3 out of 4 stars
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Jim Trebbien’s dedication, “Dedicated to all of the people who believe everyone should have equal opportunities in life,” in many ways describes the essence of It’s a White Life. Author Jim Trebbien shares the experiences of a mentor/mentee relationship he had with Cameron Johnson, which takes place during the past decade of modern America.
Jim was raised on a farm in Iowa and is a dean at a community college at the time this story takes place. Cameron grew up in the projects in Omaha, Nebraska and is now a student at the community college Jim works at. Jim is a white male nearing his retirement years; Cameron is an African-American college student in his mid-twenties. These distinctions are integral to the story. The two men developed far more than the mentor/mentee relationship that they initially signed on for, as they discovered both many similarities and differences in their lives. Discover what they found out about themselves and life in their journey together.
The author presents his discoveries primarily through stories, with each man sharing experiences and thoughts from their past. Additionally, Jim provides his observations on the contrasts as well as their similarities. Many themes are covered, including family, legal issues, discrimination, and religion. The author tackles the many themes in an engaging manner, keeping his readers wanting more.
In many ways, the men are similar to each other. Both men grew up in close-knit families that are very supportive of them. They view themselves as born-again Christians and are very active in their churches. Both men are in loving marriages and place high importance on family life.
Early in the book, we hear one of the more shocking contrasts in how the two men were treated after each of their first wives falsely accused them of physical abuse. Jim’s background did not prepare him for Cameron’s experiences, especially with law enforcement. For example, Cameron shared that he and his friends would often get pulled over for “being black.” Jim gets to learn first-hand later on as to just how scary it is to be pulled over with someone who is black. It also makes Jim think of all the things that should have gotten him into trouble with the law but didn’t. The subject of guns comes up at various times in their childhood backgrounds: Jim hunted with his brother and father, while Cameron watched bad people shooting each other while playing outside. What Jim recognizes in himself by the end of the book is in many ways a stunning sociological perspective on life as a white man.
I rate It’s a White Life 3 out of 4 stars. It provides a hands-on reflective look at the reality of white privilege in the United States in an incredibly engaging manner. I particularly enjoyed the way the stories were presented as it helped me to get to know both Cameron and Jim. The only reason it is not worthy of 4-stars is the numerous grammar errors that would have been picked up with better editing. Outside of the editing issues, there wasn't anything I outright disliked in the book. This book would appeal to people who want to know more about racism in the United States while engaging with real people instead of stereotypes.
It's a White Life
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