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Waking Up to Better Allyship
Review of “The Wake Up” by Michelle MiJung Kim
This was an excellent choice of book to start my 2022 antiracism reading. By broadly seeking to move readers from intention to action, the author continually emphasizes the need to fight the system rather than each other and shares examples from her own social justice and transformative justice works to show how we can reframe our approach to work both authentically and in the community while honoring our beginnings.
From a perspective that acknowledges the white supremacist roots of anti-Black racism, anti-Indigeneity, and anti-Asian hate, Kim reinforces the need to fight the cause rather than the manifestation, which requires new tools to be built or created.
As an activist who primarily fights both anti-Black racism and the systems that oppress society, I felt seen, especially in the sections where Kim acknowledged the tension between what we'd like to do and what the manifestation of oppression in our lives allows us to do. Additionally, the section where she talked about the weight of the centuries of oppression and the deep fatigue that accompanies both living this experience and writing and teaching about it struck a chord with me.
One aspect of the book that I particularly enjoyed was the practical tips that are dispersed throughout, which encourage everyone to become more active by starting in their own spheres and broadening out.
Meaningful Quotes From “The Wake Up”
Here are 7 quotes that stood out to me:
“The work of living in alignment with our values rooted in equity and justice is an ongoing journey without a destination, and one that cannot be reduced to a checklist.”
“Good is a transient adjective, not a permanent identity.”
“Our working definition of allyship is an active and consistent practice of using power and privilege to achieve equity, inclusion, and justice while holding ourselves accountable to marginalized people’s needs.”
“There can be no such thing as “reverse racism” because the current power disparity makes it so that people of color do not have systemic power over white people to materially change the lives of white people en masse, whether through policy changes, hiring, wealth redistribution, and so forth”
“Centering the most marginalized is an approach rooted in the foundational belief that by centering and valuing those most impacted by systemic oppressions we are able to create the most comprehensive and effective solutions that can ultimately benefit all of us”
“When people with power get called out for causing harm and claim they feel “unsafe,” what they really mean is they feel challenged and uncomfortable. When marginalized people experience harm and we demand safety, we mean safety in the most literal sense: safety from mental, emotional, and physical harm.”
“Try. Especially if you have relative privilege and power. Try, knowing people may ridicule you for your “idealism,” knowing you will face backlash, knowing you may not get it “right” the first time, knowing you are afraid. Try by refusing to be satisfied with the unjust realities of today and reject the false dichotomy of bad and worse choices so often presented to us as the only options. Try with audacity, and dare to dream bigger. Let us try and try again. And again.”
As the DEB team lead at Omnis Education, I also saw a vision for how we can go even further with our explicit focus on antiracism. A good starting point would be reading this book, which is something that I plan to recommend.
Overall, this is a phenomenal book. Although it pulls no punches, it invites us in and urges us to do better. I highly recommend adding “The Wake Up” to your reading list.
Thanks for reading,
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© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2022. All Rights Reserved.