Mediocre by Ijeoma Oluo

mediocre“History is very kind to the memory of mediocre white men.”

Ijeoma Oluo’s Mediocre is a history of how the United States has upheld white male power, the systems they created, and how this has impacted society and given us the systemic issues we all continue to face today.

Oluo sets a tone from the start of the book, when she gracefully, effortlessly shows how simple it is to be trans-inclusive:

“Men without uteruses should not control our reproductive choices.”

“When I talk about mediocrity, I talk about success that is measured only by how much better white men are faring than people who aren’t white men.”

It was nice to see that allyship so clearly, right off the bat. I felt like I could relax, that whenever she needed to use the general words “women” and “men,” I could safely assume a meaning far more nuanced than a gender binary or the cis gaze. That held true throughout the book, with a few exceptions where the word “cis” really should have been added (such as when she stated that “every flavor of white man” has “at least a few representatives in their government”).

There were so many quotable moments in Mediocre, I was constantly highlighting. Oluo didn’t let anyone off the hook where criticism was fair and necessary; even some well-loved Democrats were rightfully taken off their pedestals. (I did notice her use of “on the left” and “left-leaning” seemed to be referring to liberals, not leftists, so that took some getting used to.) I learned a lot about how certain power structures came to be—whether in education, literature, politics, the workplace, or sports—and how they all tie back to racism. I also learned about some of the less obvious places where racist power structures still reside. Oluo shows us that continuing to reward mediocrity by upholding white male entitlement and supremacy is harmful not only to marginalized people, but to a healthy society overall.