It was approximately five months ago that my book club was speaking about race since we were discussing Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I found myself being the unique reference since I was the only black person in the room. Scary. That brought home the idea that black people are not a monolith.Everybody else is white and the majority are from the UK. Surprisingly enough, the subject of race and the UK came up as they all declared themselves disappointed with America’s outward racism since 45 being elected. They then came to the conclusion that class was more of a divide in the UK than race. I was surprised to hear this because the few black people I’ve known from the UK always said that race was largely the issue. Not being able to speak knowledgeably about the UK’s race issues, I remained silent on that one, while silently suspecting that they were giving the UK a bit too much credit on the race issue.
Contrary to the title Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, I find myself having to do it more frequently, since I’ve been living in France for over 20+ years. Here nobody wants to bring up the subject of race. The French are living in a race Disneyland in their heads. They never question the lack of racial diversity on television, in politics, in schools, and in the hierarchy of big business. Everything is hunky dory here. France has quite a way to go before they begin to just scratch the surface of their race issues.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race was an engrossing and informative read touching on race in the UK. This book was developed from a blog post Reni Eddo-Lodge had written on 22 February 2014 about her difficulty to speak about race with white people.
“I’m no longer engaging with white people on the topic of race. Not all white people, just the vast majority who refuse to accept the legitimacy of structural racism and its symptoms. I can no longer engage with the gulf of an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates their experience. You can see their eyes shut down and harden. It’s like treacle is poured into their ears, blocking up their ear canals. It’s like they can no longer hear us.” (Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, p. ix) White people not being interested in hearing about race problems was very similar to what Michael Eric Dyson described in Tears We Cannot Cry: A Sermon to White America.
This book is her detailed extension of that blog post. It reminds the reader that black American story has taken over and become the story that is learned in the UK, while the black British story being neglected. So neglected that the average British person probably isn’t aware of how blacks really got to Britain nor how much race as also shaped the UK. It opens with a powerful preface, introducing you to Eddo-Lodge’s voice – insightful and punctilious. The book is separated into seven chapters, Chapter 1 beginning with the history of Britain – colonialism and slavery. The other chapters cover the system, white privilege, mixed race people, feminism, and finally race and class. The very last chapter is uplifting and gives both white and black people ideas on how to deal with discussions about race. Basically, we have to choose our battles carefully.
“Racism does not go both ways. There are unique forms of discrimination that are backed up by entitlement, assertion and, most importantly, supported by structural power strong enough to scare you into complying with the demands of the status quo. We have to recognize this.” (Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, p. 98)
If you’re still not sure about reading Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, click the video below and listen to Reni Eddo-Lodge talking about it. It’ll give you an even better overview of the topics she covers.
My copy: Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, paperback, 224 pages
My rating: * * * * *
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