4 Things White People Can Learn From Rachel Hollis

You know what? This title might be a little misleading. It’s probably more what we can learn from the BACKLASH against Rachel Hollis. Initially I was going to have the title be “Rachel Hollis and the Myth of Meritocracy,” but then I thought people were going to be like, “What is meritocracy?” And probably a fairly large amount of, “Who the hell is Rachel Hollis?!?” This way, at least people recognize ONE part of the title: White People.

For those who don’t know, Rachel Hollis is a writer, blogger, and “influencer.” She’s the author of a three self-helpy books (“Girl, Wash Your Face,” “Girl, Stop Apologizing,” and “Didn’t See That Coming“) that are filled with Bible verses and motivational tips and quotes. “Girl, Wash Your Face” was the second most popular book on Amazon for 2018. It was part empowerment, part pep-talk for people to “Pull themselves up by their bootstraps,” but since that saying sounds more than a little bit racist now, she used the language & ideology of “Hustle Culture” — Where people reduce success in life to simply trying/working harder than the next guy. Or gal. And many of those gals ate it up… Specifically white women. She’s the sort of person who’s invited to speak at MLM conferences. She peddles toxic positivity, she’s criticized medication, and she’s made some fat-phobic statements. She flirts with Prosperity Gospel BS. I’d describe her as an Instagram mommy blogger meets Dave Ramsey (who, if you don’t already know, is an awful person). Later there were accounts of her plagiarizing things on her Instagram and in her books.

Hustle Culture is very closely related to the Myth of Meritocracy, which is basically the idea that people with more have more for a REASON… and that social mobility is equally available to everyone equally, if they are willing to work hard and make sacrifices. You can imagine why this ideology is so popular among the people who are at the top of the social & financial hierarchies. People LOVE to believe that they EARNED everything that they have through their own hard work (Even when they were born on third base and thought they hit a triple)… Which is why the concept of white privilege is so very disconcerting to so many of us white folks. We’re afraid that if white privilege is real, then that means we didn’t EARN our higher social/financial status.

But when success is as simple as working harder/hustling more than the people around you, this funny thing happens (actually, it’s not that funny). When people reject the idea of privilege and reduce success to “the reason I have more is because I WORK harder, and because I’m SMART,” the insinuation is that those who are not experiencing the same success are in that position because they are lazier and dumber. This happens much in the same way that when people reject the reality of systemic racism, they are actually saying that the social & financial disparities between Blacks & whites in America is due to the group in the lower caste being there because of lack of ability or drive or intelligence (AKA racism). If it’s a level playing field and one group keeps winning, it’s because they are just “better” (which is the reason that the loudest insistence that the playing field is level is most often coming from the people who keep winning).

For whatever reason, the part of Rachel’s video that grossed me out the most was when she said “Sis.”

Anyway, Rachel Hollis… Here’s what happened: She posted a video where she talked about having a woman who cleans her toilets twice a week… Someone called her “privileged AF” and “unrelatable”… And then she made a TicTok where she basically said, “Yeah, I’m privileged… But I also work harder than you. And I’m not interested in being ‘relatable,’ because all the great women weren’t relatable either.” And then she posted the names of a bunch of great women — most of them Women of Color — and wrote “all Unrelatable AF.” You can watch the video (which she has since deleted) below…

After many corners of the internet exploded with reactions to a woman who married a Disney executive bragging about how her wealth comes from “working her ass off” and “waking up at 4am” — a white woman who steals quotes from other people and passes them off as her own while selling books about “doing the work” — many influential people commented on her post, trying to help her understand why what she said was so harmful. The response was to remove any comments that were critical. Many wise Black women took the time to teach her, and rather than learn, the comments were deleted. A few days later, Rachel issued a (sort of) apology, but one where she threw her “team” under the bus. The response to her half apology was enthusiastically negative. Shortly after, the video was deleted, along with the apology.

Which brings me to four (of the many) things we can learn from this…

  1. ACCEPT THAT YOU ARE PRIVILEGED. You are. Accept it. For the love of God, no one is saying you haven’t ever worked hard. No one is saying you haven’t ever struggled. But one of those struggles has NOT been whiteness. If you are the sort of person who hears someone call you out on your white privilege and you rear up in defense, demanding the world acknowledge how you did it with HARD WORK and SMARTS and intangibles like “grit” or “stick-to-itiveness,” you are the wrong sort of person. If you look around America at the HUGE racial disparities, and you are one of the ones insisting that the playing field is level, I’ve got some bad news for you: That’s racism.
  2. STOP TAKING WORDS FROM BLACK CULTURE. When Rachel said “Sis” in the video, it just grated against everything in me. That word was created and popularized by Black women. If you are white, and you find out a term you love has been appropriated from Black Culture, try to stop using it. We’ve taken enough from Black people. We don’t need to take their words (or their heroes either). I used to love the word “woke” before it became a favorite derogatory term of the far-right (meaning awareness that is purely performative). It started off meaning that a person was aware of what was going on… She was “woke.” A lot of people are living like they are asleep, so I loved the term. But as I followed more Black voices, they taught me about the harm of white folks stealing Black language, so I stopped using it. Which brings me to the third point…
  3. FOLLOW MORE BLACK VOICES. There are a lot of crappy things about the internet and social media, but one of the AMAZING things about it is that we white folks have the opportunity to listen to the words and soak in the wisdom of people from all kinds of groups that we aren’t used to being around. Twitter gives us a chance to learn from Black voices and LGBTQIA+ voices and AAPI voices and the voices of People of Color. We need to take advantage of that opportunity. Find people who are different than you, and follow them. Learn.
  4. IF A BLACK PERSON TAKES THE TIME TO TEACH YOU, LISTEN! There are a TON of ignorant, racist white people in this country. Many of them are never going to “get it” in this lifetime. On top of that, there are way more white people than there are black people… If every Black person took the endless amounts of time to try to get us to understand how things work, they would never get anything done. And they, like you, have shit to do. So if — like many Black women did on Rachel Hollis’ video — you are lucky enough to have a Black voice take the time to explain something to you, here’s what you do: You shut up and listen. Maybe ask some questions. Check your defensiveness. And — sweet Jesus — NEVER simply delete your problematic post (and with it, the comments they spent time writing) out of anger or embarrassment (unless the post is doing continued harm, of course, and those same voices ask you to take it down… And if that’s the case, give people a head’s up about when it will be taken down). Think of all the wisdom Rachel Hollis deprived other people of when she deleted those comments. The conversations on social media are not just for the two people talking. Others are following along and trying to learn as well. If you make a mistake — and we all do — Take responsibility for your actions. Apologize. Ask how you can make amends. And then don’t do it again. And please, don’t be this person…

Thank you so much for reading. Thank you for the folks who left tips with my last post about Giving Satan A Lap Dance… I paid your generosity forward to BIPOC content creators whose work helped me understand things better than I used to. If you value this blog, please consider BECOMING A PATRON. It’s super easy, and it really helps. If you’d like to, you can LEAVE A TIP ON PAYPAL or Venmo me at “chris-boeskool”. Please also follow along on Facebook and on Twitter. Love y’all.

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3 Responses to 4 Things White People Can Learn From Rachel Hollis

  1. Susan S. says:

    Hey, man, lighten up. She’s just failing again to reach the top of the mountain, man. 😜

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