Posted on May 13, 2020

Layla Saad’s Best-Selling Book Challenges Readers to Dismantle White Supremacy

Janice Gassam, Forbes, May 11, 2020

Much of the diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging work that is being done requires individuals to take an honest self-examination to better understand individual blind spots and biases. To produce behavior change, we must be able to reflect and contemplate on the different ways that we uphold inequitable structures and systems. In the summer of 2018, Layla Saad decided to start an online challenge called #meandwhitesupremacy where she invited people from around the world to assess and reflect on the different ways that they contribute to and uphold white supremacy. Saad created a free guide the Me and White Supremacy Workbook, that ended up being downloaded more than 90,000 times. As a result of the workbook’s popularity, Saad decided to write a traditional book of the same name that “leads readers through a journey of understanding their white privilege and participation in white supremacy, so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on Black, Indigenous, people of color.” Saad sat down with Forbes to discuss her new book, the reception thus far and how she hopes to shift the collective mindset.


Layla Saad: Yes…my name is Layla Saad and I’m a New York Times best-selling author now! I was the creator of the Instagram challenge, which became the PDF workbook, which became a New York Times best-selling book called Me and White Supremacy. In the summer of 2018…I invited people who had white privilege on a 28-day journey to explore, impact and challenge their relationship with white supremacy and really explore their unconscious racist thoughts and beliefs and it really took off and become sort of a…global cultural movement.

Gassam: What was the catalyst to you writing this book? {snip}

Saad: I’d always known that I wanted to write a book, but I hadn’t set out to make Me and White Supremacy a book from the very beginning. It really came out of this curiosity of running the Instagram challenge. I [could] tell very early on while doing the Instagram challenge that something very important was happening…we were having…very vulnerable, very truthful, sometimes ugly conversations around white supremacy on a social media platform with thousands of people taking part. I knew very early on in the challenge that it had to become a book…I kept in mind, if you’re going to turn this into a book later on, lay out the challenge in a way that makes sense. I certainly didn’t foresee it going beyond the pdf workbook that I self-published. I really thought that would be the end of it. I thought well…I’ll self-publish the workbook which I did a few months later and that will sort of be…the end of it. What was really surprising to me was…having that workbook go very viral. Within the first three days more than 11,000 people had downloaded it. I saw it going into spaces and places that I couldn’t have imagined. I designed it as a very personal book that you do by yourself…what I saw is that it was being used in schools, universities…churches, companies, non-profits and I realized this has to be something that people can hold in their hands. This has to…become something more.

Gassam: What have you seen as some of the results so far of people reading the book? Did anything shock you?

Saad: What’s been really surprising for me is how mainstream this conversation has gone. I don’t mince my words, I don’t necessarily make it palatable or easy for people to digest the information, and yet it has been received so eagerly by so many people…it’s been incredible to me. That’s the first part that’s really surprising for me. In terms of what I have seen it do: I really had the honor during my U.S. book tour and my U.K. book tour to speak with people who either had personally engaged with the work or they were people of color and the White people in their life had engaged with the work. I got to hear story after story of how it had changed relationships between family members. It had changed the atmosphere in companies. It really changed how people were approaching the conversation around diversity, inclusion, white supremacy, racism, in a way that people can have real conversations because what the book does is it confronts white supremacy head-on. {snip}


This interview has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.