An acclaimed expert illuminates the distinctive role that white women play in perpetuating racism, and how they can work to fight it
In a nation deeply divided by race, the “Karens” of the world are easy to villainize. But in Nice White Ladies, Jessie Daniels addresses the unintended complicity of even well-meaning white women. She reveals how their everyday choices harm communities of color. White mothers, still expected to be the primary parents, too often uncritically choose to send their kids to the “best” schools, collectively leading to a return to segregation. She addresses a feminism that pushes women of color aside, and a wellness industry that insulates white women in a bubble of their own privilege.
Daniels then charts a better path forward. She looks to the white women who fight neo-Nazis online and in the streets, and who challenge all-white spaces from workplaces to schools to neighborhoods. In the end, she shows how her fellow white women can work toward true equality for all.
In this blunt and well-reasoned account, Hunter College sociology professor Daniels (White Lies) challenges white women to "reach beyond the strictures of niceness and the constraints of ladyhood" and work to dismantle the systemic racism they have upheld. Details about her family background, including her grandfather's membership in the Ku Klux Klan, enrich Daniels's history of how white women have "instigated, encouraged, and benefited from white supremacy." She notes that white women in the antebellum South gained power by inheriting enslaved people; that white suffragists opposed giving Black men the right to vote; and that white women have benefited "disproportionately" from affirmative action. Daniels also connects recent cases of white "Karens" calling the police on innocent Black people to historical episodes such as the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till; argues that negative emotional and health outcomes result from believing the lie that "being white will save us from social isolation and disconnection through materialism, individualism, and the satisfaction of superiority"; and guides white women on how to "divest from white spaces" and "acknowledge and repair harm." Buttressed by Daniels's personal reflections and lucid readings of American history and culture, this is a bracing yet actionable call for change.