Book Review: ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’

Reni Eddo-Lodge

Journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge published her blog post, and now the title of her debut book, Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race back in 2014. As expected she received a lot of backlash for this post, mainly due to the provocative title. However the book itself has received an overwhelming positive response.

I think it’s crucial to first point out that Eddo-Lodge isn’t referring to all white people in her book. She makes it clear that she no longer wanted to engage in conversation with those who refuse to accept their white privilege, and continues to explain the emotional disconnect that these people then display when discussing race. It’s argued that this disconnect is shown through the way some white people dismiss the experiences of black people when talking about race, and make sweeping statements that suggest racism doesn’t exist in modern day society… which any black person can tell you is absurd!

“It becomes very apparent in this chapter that structural racism continues to reign in today’s society and it would erroneous to assume otherwise.”

After studying a short module at university, Eddo-Lodge claims she became more aware of black British history, and how it has been consciously erased from the national curriculum. In the first chapter of the book, she discusses the historical context of racism in the UK, and highlights just how little a vast majority of black people know about black British history. She herself admits that it wasn’t easy to come across sources that delved into our own history. Eddo-Lodge further explores the history of Britain from the abolition of slavery act passed in 1833 to the Brixton riots of 1981. Overall, it becomes very apparent in this chapter that structural racism continues to reign in today’s society and it would erroneous to assume otherwise.

Eddo-Lodge argues that the discussing white privilege “forces white people to confront their own complicity in its continuing existence”. With many white people not fully aware of their privilege, they often fail to understand the complexity of structural racism and would rather dismiss the notion that they are privileged to avoid feeling guilty, or having to come to terms with Britain’s involvement in fuelling structural racism. British people are raised to be extremely patriotic, so any discussion about race that undermines their country’s greatness is quickly dismissed. Which is why a vast majority of white people refuse to accept they are privileged in society.

“Issues of racial prejudice and discrimination are often ignored by white feminist organisations.”

Eddo-Lodge refers to herself as a feminist, however this doesn’t deter her from confronting the various ways white feminists continue to dismiss black feminist issues regarding race. I commend Eddo-Lodge on unapologetically discussing the issues of inclusive feminism. I once also referred to myself as a feminist, however similar to Eddo-Lodge I too started to distance myself from the movement when I noticed that issues of gender inequality in regards to women of colour were being widely ignored. Within this chapter dedicated to feminism, Eddo-Lodge refers to the way black feminists in particular are often alienated. She claims that issues of racial prejudice and discrimination are often ignored by white feminist organisations.

Eddo-Lodge’s argument is particularly solid when she refers to both race and class. She denies this notion that we have to look at race and class as separate entities. Depicting the Marxist argument of class and social structure, Eddo-Lodge goes on to explain why race and class should be intertwined by referring to the perception of working class being associated with white males, and the overall lack of representation of the black working class.

“Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book is essential, as we all need to start having real, unfiltered discussions on racism within the UK.”

I noticed that when many black writers address the topic of race, they always seem to tip toe over the subject of racism and never really delve into the complexity of modern day racism. I assume many writers take this approach to avoid a backlash from a white audience who may be offended by their words. Whatever the reason, it has always frustrated me that not enough black writers are willing to unapologetically address the issue of racism, out of fear of offending white people. Which is why I believe Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book is essential, as we all need to start having real, unfiltered discussions on racism within the UK.

For the most part, Eddo-Lodge asks us as readers to stop exhausting ourselves by talking to white people who refuse to accept their privilege regarding race. Readers, black or white, who are open to having an honest conversation about structural racism within the UK will find this to be an informative and insightful read, offering a wider perspective about the topic of racism and how it dominates almost every structure of our county.

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