Read by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar
Published January 2021 by Grand Central Publishing
Publisher's Summary:From racist donut shops to strangers putting their whole hand in her hair, from being mistaken for a prostitute to being mistaken for Harriet Tubman, Lacey is a lightning rod for hilariously ridiculous yet all-too-real anecdotes. She's the perfect mix of polite, beautiful, petite, and Black that apparently makes people think "I can say whatever I want to this woman." And now, Amber and Lacey share these entertainingly horrifying stories through their laugh-out-loud sisterly banter. Painfully relatable or shockingly eye-opening (depending on how often you have personally been followed by security at department stores), this book tackles modern-day racism with the perfect balance of levity and gravity.
You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey is this year's Omaha Reads selection. Why you ask? (I know you didn't really ask, but let's just pretend.) Because Ruffin and Lamar are from Omaha (Lacey still lives here) and because, clearly, Omahans need to wake the heck (if you know me in person, you know that's not the word I was going to use but I'm still trying to keep it clean because my mom wouldn't have liked the word I wanted to use) up.
When asked who she wanted to have read this book, Lamar said:
"I would love every single white person that I’ve ever worked with to read this book—and just white people in general. And white people who maybe think, “Well, is it really that bad? Is racism really that bad?”And supervisors, people who are in charge of people. I want them to read this book and be like, “I am never doing that again. I am now going to go to work and call Linda “Linda” and not “Black Linda.”"
If you've been reading this blog for the last couple of years, you'll know that I've been working very hard to educate myself about racism and been awakened to my own racism. I'm under no illusions that Nebraska is little better than the South, too, when it comes to racism. But people, I live in a city. Of course I know that racists live in cities, too; but I thought that at least there was less overt racism here. Wrong.
I checked out the audiobook version of this book but I also won a copy of it from the library. If you're from Omaha and want to read this book, I recommend the audiobook. It's marginally less painful because Ruffin and Lamar are funny ladies and the impression is that, while they find these examples of racism horrible, they are also able to find the humor in them. That's less the case in the print version, although you do get to see a lot of illustrations and photos. Either way, this one's an eyeopener for those of us who live in Omaha (as it should be for people who live anywhere) and it's tough to realize that we live with people who would do the kinds of things that have been done to Lamar. Including ourselves.
About 30 years ago, my husband and I liked to watch Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam on HBO. We laughed at lot while we watched it but we didn't always get the humor. Because we were white people who lived in a suburb in the Midwest!! It wasn't meant for us but, even then, I wanted to understand more. So I turned to the only person I knew who I could ask - the only black friend I had. She was patient (I didn't realize then just how patient) but often said "you wouldn't understand." I never stuck my whole hand in her afro, I never called her "Black Linda." I thought I treated her like every other friend I had. This book reminds me that, in asking her to explain humor I didn't get or asking her why she and her mom didn't move to a "safer" neighborhood, I didn't.
I don't think Ruffin's and Lamar's point in writing this book is to make people feel awash with guilt over the past but I do think they do want us to look at things we've done and realize the ways that might have been racist. Recognizing those things is the only way to be better. As Maya Angelou said, "when you know better, do better."
Another of my takeaways from this book is that silence is complicity. When Lamar sat in meetings where racist things were being said, when she was in shops where racist things were being done, when she was in school and hearing racist things, there were people who could have spoken out. No one did. I imagine that leaves persons of color to wonder if everyone agrees with the act or if they are just too complacent to say anything. I'm guilty of not speaking up; I'm a person who hates conflict so it's tough for me to speak up when I know it might cause problems. Once again, Ruffin and Lamar remind white people that our discomfort is nothing compared to what persons of color go through on a daily basis and a fear of conflict is a poor excuse. Lamar has lost a lot of jobs because she spoke up. The least I can do is back her up.