Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America (Hardcover)

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From the author of the New York Times bestseller So You Want to Talk About Race, a subversive history of white male American identity.

What happens to a country that tells generation after generation of white men that they deserve power? What happens when success is defined by status over women and people of color, instead of by actual accomplishments?

Through the last 150 years of American history -- from the post-reconstruction South and the mythic stories of cowboys in the West, to the present-day controversy over NFL protests and the backlash against the rise of women in politics -- Ijeoma Oluo exposes the devastating consequences of white male supremacy on women, people of color, and white men themselves. Mediocre investigates the real costs of this phenomenon in order to imagine a new white male identity, one free from racism and sexism.

As provocative as it is essential, this book will upend everything you thought you knew about American identity and offers a bold new vision of American greatness.

About the Author

Ijeoma Oluo is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller So You Want to Talk About Race. Her work on race has been featured in the New York Times and the Washington Post. She has twice been named to the Root 100, and she received the 2018 Feminist Humanist Award from the American Humanist Association. She lives in Seattle, Washington.

Praise For…

“Wide-ranging in the cultural history it provides, Mediocre illuminates the various ways white men work to maintain racial power.”
New York Times

“Nuanced, uncomfortable, and illuminating.”

Washington Post

"A conversational call to action, an urging to rewrite our definition of white manhood and diminish the power it holds. Oluo is asking us to evaluate the myths America tells itself about itself, see the violence within, be honest about the perpetrators and the victims, and then tell different stories. Truer ones. But she is also inviting us, on occasion, to chuckle. There is levity and voice in Mediocre.”
Washington Post Book World

"Searing.... Oluo lays out a sweeping cultural history of white men failing upward, from education to sports to politics.... Mediocre is a fast, engaging read, and Oluo is a warm, evenhanded narrator."
San Francisco Chronicle

"Oluo examines how white male supremacy permeates and shapes almost every facet of our lives, and ultimately asks us to imagine a white manhood that is not based in the oppression of others."

“Oluo is clear and approachable—a lucid teacher, leavening lessons with snark. As I (white guy) read the book, I was again disoriented by how much Oluo’s been harassed for her supposedly ‘antiwhite’ writing.... Oluo’s case is compelling. America has long been telling a bad story, one that manifests in movies, in presidencies—that white men are heirs to the kingdom, regardless of their abilities. It’d do us well to realize when we’ve been sold a lie.”
Seattle Met

“Oluo examines the cultural and political underpinnings of what she calls the 'mediocre-white-man-industrial complex.' ... She also digs into how, at different points in history, this country has failed women—a particularly salient reminder amid a pandemic that has driven hundreds of thousands of women out of the workforce.”
Fast Company

“[Oluo has written] a bold, incisive book on heavy topics with a call to action for a more equitable future that doesn’t center White men.”


“Oluo expertly shows how inequality, toxic masculinity and an unequal power structure deeply hurt all Americans, including white men. Through careful research and scholarship, she breaks down the system that sustains the status quo while shedding light on the ways others can also dismantle this system to ensure a more equitable future for all. It’s an essential read.”

“Erudite yet accessible, grounded in careful research as well as Oluo’s personal experiences of racism and misogyny, this is an essential reckoning.”

Publishers Weekly

“We all joke about having the confidence of a mediocre White man, but New York Times–bestselling author Ijeoma Oluo breaks down what this really means in her new book. Your ultra average, angry White man didn’t happen by accident. Oluo methodically identifies and explains the structures that create, multiply, and embolden him.”

"Ijeoma's revelatory and visionary new book confronts disturbing hidden histories that vibrate throughout our institutions and communities today. The connections and insights in Mediocre make it an essential read."—Austin Channing Brown, New York Times bestselling author of I'm Still Here

"There is no one more adept at parsing the toxic effects of white male privilege and systemic oppression than the immensely talented Ijeoma Oluo. Her brilliant book is a master class in understanding how systems of domination working relentlessly in the service of white male patriarchy not only harm all women and people of color, but ultimately hinder white men themselves from reaching greatness."
Michael Eric Dyson, New York Times bestselling author of Long Time Coming

"Oluo is one of our great voices and Mediocre not only educates us, but it inspires us all to act and change the world for the better. But first, I need to read this book again. It's just that damn good."—Phoebe Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of You Can't Touch My Hair

"Mediocre offers profound truth in service of liberation. It cuts to the heart of white male supremacy, a system that is life-destroying for people of color and even for white men ourselves."—Matt McGorry, Actor, How To Get Away With Murder and Orange is the New Black, Activist, and Co-Founder of Inspire Justice

"In her illuminating new book, Ijeoma Oluo unpacks how 'mediocrity' is a privilege created and perpetuated by our obsession with white male superiority. Oluo deftly balances the cultural history of white western male myth-making with contemporary cultural criticism of the aggrieved white American man. It is a deft and thought-provoking book that contextualizes public discourse on race, class, and gender in America."
Tressie Mcmillan Cottom, author of the National Book Award Finalist Thick

"Once again, Ijeoma Oluo uses her elegant voice to speak directly to the root issues at the core of the United States' seeming inability to reconcile who we have been with who we had hoped to be. This book goes beyond how we got here, and digs into where we are, what we're going to do about it, and what's at stake if the people with the most power refuse to do better."
Ashley C. Ford, writer

"Oluo masterfully diagnoses the pervasive plague of white mediocrity. Mediocre serves as a call to action for every person, regardless of race or gender, to actively resist white male mediocrity's hold."—Kimberlé Crenshaw, Executive Director, African American Policy Forum, and Professor, UCLA and Columbia Law Schools

"Ripped, tragically, from yet another and another and another set of headlines, Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America breaks ground and forces a bold, startling, and necessary conversation about the implications of institutional supremacy, and its crushing impact on people of color and women."—Patrisse Khan Cullors, Co-founder Black Lives Matter, New York Times bestselling author of When They Call You a Terrorist, Joint recipient of The Sydney Peace Prize

"Mediocre is urgent, powerful, and laced with an acidity that forces us to contend with our own complicity in a culture that systematically oppresses women, people of color, and especially, women of color. America is a nation that aspires to greatness, but refuses to acknowledge how its laws and conventions instead protect white male mediocrity. Both So You Want to Talk About Race and Mediocre are necessary reads, because few writers are as vital to understanding our present moment as Oluo."
Jeff Yang, author, CNN contributor, and cohost of the podcast They Call Us Bruce

Product Details
ISBN: 9781580059510
ISBN-10: 1580059511
Publisher: Seal Press
Publication Date: December 1st, 2020
Pages: 336