone to continue their social justice learning journey by reading this book.

I was challenged by this book to re-examine the idea of allyship and to try instead coalition building. The idea that allyship is rooted in the white person trying to be the savior, and the person of color being the victim blew up my learning. In coalition building, we are equals coming to the table to try and build a better world for both of us. We want change because we want change for the whole community because we are humans.

Thank you Dabiri for taking time to write this novel and helping us grow.
Profile Image for Paula.
430 reviews31 followers
July 5, 2021
I found big government, socialist politics, wealth redistribution at the heart of the book. Rather than rouse the working proletariat a hundred years ago to dig their own graves, this author is hoping to spur the bourgeoisie to do so by abandon capitalism to solve racism. Otherwise, it’s the same book Marx wrote

I want to hold programs and politicians, outrageously overpriced secondary education institutions (who have increased costs more than 500% of average inflation in every other industry) accountable rather than simply voting for property, sales and income tax increases to overfund failing programs With decades long histories of failure despite spending that outpaces inflation.

Understanding the economics, local and global, makes me a fiscal conservative, not a racist. Dismantling capitalism makes Dabiri a socialist, not a champion of racial equality. The argument is oversimplified and relies on low hanging fruit. In a word, it’s childish.. “It’s not fair”.. and it’s not. but the idea fair = comfortable, healthy, safe only applies to sharing the Xbox. I got news for you, North Korea, USSR and Cuba tried “fair”- they failed miserable and no one liked it, especially the people who starved to death. You think cop killings in America is a problem? Ask anyone over 45 from European Block about cop killings.

While I find the author to be a skilled social commentator, They are clearly not an economist, political scientist, sociologist, historian, or even slightly well informed. I can’t believe they are not ashamed of their ignorance.
Profile Image for Alva McDermott.
78 reviews5 followers
June 11, 2021
Fantastic, Dabiri’s writing is clear and concise throughout. It’s also refreshing for an Irish-Nigerian voice to be taking up space in this discourse
Profile Image for Kathy.
248 reviews
July 16, 2021
All lives matter. Words like don’t and stop shut people down. A coalition of many cultures is needed to make lasting change.
Profile Image for MissBecka Gee.
1,600 reviews637 followers
May 23, 2023
This book is short, but jam packed ideas.
The chapters break down into understand coalition, stop the denial, stop the false equivalences, interrogate whiteness, interrogate capitalism, denounce the white saviour, abandon guilt, pull people up on racism, stop reducing black people to one dimension, read, read, read — and dance, redistribute resources & recognize this shit is killing you too.
Each chapter gets into what these words mean to the author and history and encourage the reader to change their thought processes to help make a shift in the world.
It's about ignoring the trends and buzz words and doing the work when no one is watching.
The work toward coalition instead of inclusion.
I highly recommend this to everyone, she also has some fabulous resources in the notes for follow up reading.
Profile Image for Tedmarriott.
53 reviews
April 5, 2021
Yes. I rate this. I’m just gonna write a mini-essay here lol if u want to read it but in short I thought this was good. I think the genre of instructing white people on how to act and behave when it comes to racism is short-sighted and needs to go and hopefully this book can start this conversation.

This has captured the problems I have with allyship and anti-racist discourse and how patronising it can be, and how it’s devoid of the collation building thinkers like Fred Hampton and Audre Lorde mobilised behind some 50 years ago.

It looks like another ‘how to’ or ‘we need to talk about’ race book, but I think it’s marketed that way to then dismantle the problems that exist within the genre. It’s rooted in class and anti-colonialism analysis and how it has withstood and adapted throughout history. Particularly enjoyed it coming from the perspective of a Nigerian-Irish author which gave some refreshing perspectives on how changeable ‘whiteness’ and ‘blackness’ is geographically. It packs a lot in in a short space; it’s a bit like manifesto.

What this has shifted in my thinking as well, is seeing racism as a thing that is working. Not just as domination of one group of people over another group of people or as a contemporary structural issue. But as a historical project designed to conquer and divide people against their best interests.

I’ve seen a lot of criticism of modern, liberal identity politics and online activism that digs up a lot of points I agree with. But it’s often co-opted to delegitimise the violence and discrimination people of colour (and minority and indigenous people in general) face, and how they can be cut off from resources and communities of care, whilst taking and truncating the most ‘cringe’ parts of ‘identity politics’ into the totality of people’s goals for change. Appropriating MLK Jr’s vision of colour-blindness whilst downplaying the scale of racism and exculpating external institutions and forces (whether it’s a carceral system or every day racism) of blame and responsibility. Criticising identity politics has also become a bit of an infantile, bad faith industry of its own. I think this book was able to challenge and hold both accountable, which we need more of.

I know there were a few bits I wasn’t 100% sold on, or could have been beefed up a bit, and there’ll be things I’ll pick up on when I re-read it, but I hope this can be a silver-bullet to some of the limited ideas we’ve inherited from social media, anti-racist reading lists and the prism of privilege we assess things through.

Yeah, big up Emma Dabiri.
Profile Image for Nicole.
546 reviews49 followers
March 5, 2022
Netgalley eArc
german and english review

Ich bin so froh, dass ich das Buch angefragt und auch bekommen hatte. Vor allem, dass ich es nicht ewig in meiner Kindle App habe liegen lassen, sondern es auch gleich gelesen habe.

Das Buch ist so wichtig. Und wirklich gut zu lesen, es ist verständlich und es gibt einen mit Zitaten aus anderen Werken, mit Fußnoten, einfach die Möglichkeit noch tiefer in das Thema und die verschiedenen Sichtweisen einzutauchen, so viele Quellen, die man auch noch lesen kann.

Es ist auf jeden Fall eins der Sachbücher, dass mich noch lange beschäftigen und zum Nachdenken anregen wird.


I'm so glad that I requested the book and that I actually got it. I'm especially glad that I didn't leave in on my kindle app forever (like I always do), but that I read it right away.

This book is so important. It's really good to read, feels really accessible, and with all the quotes, and footnotes, at the end of the book, you have so much more material you can check out, to get some more views and perspectives.

It is totally a non fiction book that will stay with me for a long time and that I think about a lot.
Profile Image for Donna.
160 reviews25 followers
July 19, 2021
Dabiri’s profound research, knowledge, and incredible academics are literally saturated on the pages and I loved learning what I could. However, my brain power is extremely limited and it didn’t understand all the cleverness within this book 😅 so it was really challenging for me to read it. As Michael Scott would say “explain this to me like I’m 5.” Yeah. Someone please do! 😅 But who knows, maybe some day in the future I can come back to this book and understand it much better once I’ve read more on the subject/topics 💗 there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the book. It’s just my lack of academia and struggles to understand this super complex narrative (in my very personal opinion. *sigh* I wish I was cleverer…). It was too advanced for my unintelligent brain.
Profile Image for Esme Kemp.
217 reviews13 followers
September 19, 2021
A scathing indictment of capitalism, social media trends, buzzwords and gesture politics. Big up yourself Emma Dabiri. U rock my wurld.

Literally no excuses not to read this it’s bitesize and accessible.
Profile Image for drea.
50 reviews3 followers
June 24, 2022
Dabiri talks about this in the book itself, but, contrary to what the title might suggest, this book is really the anti-listicle. Instead of trying to give white people an allyship code of conduct for being a better individual activist, this book points white people in the direction of questions we as white people need to answer for ourselves, while participating in our own and others' liberation: How are we harmed by whiteness? What do we too have to gain from ending racism? How must we see ourselves as part of struggles for justice on a collective, not individual, front? How can we take whiteness of of the center of everything? I found this book to be such a refreshing, necessary, and empowering call to action for ending racism (and capitalism, and imperialism!) that cuts through the noise of the ineffective and distracting performance and social media activism so prevalent right now. I hope the next time there is an influx of white people waking up to the need to end white supremacy that this is at the top of the bestseller list.
Profile Image for Lianne.
49 reviews10 followers
April 11, 2021
Short, powerful book in which Emma Dabiri links allyship with white savourism. She makes a powerful case that the only way to implement real change is to move away from allyship and towards a coalition of shared interests and provides historical examples to illustrate how this can be done. I feel I have a lot to unpack after reading this, and expect I'll come back to it again and again. Recommended.
Profile Image for Marina.
373 reviews28 followers
April 18, 2021
Dabiri debunks the notion of ‘black’ and ‘white’ races, and argues that anti-racism isn’t about tweeting your allyship but, rather, working towards economic equality for all.
At first it felt a bit like reading something for a college course (she is an academic, after all) but I soon got used to the style and in the end it was reasonably easy to read, easy to understand and hard to argue with.
Profile Image for Cami.
47 reviews
June 12, 2021
Truly excellent explanation of why allyship is a functionally useless identifier and the actual steps people racialized as white can take to dismantle racism and human suffering more generally.
i was also introduced to the concept of black fugitivity through this text and i look forward to reading even more about it! 5 stars. 5 thumbs up.
Profile Image for Elisabeth.
3 reviews15 followers
July 23, 2021
4.5 // Solid, invitational, mostly accessible anti-capitalist intervention in neoliberal anti-racist politics. Would recommend to white folks, wanting to be a part of movement-bldg for collective liberation, who are feeling confused/stuck by the hyper-individualized and contradictory messages about antiracism that social media is flooded with.
Profile Image for Samina.
35 reviews18 followers
May 3, 2021
A book that everyone should read. Eye-opening and of the utmost importance to every being who wants a better world.
Profile Image for Natasha.
173 reviews17 followers
January 20, 2022
I'll have to reread this - even just to note the references down so I can research more!
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