This New Book Invites White Women To Interrogate The Role They Play In White Supremacy

To the world, Regina Jackson and Saira Rao may seem like an unlikely pair. The two are co-founders of Race2Dinner, a two-hour experience where they gather at a dinner table with white women for radically honest conversations about race and racism. The two are also the authors of the New York Times bestselling book White Women: Everything You Already Know About Your Own Racism and How to Do Better, which came out earlier this month. Jackson and Rao sat down to unpack their new book and why they decided to write it and discussed their upcoming documentary Deconstructing Karena film where “nice white women attend the wildest dinner party of their lives.”

Janice Gassam Asare: Saira, Regina, why did you decide to write this book? I know many people are wondering because there’s a lot of similar content that’s been put out. Why did you feel like this book was necessary?

Regina Jackson: Saira ran for Congress in 2018 against a long-term incumbent. I worked on her campaign and she lost. But, her whole platform was anti-racism. And every time she would speak, white women would line up to talk to Saira. And what they wanted to say was, ‘Not me. I’m not racist.’ I had a former white friend who said, ‘I’m done with Saira. She hates white people. But, if you can get her to go lunch with me, I’d really like that.’ I went to Saira and I said, ‘So and so wants to go to lunch.’ Saira goes, ‘I’m not doing that anymore.’ She said, ‘I have spent all my time, my money because these white women don’t want to pay for anything.’ And she said, ‘And they still aren’t going to vote for me.’ She said, ‘If your white friend wants to host a dinner and you do it with me, and she invites her white lady friends, we can do that.’ We did a couple of those and that’s what was our Race2Dinner.

Saira Rao: What we saw at that first dinner right out of the gate was full white woman…the Broadway musical, crying, eye-rolling, arms folded, just the whole thing…why we decided to write this book is that I think the feedback we’re getting is that it’s unlike anything actually out there because it’s very direct. It’s the anti-tone police. All these women have come in to tone police us, and we’re like, ‘No, thank you. That’s not going to work.’ There’s no handholding. There’s no tiptoeing. We’re not saying anything radical. We’re just saying it in a way that maybe hasn’t been said to them before. The most shocking thing is not what we’re saying. The most shocking thing is that Penguin Random House published it. That’s what’s surprising. And there was a window where our white woman agent was able to have her own awakening and realize how badly and desperately white women needed this book. She targeted 10 white women editors who she thought might actually do it. She sent a very targeted pitch to them and it sold within 36 hours.

Azar: What has become a disturbing trend is white people creating content, books, making millions off of these books, talking about things that they have no actual lived experience with.

Jackson: Exactly. We just talked about that.

Azar: Can you go into that a little bit more, Regina?

Jackson: Where do they get their information? They have to go to Black and brown and Indigenous people to find out what it’s like to live as an oppressed person in this society. But, yet they all can become experts at DEI. And the reason why is DEI tiptoes around white women’s feelings…white people’s feelings.

Rao: I think another thing that really can’t be overlooked is Regina and I have consciously subverted the divide and conquer of white supremacy. There’s a Black woman with the model minority woman. A Black woman with the South Asian woman. We are supposed to hate each other. I’m supposed to be anti-black against Regina. And Regina’s supposed to be xenophobic against me. And we’re like, ‘Nope, that’s not happening.’ And I think that’s an incredibly radical act. And the fact that we are joined. In the book, I explicitly talk about my institutional anti-blackness. In the movie, I explicitly talk about my own institutional anti-blackness. Let’s all air it…where we all sit in the power system and get on with the work.

Azar: Seeing a cross-racial solidarity that you both have formed may inspire others to really reckon with their internalized oppression [and] anti-blackness. What has been the [book] reception so far? Congratulations on making the New York Times bestseller list.

Jackson: On the personal side, we’re getting great reviews from people like you. Black and brown, and even white women because we have white women in our tribe who are doing the work, who are taking books. We had one woman who put little posters in Whole Foods on the magazine rack. Those are women who are willing to do the work. They see it. They see themselves in the book. Those who have seen the movie, see themselves in the movie. They know what we’re talking about is radical honesty.

Rao: I would say the biggest shock is, aside from the fact that Penguin published it, the next biggest shock is the reception, which has been the usual suspects…they haven’t even read the book. They just see the title and flee. The people who have actually picked up the book and read the book, overwhelmingly Black, brown, and white, love it. It’s blown our minds. I have a white woman I did a podcast with last week who is a tried-and-true white feminist. And she said, ‘I saw the book and I became enraged. I started reading it and I became enraged. And then I had a conversation with myself in the mirror that it was time for me to actually just do it.’ And she said, ‘It was about 40 pages in when I realized that this is the most transformative thing I’ve ever read in my life. And this is a love letter to humanity. This is not mean. This is not violent. This is filled with hope and love.’

Azar: What do you both want readers to take away from this book?

Jackson: I want readers to take away that all of us are being harmed by white supremacy, including white women and their children. Who are the majority of mass shooters? They’re young, white men. Who are the majority of kids that are being killed in their classroom? Young white kids. They are being harmed as much as we are being harmed. And if we can’t put a stop to the white supremacy, we’re killing the earth. Capitalists are killing the earth for money…all of us need to get on board, save our planet, save ourselves, save our children, save humanity.

Rao: When I’m asked this question, I say it out loud and every time I do, I’m like, ‘it’s so sad for them and for us.’ But, it’s for white people to racialize themselves. Very intentionally, the book is called White Women. The title of the book is a radical act because we are Black and brown. That’s on a good day. We know what they call it behind closed doors. But, they’re just people. They’re just women. They’re just men. And if you’re the default, everybody else is other, by definition. We are othered by definition. Once you start racializing yourself, my Indian colleague, my kid’s Black friend, my kid’s white friend, my white colleague, my white neighbor…you have to force yourself to see where you stand on the power structure. And once you do that, you better start dismantling that pretty quickly, otherwise you are knowingly oppressing others.

Azar: How do you think that the Forbes readers can amplify the book and amplify this message? I know that recently, a couple of months ago, Saira, you got banned from social media. I feel like that happens a lot to truth tellers. How do you think more people can get this message out and can support you both and support the book?

Jackson: I know that we are building a movement. If we continue to tell the truth, that’s our number one value. Radical honesty. We’re not going to lie. And we certainly aren’t going to tiptoe around white people’s feelings. Let’s just call a thing a thing. If you see people being harmed, speak up. Use your voice and let’s keep building this movement.

Rao: And I would add to that, that businesses need to stop pretending that they’re outside of the ecosystem of politics and culture. In a country that’s based in capitalism, business is the epicenter of our culture. By design, it’s not polite to talk about politics at dinner. You can’t talk about politics at work. Then that means you just don’t talk about it. There’s no meaningful change if you’re not talking about it at home or at work. That’s basically what’s happening. Start having these conversations. I would say eject DEI. In my mind, DEI is lipstick on a pig. It’s white women checking boxes. Start having anti-whiteness work…anti-racism work. Have it in your company. Hire Black, Indigenous, and brown women to lead that and be supported and not be tokens and not be ghosted and demoted and fired in whisper campaigns against them. Hire people who actually have the power to change. The reality is…if you’re actually not hiring Black, Indigenous, and brown women to run these departments, you don’t want change. You want the status. You want a lipstick on a pig. That’s what you want.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

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