Tiffany's Reviews > My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir

My Long Trip Home by Mark Whitaker
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's review
Nov 09, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: memoirs
Read from February 06 to 15, 2012

I finished this book on BART on my way in this morning, and I was in tears. I think that Mark Whitaker did a remarkable service to his mother and father by writing this book. It really makes me want to interview my family to make sure my family history is recorded for posterity.

Yesterday, I read a passage of an exchange that Mark had with his father that completely resonated with me for some things I'm seeing lately.

It's from page 285 and briefly quoted here:
"Human nature is to abuse power. You see that in Africa, where there are so few constraints against it. Every soldier at a checkpoint feels free to wave his gun at you. Every customs official feels entitled to shake you down for a bribe."
"Well, first you can learn that the questino is not why people abuse power, but what checks are in place to prevent them from doing so."
"Look, you also have to realize that most people who abuse power don't think they're doing it. They've justified it based on their own view of the world."
"An old friend of mine had an expression: Everyone has their own set of jokes. It was a metaphor, but what it meant was that every person, every tribe, has their own traditions and prejudices and ways of defending their actions. You may not think that their jokes are funny, but you're not going to convince them of that. And if you want to operate in their world, you have to learn their jokes. So by all means try to be normative, as we political scientists like to say. Do your best to be fair and rational and hope that it will set an example and encourage others to respond in kind. But remember: That's just your set of jokes. And don't be surprised if the world doesn't always respond in kind. Because then the joke will be on you."
all quotes are from Mark's father, Syl Whitaker
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