In February 2014, Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustration with the way discussions of race and racism in Britain were constantly being led by those who weren’t affected by it. She posted the piece on her blog, and gave it the title: ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race’.
Her powerful, passionate words hit a nerve. The post went viral, and comments flooded in from others desperate to speak up about their own, similar experiences. Galvanised by this response, she decided to dig 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.
Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race
by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Genre: Non-Fiction, Essays
Publication Date: November 7th, 2017
We tell ourselves that good people can’t be racist. We seem to think that true racism only exists in the hearts of evil people. We tell ourselves that racism is about moral values, when instead it is about survival strategies and systemic power.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is incredibly thought-provoking, eye-opening, educational, and insightful. I usually rate books based on my enjoyment first and foremost, but this one … I really can’t say that I enjoyed reading it.
I believe that the majority of us don’t particularly like to think, read, or talk about the issue of racism, and how it is still pervasive in our society, even to this day. I know I don’t. It’s a delicate subject (though it really shouldn’t be), and raising it, as well as discussing it, is not likely to make you very many friends—more likely, it’s going to cost you ones.
If I had to venture a guess as to the reason of that, I’d say that white people don’t like to, because they don’t want to be accused of being racist, profiting from racism, or made to feel privileged—and who would? I certainly wouldn’t like to feel as if my accomplishments have to do with anything other than my hard work, and applying myself.
No matter our personal feelings, however, all this doesn’t subtract from the reality that racism is still very, very real, and tangible, and just as important as the issue of our current patriarchy. Reni Eddo-Lodge pushes aside many misconceptions with these words:
When I talk about white privilege, I don’t mean that white people have it easy, that they’ve never struggled, or that they’ve never lived in poverty. [White privilege] is the fact, that if you’re white, your race will almost certainly positively impact your life’s trajectory in some way. And you probably won’t even notice it.
I, as a person of color, though not black, don’t particularly like to talk about it, because I don’t like talking about myself—and feeling—as if I’m a victim. I don’t like talking about, and being reminded of, having been put at a disadvantage because of my ethnicity, because it somehow almost feels worse than actually being discriminated, strange as it may sound.
Furthermore, I hate having my accomplishments assigned to it, as if being a straight-A student, or good at math is “because [I’m] Asian!!”, or how being a bad driver as an Asian (which, thankfully, I’m not) will unerringly result in someone saying “ohh, well, Asian people are just bad at driving”. (Which is not only racist, but stereotyping of the worst kind.)
Next to constantly being asked where we (people of color) actually come from—and failing to recognize that there is a difference between nationality, race, and ethnicity—when the question is returned, usually the subject all of a sudden isn’t all that interesting anymore. “Why don’t white people think they have a racial identity?”
Most importantly, however, and going back to my earlier assertion, I don’t like the feeling that arises when I’m reminded of the fact that my ethnicity will most likely—and statistics prove that in our current climate that’s going to be a reality for me—be my detriment … or has already been.
Eddo-Lodge said, when she refused to accept affirmative action on her behalf: “If I’m going to compete against my white peers, I’m going to do [it] on a level playing ground.” And I relate to where she’s coming from completely.
But racism isn’t merely about these “little” things, these everyday grievances that we people of color have to face. It’s not about the person on the street giving you a hateful glare, telling you to go back to your country (which happened to my parents all too often, living in a non-Asian country), or the surprise in people’s eyes, when you don’t fit into their metaphorical pre-ordained box they’d put you in. It’s about the big picture—structural racism.
This is what structural racism looks like: it’s not just about personal prejudice, but collective effects of bias.
That’s the reality we’re all facing today, no matter our personal opinions or feelings. I wish I had as powerful words as Reni Eddo-Lodge, but until I do, I’m immensely thankful for her bravery to speak out, raise her voice, and make a difference.
What I really want to say with my review of this book, which has turned into a personal little essay of my own rather than a review, is this: please educate yourself on the issue of racism, and please read this book.
Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent.
You’re interested in this book?
Have you read this book? What did you think of it?
Have you ever partaken in a discussion about racism in real life?
What are your personal experiences pertaining to it?