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"White male mediocrity seems to impact every aspect of our lives, and yet it only seems to be people who aren't white men who recognize the imbalance."

The words from Ijeoma Oluo in her new book, "Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America," out now, succinctly sum up the problems with a society that values white maleness above all others. 

The book's title hearkens back to a plea by writer Sarah Hagi in 2015: "Lord, give me the confidence of a mediocre white man."

Oluo isn't insinuating all white men are mediocre: "What I'm saying is that white male mediocrity is a baseline, the dominant narrative, and that everything in our society is centered around preserving white male power regardless of while male skill or talent."

Slavery and backlash to the Great Migration; the takeover of indigenous lands and genocide of Native Americans; modern-day politics across the political spectrum; higher education's racist roots and continuing struggle to deal with racism; and her own experiences with internet trolls, including the endangerment of her son, are just some of the examples the of USA TODAY best-seller "So You Want to Talk About Race" (2018) invokes in the well-researched, yet highly personal, tome that shines a spotlight on modern-day racism and white supremacy. 

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Here are some of the important points we took away from Oluo's new book: 

There are white-male biases on both sides of the political aisle

Though Oluo finds President Donald Trump's racist rhetoric abhorrent and problematic, she doesn't spare his political opponents. She takes President-elect Joe Biden to task for his flip-flopping stance on busing to desegregate schools in the 1970s, along with calling out Bernie Sanders' angry white male supporters, aka the Bernie Bros.

Before them, there were self-described liberal white men who infiltrated and co-opted social justice issues for their own means, including feminist activists Floyd Dell and Max Eastman. 

And since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley, four progressive women of color dubbed "The Squad," were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, they've faced criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike. "In 2017, four confident, talented, unapologetic young women of color were elected to U.S. Congress, and everyone freaked the (expletive) out," she writes. They've "been called everything from racists to terrorist sympathizers for daring to believe that their communities were worth representing and worth fighting for."

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In higher education and sports, a legacy of racism continues

Meanwhile, historically racist systems in higher education persist, and women and people of color continue to try to catch up to the head start white men were given through land-grant university funding and the GI bill that paid to send many of them to college following WWII. And when students of color seek equal treatment and opportunities, as they did when the University of Missouri football team united together in protest in 2015, they are often villainized or penalized.

The same goes for professional athletes, including Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterbackwho the NFL blackballed after he knelt during the national anthem to raise awareness about police brutality and racial inequality. Primarily white team owners and managers "preferred having less effective rosters over having to deal with the backlash of allowing Black protest," she writes.

The path forward

Systems based on promoting white male mediocrity are bad for white men, too, Oluo writes. The social construct of white aggression and dominance locks them into "cycles of fear and violence — where the only success they are allowed comes at the expense of others, and the only feelings they are allowed to express are triumph or rage."

But Oluo is hopeful that though there are many historical inequities and current factors at play, there is a way to break the cycle. 

"The path we are on right now is the same one that has brought us only death and despair for hundreds of years," Oluo writes. "We must break free. We must start making better and more informed choices – with our votes, our wallets, our media, our societal expectations. "

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