Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Julie Lythcott-Haims Real American

I read Julie Lythcott-Haims' Real American: A Memoir. I found her story about being biracial compelling and heartfelt, not to mention highly readable. Growing up she felt neither comfortably White nor Black, but experienced racism (both micro and larger) at the same time she enjoyed privilege because of her socio-economic status (her father, who was Black, was a successful doctor who traveled the world).

She tells her story in snippets, snapshots of her memories growing up and then more recently. It might sound disjointed but the style works well as she reveals how confused she was, how people reacted to her, and how her own thinking evolved. People's reactions would change just by how she did her hair: if she had it in braids from a Black salon, people shied away from her. She felt self-loathing for many years and only gradually embraced being Black, which in turn leads to discussion about anger, frustration, and Black Lives Matter.

She moved from corporate lawyer to high-level administrative positions at Stanford working with undergraduates, which suited her better because it involved making people feel welcomed and supported. (Here is her website).

For those of us who enjoy just about every category of privilege by sheer chance of birth, it is a reminder of what other people deal with that we don't, and the ways in which our own casual words can hurt deeply, things we need to be mindful of (she has many such examples, even from people she knows well).


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