Oh my frickin’ god, go and buy this book immediately and read it. It’s a brilliant book about race relations in Britain today.
Despite abolition, an Act of Parliament was not going to change the perception overnight of enslaved African people from quasi-animal to human. Less than two hundred years later, that damage is still to be undone.
Eddo-Lodge originally wrote a blog post, in 2014, with the same name as the book, and it was this that sparked the process of writing the book. Eddo-Lodge says that since writing the original post, she has seemingly done nothing but talk to people about race. She doesn’t want the tears or guilt of white people, of course not. But that’s basically why she decided she no longer wanted to talk to white people about race, and I don’t blame her either.
…white privilege is an absence of the negative consequences of racism.
The idea of white privilege forces white people who aren’t actively racist to confront their own complicity in its continuing existence.
The idea that so many people have that they are colour-blind, when it comes to race, is discussed, and I hear this one so often…
I think we placate ourselves with the fallacy of meritocracy by insisting that we just don’t see race. This makes us feel progressive. But this claim to not see race is tantamount to compulsory assimilation. My blackness has been politicised against my will, but I don’t want it wilfully ignored in an effort to instil some sort of precarious, false harmony.
Colour-blindness is a childish, stunted analysis of racism.
Colour-blindness does not accept the legitimacy of structural racism or a history of white racial dominance.
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.
Yes, my review is going to end up very quote heavy!
The first thing that has to be mentioned about Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, is its phenomenal cover. It is brilliant and also quite difficult to photograph.
One of the points made is that black history is not taught very well. I don’t think I was taught any black history at all at school. I was shocked to see a town local to where I grew up making an appearance. I had no idea about its involvement in the slave trade, and I should have known.
…the election of Britain’s first black Members of Parliament in 1987 – Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant.
are surprising for being not just in my lifetime, but in a time I can clearly remember. Similarly, the Stephen Lawrence murder is examined and that all takes place in the 1990s to the 2010s. This is yesterday, not the distant, dim past.
We tell ourselves that racism is about moral values, when instead it is about the survival strategy of systemic power.
There is a chapter on feminism and why intersectionality is so important. White feminism is discussed and it is explained why this isn’t an insult to individual white people (as the term is often taken) but is a way of exploring the structural issues around white supremacy and its role in feminism. Eddo-Lodge explains it all so much better than I can, so go and read her explanation in the book!
Far from shutting down debate, incorporating the challenges of racism is absolutely essential for a feminist movement that doesn’t leave anyone behind. I’m not sure our most popular versions of feminism are currently up to that task.
There is so much in the book I haven’t gone into in this review too. There’s a lot on class that is really interesting too.
As you can imagine, a lot of people have reacted very strongly to the book title, without reading the contents, of course. It is provocative, but the message is not. It’s a sensible, clear, important discussion of race relations in Britain today and I think everyone can benefit from reading it. As a white person, there’s part of the book where Eddo-Lodge explains what white people can do to help (because clearly she is asked this often!).
White support looks like financial or administrative assistance to the groups doing vital work. Or intervening when you are needed in bystander situations. Support looks like white advocacy for anti-racist causes in all-white spaces. White people, you need to talk to other white people about race. Yes, you may be written off as a radical, but you have much less to lose.
and if it needs a reminder:
If all racism was as easy to spot, grasp and denounce as white extremism is, the task of the anti-racist would be simple.