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What I Loved

What I Disliked

My Overall Rating

I’m sitting down to write this Black Fatigue review and, for the first time in a long time, I’m not sure where to begin.

Black Fatigue is impactful, insightful, timely, and empowering…but it’s also poignant, disheartening, and heavy.

If you’re ready to be more aware of the world around you; if you want to see outside your bubble; if you want to break through your echo chambers and see this country (the United States of America) the way it really is, then you should read this book. If you aren’t ready to be woke and want to continue sleeping in the American dream matrix, stop reading here. This book and this review isn’t for you.

As a Black twenty-something woman who recently discovered my desire to work in the racial equity space, Black Fatigue was a difficult read at times. The author, Mary-Frances Winters, lends her 30+ years of expertise working in the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) space to the pages of this book.

Who is Mary-Frances Winters?
Mary-Frances Winters, founder and CEO of The Winters Group, Inc., a global organization development and diversity and inclusion consulting firm with over 36 years of experience, truly believes that diversity and inclusion work is her “passion and calling.” Dubbed a thought leader in the field, for the past three decades she has impacted over hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals with her thought-provoking message, and her approach to diversity and inclusion. Ms. Winters is a master strategist with experience in strategic planning, change management, diversity, organization development, training and facilitation, systems thinking and qualitative and quantitative research methods. She has extensive experience in working with senior leadership teams to drive organizational change.

EXCERPT from The Winters Group website

Mary-Frances Winters
Author of Black Fatigue
Founder & CEO of The Winters Group

As you can imagine, she’s seen a lot in that time frame. The constant theme she circles back to regarding her front-row seat to dismantling the systems of oppression is that, sadly, not much has changed. “Then is now.”

This notion “then is now,” can make the plight of defeating racism – and bigger yet, systemic racism – seem insurmountable.

It is paradoxical that with all the attention over the last 50 years on social justice and diversity and inclusion that we have made little progress in actualizing the vision of an equitable society.

BLACK FATIGUE | Mary-Frances Winters

On top of the gloomy facts, there’s a deep, emotional sea to swim through. See, while Winters writes this book pragmatically, she’s still woven her own emotions in the book in a way that surpasses the text on the page. It’s clear she wrote Black Fatigue from her mind, her soul, and her heart.

I believe both of those things – the depiction of systemic racism as the giant it is and the pained, emotional undertone behind every factoid – was purposed. Winters wants to make sure this book didn’t try to coddle the reader and instead challenges them to embrace the hard truths without any sugar-coating.

That being said, the rawness of Black Fatigue can be triggering for Black people, but it seems the author is aware of that. Winters states that this book is not necessarily for Black people; it’s for white people (and others) who want to learn about the systems of oppression as those systems relate to Black people.

Perhaps not surprisingly, many white people claim to not have much understanding of why Black people are fatigued. We conduct a poll during virtual sessions with white employees that asks: “How much knowledge do you have about the history of racism in the United States?” Only about 10% of the mostly white audiences say that they are very knowledgeable. This book will [be a] great resource to enhance white people’s education.

BLACK FATIGUE | Mary-Frances Winters

Black Fatigue is a composed catalog of the inner-working mechanisms of systemic racism, making it easy to educate the sleeping masses. In this way, Black Fatigue also serves as a gift to Black people. It lifts the emotional labor of educating off their shoulders by empowering others to teach themselves.

For Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC) who read this book, I hope that it will also be educational and affirming and when one of your white colleagues asks you to educate them, you can refer them to this resource, so as not to exacerbate your fatigue.

BLACK FATIGUE | Mary-Frances Winters

What I Loved About Black Fatigue

There is so much to love about Black Fatigue. I could go on and on but here are the highlights that I’ll cover:

  • Detailed history of the systems that makeup America
  • Supporting, amazing bibliography
  • Shifts the blame from the Black communities to the systems that hamper them

  • Practical, step-by-step action plans

It provides a detailed history of the systems that makeup America.

From prisons to redlining to food deserts, if you want a jump start on learning what exactly makes America’s systems racist, Black Fatigue is where you should begin.

The book does a good job of detailing not only the systems but the socialized racism that hampers the Black population from every angle. It’s deeper than just hurt feelings over skin color.

Many people still believe that racism is something that only happens interpersonally, not recognizing that while it does happen at the individual level, it is more insidious as a set of systems and structures that favor the dominant group (mostly whites) and negatively impact[s] subordinated groups.

BLACK FATIGUE | Mary-Frances Winters

Some theorists believe that at the core, we are all racists because we are a part of a society whose very foundation was built on racist ideals and practices that persist today. Brain science reveals that we internalize racist messages from a racist society that becomes a part of who we are — whether we realize it or not. Unless we are willing to acknowledge these realities and begin to use the term, we cannot address racist systems that undergird our organizational processes.

BLACK FATIGUE | Mary-Frances Winters

Black Fatigue even address the intersections of racism, gender, and sexuality, taking care to delineate each intersection carefully without weighting one struggle over the other.

Black Fatigue has a detailed bibliography that’s akin to an anti-racism library.

I am a geek. If you’re on this website (CharmedGEEK.com) then you should know that already. So of course one of my favorite things about Black Fatigue is the bibliography.

This isn’t a book built solely on raw emotion and personal anecdote; it’s driven by a drove of reviewed studies which Winters so graciously provides at the end of Black Fatigue.

Why should that excite you? If you’re truly interested in being anti-racist or at least educating yourself on systemic racism, then she’s already compiled a list of sources to guide you on your journey.

The irony of living in this information age is that there is too much information. Finding good sources and knowing where to dig can be pretty tricky. Black Fatigue, a book by a highly respected Black woman with extensive professional knowledge on our systems, will not only give you the CliffsNotes on various topics, you’ll receive a library of anti-racist literature.

The book doesn’t blame the victims. It blames the system.

As it should. Too many times within and outside of the Black community I am angered by Black people blaming our community for insufficient progress.

When we assign blame solely on the Black community, we fail to factor in the many different systems of racism working together to oppress us (see Black Wallstreet and the famous Central Park in New York). Pretty much every major city in America has a story of destroying Black people that were doing well, historically or currently.

On the local, regional, and national levels, systems perpetuate racism. Since Black people were first dragged here, we have fought to not only survive but to thrive, as neighborhoods like Orange Mound in Memphis, TN teach us.

I think we deserve some credit for our resilience and should assign blame to the correct source: systemic racism.

As Black people we should frame narratives to shift the blame to white supremacy for the inequities and violence against us. For example, rather than Black people are exhausted, racism is exhausting. Or rather than Black people are disproportionately denied loans, banks discriminate against Black people in lending…

BLACK FATIGUE | Mary-Frances Winters

Black Fatigue is complete with practical, step-by-step action plans.

Each chapter first highlights problems then provides solutions. And, at the end of the book, Winters provides an overarching plan to ending systemic racism.

Right now there seems to be so much chatter and not a lot of elbow grease. So I’m glad she has provided a starting point for climbing many of these mountains. Circulating these ideas is definitely a step toward solving racism.

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What I Disliked About Black Fatigue

It can be repetitive and drag.

This is not a work of fiction nor is it styled like creative writing. Sometimes it feels like reading a doctoral thesis.

Black Fatigue is pretty short but I don’t think anyone will fault you if you read a couple of chapters at a time and take a breather. It can be a lot to process.

It feels like a lot of doom-and-gloom with a sprinkle of hope on top.

Like I mentioned in my opening, Black Fatigue has zero sugar coating. Winters is not going to coddle you through these pages. You’re going to have to put on your big girl panties (or whatever your underwear of preference) and muscle through the madness that is systemic racism.

That being said, I found myself constantly looking for a ray of hope. Every other word felt like it was saying “then is now” right up until the action items listed. For a while I felt as if I was underwater, holding my breath, hoping I didn’t drown from the weight of this information…and I almost didn’t make it.

I’m glad this book isn’t light-hearted, though. People need to be able to feel the gravity of the problem.

My overall rating:

While this book isn’t meant to be entertainment and I understand that, it had lots of sections that felt repetitive and dragged at times. Of course, I read the unedited Advanced Reader Copy so that could be fixed by the time the book is released.

What kept me reading was the information. I know many books have been written on the topic, but I don’t believe I’ve come across one that’s summed systemic racism quite like this.

My prayer is that everyone buys it and begins to educate themselves so that, one day in the near future, Black Fatigue will be an unnecessary, antiquated relic.


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