By Heidi Stevens Chicago Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Author and speaker Luvvie Ajayi shares her thoughts on race, gender and pop-culture in her book "I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual." Originally written in 2015, it is now being re-released in hardcover.
Luvvie Ajayi captured the attention of Shonda Rhimes, Oprah Winfrey and millions of readers with her 2016 New York Times best-seller, "I'm Judging You: The Do-Better Manual."
Now the book's been rereleased in hardcover, and Ajayi, who wrapped up the recent "Together Live" tour with Glennon Doyle and Abby Wambach just in time to grab a 2017 outstanding leader award from YWCA Metropolitan Chicago, has thoughts.
"I don't think we've done better since," she told me recently. "At all."
She finished writing her book, a collection of essays on race, gender, pop culture, rape culture, celebrity culture, and the fleeting nature of fame, in October 2015. Donald Trump was just one of a bunch of guys running for president. Harvey Weinstein was still co-chairman of The Weinstein Co. White supremacists were two years from brandishing tiki torches in Charlottesville, Va.
Our country wasn't perfect, far from it. But we weren't coming face-to-face with our shortcomings on the daily.
"I wanted this book to be timely, but I wish it wasn't so relevant, because it means that we are failing on massive scales," Ajayi writes in a postscript for the hardcover edition.
"I could write a whole other book called "I'm Judging You, America!" I still might. Who knows? But this dumpster fire we find ourselves in feels wholly unnecessary. It feels like it could have been avoided. But maybe not. Maybe it is necessary. This feels like a reckoning."
Ajayi is not one of the many social commentators sputtering in daily disbelief at this nation's state of affairs.
She's been pointing out room for our improvement, on her Awesomely Luvvie blog, at the talks she gives across the country, through her philanthropic work, for far too long to be caught off guard.
"It's really interesting how shocked people are at what's happening right now because they thought we were past all of it," she told me. "A lot of people had constructed what the world looks like in their minds and didn't believe people who told them it doesn't look the way they said it looked. We've kind of been telling you all along, but now it's out in the open for you to see."
The flood of sexual assault and harassment allegations. The uptick in hate crimes. The moves to curtail transgender rights.
At the same time, she's encouraged by the growing awareness.
"This moment of reckoning has the potential to change things," she said. "We can't just let this die in a month and have Harvey Weinstein back producing movies and Kevin Spacey back on 'House of Cards.' The fact that Mel Gibson is being cast in family-friendly movies shows how even when we have these really loud moments, we have short memories."
Ajayi will participate in the Teen Vogue Summit in Los Angeles, where she'll encourage young people to keep the momentum going.
"I want them to keep carrying the torch of speaking up in ways that our generation was sort of scared out of and the generations above us were definitely scared out of," she said. "I want them to look at the world and know they have more control than they might realize."
Control, she said, they shouldn't be afraid to seize.
"I want them to look at the world and know, 'No one has the right to hurt me, and I'm not obligated to stay silent,'" she said. "This moment in history can only continue if we embolden the next generation not to keep quiet about people who try to hurt them."
I attended the YWCA luncheon where Ajayi received that leadership award recently.
"In a world that wants women to whisper," she told the crowd, "I choose to yell."
The place erupted in applause. I hope we can find the courage to follow that up with action.