Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Published by Bloomsbury on 1 June 2017
Length: 5 hours and 53 minutes
Source: Free download via Audible
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In February 2014, Reni Eddo-Lodge posted an impassioned argument on her blog about her deep-seated frustration with the way discussions of race and racism in Britain were constantly being shut down by those who weren’t affected by it. She gave the post the title ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’. Her sharp, fiercely intelligent words hit a nerve, and the post went viral, spawning a huge number of comments from people desperate to speak up about their own similar experiences.
Galvanised by this response, Eddo-Lodge decided to dive into the source of these feelings, this clear hunger for an open discussion. The result is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today, covering issues from eradicated black history to white privilege, the fallacy of ‘meritocracy’ to whitewashing feminism, and the inextricable link between class and race. Full of passionate, personal and keenly felt argument, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is a wake-up call to a nation in denial about the structural and institutional racism occurring in our homes.
Race is such a delicate subject that I’m struggling to phrase how I feel about this book. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race was written after Reni Eddo-Lodge’s original blog post of the same name went viral. Given that so much of the literature surrounding race relations is US-centric, it was interesting to read (or rather, listen to) a book that focuses on the UK, specifically England. Often I think of the UK being socially divided more by class than race, so looking at the ways in which people of colour are marginalised in the UK, and the ways in which ethnic and class identities intersect and said marginalisation is compounded was eye-opening.
When I write about white people in this book, I don’t mean every individual white person. I mean whiteness as a political ideology. A school of thought that favours whiteness at the expense of those who aren’t.
Eddo-Lodge has split her argument into seven chapters, and provides a well-structured argument as to how structural/institutional racism affects people of colour. Eddo-Lodge asserts, “being accused of racism is far worse than actual racism,” which is something that resonates in modern Australia as well. It’s amazing to see how people of colour are essentially disadvantaged from birth by the colour of their skin, and the ways in which white people benefit from their race without even realising it. Eddo-Lodge addresses so many important points in this book, however her evidence to support her arguments occasionally feels very generalised and not a lot of hard evidence to back up what is essentially just her opinion. I also would’ve liked to see some points expanded upon further and felt that the quoting of Twitter altercations was a little heavy-handed (I’m sure there’s actual research that could’ve illustrated the same point and add credibility to Eddo-Lodge’s arguments), however this does feel like a personal essay in many ways, so I understand its inclusion.
Not seeing race does little to deconstruct racist structures or materially improve the conditions which people of colour are subject to daily. In order to dismantle unjust, racist structures, we must see race. We must see who benefits from their race, who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes about their race, and to who power and privilege is bestowed upon – earned or not – because of their race, their class, and their gender. Seeing race is essential to changing the system.
For me, the most interesting chapter was the one on race and feminism. Feminism started off as a movement that was white-centric and middle class-centric, and even today doesn’t really address the concerns of women of colour and/or poor and impoverished women. Feminism shouldn’t be a homogenous entity and it’s important that we work to raise up all women, not a privileged few.
I didn’t agree with Eddo-Lodge 100% obviously, but her voice is a powerful one that forces us to examine our prejudices and change our societal structures. A thought-provoking read.
Recommended for: those who liked The Hate Race