Book Review – Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male Power by Ijeoma Oluo

First published, 2020

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

In Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male Power, Ijeoma Oluo explores the historical and sociopolitical background to one of the greatest and most powerful lies to befall the United States: that power belongs, predominantly, to white men. And that the inaccessibility of said power to the vast majority (regardless of race or gender) has rendered a whole swath of white men frustrated, ignored and increasingly dangerous.

And it’s astonishing. Beautifully well-written and profound. Even as I was reading, I could picture men I’ve known who, with the passage of time, have become more and more despondent. I have assumed that it’s probably a standard ennui that befalls everybody from time to time, but the further I got into this book, the more I realised I have deeply underestimated the suffering of my mates because – they were promised everything. But the everything they were promised lay in the hands of the men who already had the power (and were unlikely to give it up) and, as the civil rights and feminist movements gained traction, the white men who’d fallen behind saw no possibility for advancement, because it was being seemingly stolen from them by everybody else.

And it’s part of the culture. We expect more from everybody else. We expect to see white guys in charge and when anyone else comes to the fore, their otherness attracts comment.

I adored this book. My favourite part was undoubtedly to do with the female workforce during the War – how to recruit them when all the popular ladies’ magazines of the time included stories about working women whose work led them to disaster, humiliation and death, having to adjust their stories to reflect working women as useful and patriotic – until the men came home, and then they could go back to their housework.

This book, although about America and American politics, is entirely relatable. This is an exquisite book about race, women and the lies we’ve all been told. Although I’d anticipated becoming angry as I read this book, I felt angry, terribly sad and a form of understanding I didn’t know I was missing.