Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America (Paperback)
From the author of the smash hit #1 New York Times bestseller So You Want to Talk About Race, an “illuminating” (New York Times Book Review) history of white male identity in America
What happens to a country that tells generations of white men that they deserve power? What happens when their identity is defined by status over women and people of color?
Through the last 150 years of American history, Ijeoma Oluo exposes the devastating consequences of white male supremacy. She then envisions a new white male identity, one free from racism and sexism.
Now with a new preface addressing the harrowing 2021 Capitol attack, Mediocre confronts our founding myths, in hopes that we will write better stories for future generations.
About the Author
Ijeoma Oluo is the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling book So You Want to Talk About Race. She is a writer and speaker whose work on race has been featured in the New York Times and the Washington Post. She was named to the 2021 Time 100 Next list, has twice been named to The Root 100, and received the Harvard Humanist of the Year award. She lives in Seattle, Washington.
“Wide-ranging in the cultural history it provides, Mediocre illuminates the various ways white men work to maintain racial power.”—New York Times
"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
"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
“I’m eternally grateful, as I think everyone is who reads your book. Your books don’t come from a place of hate, but of determination to make a change... Thank you for writing another amazing book.”—Trevor Noah, on "The Daily Show"
“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 takes readers on a journey through 150 years of American history, from the post-reconstruction South to present-day controversy over NFL protests, all while pointing out the influence and costs of white male supremacy.”—Katie Couric
"Ijeoma Oluo's sharp yet accessible writing about the American racial landscape made her 2018 book, So You Want to Talk About Race, an invaluable resource for anyone looking to understand and dismantle racist structures. Her new book, Mediocre, builds on this exemplary work, homing in on the role of white patriarchy in creating and upholding a system built to disenfranchise anyone who isn't a white male."—TIME
“Redefines the idea of American greatness”—Cosmopolitan
“This well-researched, yet highly personal, tome shines a spotlight on modern-day racism and white supremacy.”—USA Today
“As Ijeomo Oluo puts it in her new book Mediocre: The Dangerous Legacy of White Male America, “By defining greatness as a white man’s birthright, we immediately divorce it from real, quantifiable greatness—greatness that benefits, greatness that creates.” Make America Great Again can be assumed to be about the former kind of greatness, and it was always a promise that greatness meant this long era of inequality. Inequality is the central platform of the right and Trumpism.”—Rebecca Solnit, for LitHub
“Oluo’s ability to clearly and directly address the country’s most intractable and thorny issues of racism and misogyny have garnered her a legion of fans across the country and around the world.... Addressing head-on the elephant in America’s living room, Oluo uses a wealth of historical research to support her argument that our country’s default mode of propping up and centering white men not only doesn’t serve us, but is actively destructive.... she challenges us to imagine a different way—a new path that maximizes the potential of every person, that doesn’t waste the incredible talents and contributions of women and people of color.”—Seattle Times
“With its provocative title and blunt dissection of race and privilege, Mediocre could be one of the season’s most important conversation starters.”—Philadelphia Inquirer
“The history of white male entitlement masquerading as meritocracy is a long one. In her follow-up to So You Want to Talk About Race, Oluo explains how understanding that entitlement is a necessary first step to dismantling a system built on oppression and exploitation, and the “violent, sexist, racist status quo.”—Toronto Globe & Mail
“This historical look at white male America explores the socioeconomic and political ways racism and sexism have shaped our country to protect white male power. Even further, it considers how that grip on power has stood in the way of happiness and liberty for all Americans.”—BookRiot
“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.”—Zora
“Puts patriarchy on blast”—BUST
"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."—PAPER
“Deftly weaving past and present… Each case study reveals how well-trodden American tropes of “meritocracy” and “rugged individualism” have served as sneaky myths covering up the real workings of white male supremacist power and oppression, reinforcing the false image of white American men as supermasculine heroes while blaming marginalized groups for their own dispossession and dehumanization."—Bitch
“Oluo's newest book examines how the privilege afforded to white men in western culture has made the world more dangerous for us all. Although it's tempting to believe that Donald Trump is the worst product of this trend, rest assured: Trump is only the most visible."—Bustle
“In Oluo’s characteristic incisive prose, she details how much white men’s undue influence in the US has cost the country and its people socially, economically, and politically.”—Autostraddle
“If the title of this book makes you uncomfortable, then that means you should probably read it. Oluo excavates the legacy of white male power and how our culture and systems have and continue to uphold it.”—WBUR's "Artery"
“Reading history-rich analysis of white male supremacy and its toxic repercussions from the author of So You Want To Talk About Race on the same week that the living personification of white grievance stormed the U.S. Capitol was like finding the key in the back of a fantasy novel: Suddenly, the labyrinthine gibberish started to make sense.”—A.V. Club
“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
“Using statistics, anecdotal evidence and persuasive eloquence, Oluo depicts a world where white male supremacy harms us all.”—Entropy
“Ijeoma Oluo’s look at the history of white male mediocrity in America feels like it is coming out at the perfect moment…and I know I will be referencing it for many years to come.”—Hey, Alma!
“A gifted storyteller and thorough researcher... with solid scholarship and useful pop culture references... [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.”—Kirkus
“Erudite yet accessible, grounded in careful research as well as Oluo’s personal experiences of racism and misogyny, this is an essential reckoning with race, sex, and power in America."—Publishers Weekly
“Whose America is it? Oluo makes the case that whiteness and masculinity are powerful yet also dependent on the identities that they oppress. Outstanding chapters scrutinize the anger and fervor of Bernie Bros, resentment toward women in politics, right-wing attacks on higher education, and even the origins of football."—Library Journal
“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.”—Bookpage
“Oluo draws clear lines from the mythmaking of “Buffalo Bill” Cody—who recast himself as a hero after scalping a Cheyenne warrior in a fight—to George Preston Marshall’s ardent and determined resistance to desegregating his NFL team, which he named the Redskins as an act of racist defiance. Oluo persuasively argues that the result of leaving power in the hands of men like Cody and Preston is not equal, fair, or even advantageous. Mediocre is an eloquent and impassioned plea for the moral and practical value of pursuing a more just future.”—Booklist