Book Review. “You’ll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey” by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar
So, say you have a friend (or two or more) who is a person of color. And say you’ve been raised in a pretty white neighborhood and white schools and so on. AND say you’ve heard them sigh on the phone when you discuss something sensitive-something out of your experience. Something like being pulled over by a cop, not because you’ve committed a moving violation, but because you are “not white”. Or something like having teenaged boys and discussing with your friend about her requirement to have “the talk” and she’s not talking about condoms.
You might be, like me, only able to listen with a puzzled frown, wanting to be an ally, but then shit comes out of your mouth that is a product of childhood, education, and culture. It was so bad that it has been suggested I read “White Fraglity” (a good book. Kind of academic. Heavy shit.)
Full disclosure. I struggled with “White Fragility”. Not because I wasn’t on board with the ideas expressed in it. Because the ideas were so heavy and difficult for me to wrap my entrenched brain around that I waded through it. I’ll have to reread it a few more times to really retain that fucker.
This book. This gem. This raw, funny, painful, beautiful book took all the same ideas I needed to get straight in my head and made it so I could get it. Even though Amber and Lacey are fucking HILARIOUS, I am NOT recommending this book for comedy purposes. I am recommending this for any person out there who still thinks being “Woke” is some kind of fucked up fad for Nice White Ladies and White Saviors. I am recommending this for any parent who ever had to go to the school and fight for their kid. I am recommending this for anyone who has ever said “It’s not fair!” about their life.
Because this book reveals how my own “It’s not fair” was bullshit. It shows that my understanding of racism and white privilege was academic at best and miniscule at worst. Through story after story, Amber and Lacey tell about their experiences at school, work, and home and with law enforcement, government, and human resources. They share things that made my stomach clench and my heart hurt. Yet, I laughed so fucking hard, I couldn’t believe I was able to do it.
Two stories have haunted me since finishing this book. Amber Ruffin tells about the time she was a new driver and was pulled over by an older white male cop. Lacey told the story about the competition her all black team participated in about Black History. When I started the book, I thought my outrage was broken. The last two years have strained every emotion I’m capable of experiencing. Yet, those two stories made me think, “I would have LOST MY MIND if that had
happened to my kid.” And in this book, I learned how Amber and Lacey’s mother chose her times to step in and fight. And the many times there was no recourse.
This book wasn’t written for me. Yet, I am the one who has benefited the most from their willingness to share.
Go buy it. It wraps up difficult conversation in humor. The laughs don’t take out the sting, but it makes the pain a little more bearable. It isn’t an academic book with psychological explanations of racism and stupidity. It’s true stories about the little day to day stuff we do and say.
This isn’t an instruction manual on How Not To Be An Asshole. And it isn’t put out there for some philosophical arguments about “cause” “effect” and “culture wars”. It’s Amber and Lacey’s life. It’s their stories.
My job as the reader is to remember them.