Title/Author: Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
In a nutshell (Amazon):
In 2014, award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t affected by it. She posted a piece on her blog, entitled: “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race.”
Her words hit a nerve. The post went viral and comments flooded in from others desperate to speak up about their own experiences. Galvanized by this clear hunger for open discussion, she decided to dig into the source of these feelings. 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 timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of color in Britain today.
This book is divided into 7 essays/chapters, (focusing on structural racism, class and feminism) – Histories; The System; What is White Privilege?; Fear of a Black Planet; The Feminism Question; Race and Class; There’s No Justice, There’s Just Us.
This is such a difficult book to review simply because it’s about racism – one of the most sensitive issues to date and I don’t know how to properly articulate my thoughts in words. But I’ll try because this is such an important read and I want this book to be in my records.
So I came up with these 3 As, while taking quotes from the book, with little nuggets of my own thoughts.
My 3 As:
We must first acknowledge that we have long been racists. It’s deep in our psyche. We must acknowledge that we do see race. We must see race. “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.“
The author highlighted it a lot in her essay ‘The Feminism Question’. In it she raised this argument, “If feminism can understand the patriarchy, it’s important to question why so many feminists struggle to understand whiteness as a political structure in the very same way.”
The below quote (long but important) is one that find important to note:
“White feminism is a politics that engages itself with myths such as ‘I don’t see race’. It is a politics which insists that talking about race fuels racism – thereby denying people of colour the words to articulate our existence. It’s a politics that expects people of colour to quietly assimilate into institutionally racist structures without kicking up a fuss. It’s a politics where people of colour are never setting the agenda.”
As I understood the entirety of the essay, it basically says that feminism ought to take into account the rights of POC too, and not shut them out when they bring race and racism to the table.
“The feminist circles I’d thrown myself into were almost white. This whiteness wasn’t a problem if you didn’t talk about race, but if you did, it would reveal itself as an exclusionary force.”
We must also learn to accept the fact that we see race. Denying it is not going to get us anywhere. Denying it is denying the voice of colored people their right to be heard. “The journey towards understanding structural racism still requires people of colour to prioritise white feelings. Even if they can hear you, they’re not really listening. It’s like something happens to the words as they leave our mouths and reach their ears. The words hit a barrier of denial and they don’t get any further.”
We must then address the issue courageously even though it means stepping up to those in power. Eddo-Lodge ended the book with a chapter titled, ‘There’s No Justice, There’s Just Us’. “If you feel burdened by your unearned privilege, try use it for something, and use it where it counts. But don’t be anti-racist for the sake of an audience. Being white and anti-racist in your private or professional life, where there’s very little praise to be found, is much more difficult, but ultimately more meaningful.”
Speak up. To those listening, listen without judgment. “The real test of this country’s perimeters of freedom of speech will be found if or when a person can freely discuss racism without being subject to intellectually dishonest attempts to undermine their arguments. If free speech, as so many insist, includes being prepared to hear opinions that you don’t like, then let’s open up the parameters of what we consider acceptable debate.”
And for those who suffer from racism and want to know how to cope, she suggests “setting boundaries when needed”, don’t feel guilty if you don’t want to talk to white people about race, and “rest and recharge”. But fight despondency. “We have to hang on to hope.”
Sounds like an uphill battle of course, because it is, even more so for those affected by it.
Racism is also very common in my home country, Malaysia, too. We, Malaysian Chinese, have often been told to go back to where we come from, that we don’t belong, even though many of us are born and bred there. We often have to work harder than those who benefit from the system. We often have to pay more for property and education than those who benefit from the system.
There’s double standard. There’s structural racism. You either roll with their punches, settle for tokenism or be outed. This book struck a chord with me. We have long been trying to fight for change. And change did happen for us Malaysians two years ago, after 60 long YEARS of being oppressed by the same frigging ruling party. Sixty years. We have yet to see if this change is one that will benefit all.
Read this book. (I’m definitely going to have to read this again) Learn about racism even if you think you already know it. Get to the root of it. Understand it. Get angry. Get frustrated. Then do something about it. Quoting the author:
“It can be creative. It can be informal. It can be your job. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you’re doing something.”
Thank you for reading! Have you read this book? If not, do you intend to? Please share with me your thoughts!
Till then, HAPPY READING!