Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race

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' that led to this book.Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political pu...

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Title:Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race
Author:Reni Eddo-Lodge
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Edition Language:English

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race Reviews

  • TheSkepticalReader

    In 2014, Reni Eddo-Lodge made a blog post, from where emerges the book title, about why she does not want to talk to white people about race. The response was overwhelming, both from whites and people of color. Motivated by the response, she decided to continue the conversation in this boo

    In 2014, Reni Eddo-Lodge made a blog post, from where emerges the book title, about why she does not want to talk to white people about race. The response was overwhelming, both from whites and people of color. Motivated by the response, she decided to continue the conversation in this book in an attempt to bridge the gap that exists in a discourse about race.

    This book is personal, it’s not about grander ideas of life and history. She does discuss politics and history but they are reflected upon from

    perspective. Her dissatisfaction with conversations about race are reflected loud and clear in this book. This is one of the reasons why I’d recommend this to

    . White, brown, blue, green, whatever your skin color is, you should read this book. In any conversation about race, Eddo-Lodge’s experience is important to listen to.

    Eddo-Lodge’s words hit many cords with me. There are cases where I could

    easily relate to the frustrations she expresses. One instance of this is when she brings up the subject of the ‘good’ racist (or the moderate white person who is often the greater threat, the ‘non-racist’) as opposed to the ones who are explicitly malicious. Another is when she talks about the superficiality of the left’s aghast at Jeremy Corbyn’s win in UK elections (easily relatable to the US version of Corbyn in 2016). The 2016 election exposed American Democrats in a way that hadn’t been expected before. Let us not be fooled, even during the Women’s March in January 2017, a lot of racist white women came out to rally in the name of feminism after having voted to gut the rights of marginalized communities.

    In her chapter on defining and understanding white privilege, Eddo-Lodge states, “white privilege is an absence of the consequences of racism…White privilege is dull, grinding complacency.” I certainly agree, however, her approach to the topic made me interested to see how white people would define it today (if they consider it a thing at all, that is). Another surprising tidbit she reveals here was that the term ‘white privilege’ was created by a white man. Isn’t that something?

    On the topic of feminism, we also have to address the battle between

    and

    . Being that intersectional has to precede the term ‘feminism’ in order to include the ‘other’, which the default feminism often dismisses, herein emerges an issue of class where one or more persons might not even be able to define

    to understand what intersectional feminism stands for. It sounds rather silly at first but upon consideration, is it truly? Why must intersectional have to precede feminism in order for us to address the problems with privileged (white) feminism?

    But again, her argument echoes mine when it comes to feminism as a whole. That is, “When feminists can see the problem with all-male panels, but can’t see the problem with all-white television programmes, it’s worth questioning who they’re really fighting for.”

    I don’t agree with Eddo-Lodge 100% of the time obviously, nor can I always relate, but this is still a voice worth listening. Right or wrong, agree or disagree, I can still love the book for what it is even when I’m not always in sync with the author.

    Buy this book, read it, and then pass it on to your friends and family.

  • Kai

    Once again - calm your horses - I'm here to say: every white person needs to read this books. Every one of us.

    caught my attention roughly a year ago when I first saw the cover. And it's a good cover. And it's a great title. You were probably taken aback and had to swall

    Once again - calm your horses - I'm here to say: every white person needs to read this books. Every one of us.

    caught my attention roughly a year ago when I first saw the cover. And it's a good cover. And it's a great title. You were probably taken aback and had to swallow hard. This might have felt like a hit to your usually untouchable whiteness. Of course, this title is here to provoke a discussion. It wants you to listen. Here is what the author has to say:

    Reni Eddo-Lodge further explains that she is unwilling to talk to white people who do not want to listen, who do not want to talk, who shut down because a discussion about race feels like a personal threat, not one that wants to spread awareness and acceptance.

    So if you do feel upset about this title...read the book anyway. It won't hurt you. It will most likely expand your horizon.

    Talking about expanding horizons, it sure as hell expanded mine. I could basically feel it shift. Reni Eddo-Lodge tackles a lot of crucial topics in this book. She talks about what initiated her original blog post with the same title back in 2014 and what led to the publication of this book. She lays out the history of slavery and racism in Britain - a topic that even British students hardly learn about in school, explains structural racism, defines white privilege, raises the feminism question, describes how race and class are intertwined and offers advice on what white people can do to fight racism.

    I devoured this book in only two days. I took it everywhere I went, read it at home, in the park, on the tube - and earned a lot of side-glances. What the author talks about in this book is so important and true. It's also frustrating and enraging. It seems almost too trivial to say but the fact that people get hurt and killed for no other reason than the colour of their skin is impossible to put into words. It makes me want to scream and shout and throw stuff around and cry. But most of all it makes me want to talk. Because racism is not only something that actively hurts people. It's not something that you can point at. Racism is sneaky, racism is structural, racism is a political ideology that results in children of colour being adopted on average a year after their white counterparts. It results in teachers automatically downgrading non-white students. It results in wage-gaps and lost job opportunities. It results in an underrepresentation in the media, film and publishing industry:

    I learned so many things while reading this book. Most, however, I took away from the chapter on feminism. Mainly that feminism is not about establishing equality between men and women, it is about liberating "all people who have been economically, socially and culturally marginalised by an ideological system that has been designed for them to fail. That means disabled people, black people, trans people, LGB people and working-class people." What Reni means is that a white person should be aware of the structures around them that are in their favour and simultaneously limit other non-white, non-cis-gendered, non-straight, non-male, non-disabled, non-wealthy people. Furthermore, she is aware that these structures will not vanish overnight. They must be pointed-out and fought.

    The question is, what can you yourself do to change this system? There is no need to feel guilty for your privileges. Be aware of them, try to deconstruct them and most importantly: talk. Talking will not always be easy, it will most likely be uncomfortable and it might anger and frustrate the people you talk with. But staying silent is not an option. Staying silent means divulging in the privileges you have and enforcing a racist society to strive and grow.

  • Thomas

    One of the best books I have ever read,

    is essential reading for anyone who cares about social justice, other people, and the state of our society. Reni Eddo-Lodge provides a thorough and incisive history of slavery and racism in Britain, followed by several powerful chapters about white privilege, white-washed feminism, race and class, and more. I want to emulate her writing style: it is assertive and provocative, and every word feels fierce

    One of the best books I have ever read,

    is essential reading for anyone who cares about social justice, other people, and the state of our society. Reni Eddo-Lodge provides a thorough and incisive history of slavery and racism in Britain, followed by several powerful chapters about white privilege, white-washed feminism, race and class, and more. I want to emulate her writing style: it is assertive and provocative, and every word feels fierce and necessary, with no wasted space in this text at all. She strikes a perfect balance between conveying how entrenched and all-encompassing racism really is, while offering hope that we can fight white supremacy as long as we act. She refuses to coddle whiteness and instead discusses how we should move beyond protecting white fragility. I marked at least a dozen passages, but one I wanted to share about feminism which I absolutely loved:

    On a personal note, reading this book served as such a cathartic experience for me as a person of color. It is painful to recall and to write about the racism I have experienced, like when a white high school English teacher always made me feel awful about my writing because of my Asian identity, or when a white woman tone-policed me and called me passive-aggressive for pointing out her problematic actions toward Asian Americans. I feel so grateful for Reni Eddo-Lodge for reminding me of the importance of using my voice to advocate for liberation even when it hurts. Her strategies of setting boundaries with defensive white people, of acknowledging her own privilege, and of continuing to speak out all inspired me to be bolder and more thoughtful in my own activism.

    Recommended to literally everyone, of course. I am grateful for my handful of white friends who show up for racial justice without seeking praise and special treatment. I hope this book will inspire more to join the cause. I will end this review with a quote about how white people can contribute to the movement:

  • Didi

    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.

  • Clif Hostetler

    This book was prompted by the viral response that resulted from the posting of

    on the author's blog. I think the message is worth reading because it provides an excellent articulation of the near impossibility of communicating the fact of structural racism to white people who happen to be unwitting beneficiaries of it.

    Below I've listed the main terms defined, explored and discussed in this book. The definitions are as I understand them to be from reading the book. My definitions a

    This book was prompted by the viral response that resulted from the posting of

    on the author's blog. I think the message is worth reading because it provides an excellent articulation of the near impossibility of communicating the fact of structural racism to white people who happen to be unwitting beneficiaries of it.

    Below I've listed the main terms defined, explored and discussed in this book. The definitions are as I understand them to be from reading the book. My definitions are my own translation of the author's narrative and are no substitute for reading the book:

    Racism is prejudice with power. That means that minorities without power can't be racist.

    Structural racism is the summation of expectations, associations, and social forces that are assumed to be the norm in daily life. Their presence is so pervasive that their existence is often not recognized.

    White privilege is "absence of the consequences of racism."

    White feminism refers to the campaign for women's rights while continuing to be blind to racism.

    Class is often used as a code word for racist views (e.g. white working class).

    The history, social conditions and current events described in this book are focused on Great Britain, the author's native country. My first thought was that it was unfortunate that this sort of message wasn't focused on my own country, the USA. But on second thought I decided this book's message may be able to reach white Americans by allowing them to be less defensive about its message because it's about another country. If white Americans can comprehend racism in Britain they may be a step closer to understanding it at home.

    I was attracted to the book because 0f its title. Even though I'm white (and implicitly beneficiary of white privilege), I believe I share some of the same frustration that the title conveys. For a number of years I've noticed that the most racist people I know are the ones who preface their pontifications with the phrase, "I'm not a racist but ..."

    Talking to people like that about racism is the equivalent of talking to a brick wall, and if they have a disposition to be angry and threatened their words in reply can become the equivalent of thrown bricks. Thus, when I saw the title that expressed the futility of taking to white people about racism, I thought I understood the sentiment.

    According to this book if you claim to be color blind regarding race, you may be participating in the promotion of white privilege. Being color blind often makes people blind to the consequences of past wrongs and thus blind to structural racism today.

    This book says that racism is a problem for whites to solve because the power to do so resides with them. It is a problem that "reveals the anxieties, hypocrisies and double standards of whiteness. It is a problem in the psyche of whiteness that white people must take responsibility to solve."

    Toward the end of the book the author says that white people often ask her what they can do about racism—people of color ask how to cope with it. Among her suggestions for white people is that they speak to unsympathetic white people—exactly the LAST THING that I want to do. Well, maybe I can simply suggest they read this book.

    I want to also mention that the audio version of this book is narrated by the author, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and she does a good job. The emotion pent-up behind the book's text really comes through.

    __________

    The following is a link to an article discussing Trump's twitter exchange with reporter Greg Sargent on the day before Thanksgiving and Thanksgiving Day 2017. I've included it here to illustrate how we in the USA have a Racist-In-Chief who seldom passes up a chance to add to his many "contributions to the degradation of the integrity of the office he holds." Trump's tweets often contain fodder for racist feelings.

  • Trish

    Reni Eddo-Lodge no longer wants to talk to white people about race because white people always manage to make the conversation about themselves. Isn’t this the original definition of a bore? This would actually be funny if it didn’t have such deadly consequences for people of color everywhere.

    Eddo-Lodge is British and this book evolved from a

    Reni Eddo-Lodge no longer wants to talk to white people about race because white people always manage to make the conversation about themselves. Isn’t this the original definition of a bore? This would actually be funny if it didn’t have such deadly consequences for people of color everywhere.

    Eddo-Lodge is British and this book evolved from an explosive blogpost of the same title that she wrote in 2014 and which is reproduced in full in the Preface to this volume. Contrary to her explicit desire to stop talking to white people about race, she has become a national and international spokesperson and spends most of her time talking to white people about race. Is there a lesson here?

    Eddo-Lodge divides her commentary on the subject of race into seven chapters, the first of which, “Histories,” details her awakening to the realization that she knew very little about black British history until her second year at university. That moment of awakening, the moment Ta-Nehisi Coates also details in his own book,

    , is a thrilling one in the life of an writer/activist. After that moment comes the hard work of study and making connections.

    Chapter 2, “The System,” tries to describe the way racism looks today from the point of view of those discriminated against in Britain, and the excuses made to paper over any actual discussion of the problems. This is where the insistence upon merit and the way the conversation always turns to white anxiety is most apparent. Chapter 3, “What is White Privilege?” surprises us with the assertion that

    I’d always assumed that mixed race families had the advantages of understanding around issues of race, but Eddo-Lodge tells us that many families are not having the conversations they need to have, difficult and raw though they may be. Of course.

    There is so much in this short book that I have to urge everyone to get their own copy. The insights come fast and furious from this point on. For some white people, Eddo-Lodge asserts, “being accused of racism is far worse than actual racism.” That resonates in today’s America, and could as easily be said about sexism. We need to humble ourselves enough to learn new lessons. When addressing feminism and racism in Chapter 5, "The Feminism Question," Eddo-Lodge may present her most eloquent arguments, including a discussion about the need for black feminists to meet separately:

    In direct relationship to the cogency of her arguments, her shortest chapters are the most fluent, insightful, and well-argued. At the end, Eddo-Lodge uses a Terry Pratchett statement as her final chapter heading: "There is No Justice, There is Just Us.” In this chapter she reflects our questions right back out at her audience.

    Apropos of this exhortation, a racial justice educator based in Boston,

    , wrote a book on race primarily for white people, called

    , detailing her experiences waking up to an unconscious racism. I agree with her that we need to learn to speak this new vocabulary of race if we want to enjoy the benefits of diversity. Eddo-Lodge, despite her exhaustion talking about race with white people, is doing her part.

  • Rick Burin

    Reni Eddo-Lodge opens up her provocative and challenging viral blogpost of 2014 into a 224-page (big type) book that has something to say, but says it unbelievably poorly. Eddo-Lodge may be right that ‘structural’ (institutionalised) racism is the biggest problem facing Britain today, she’s definitely right that anti-immigrant narratives are cynically used by those in power to divide the working class, and her early insights into whiteness being the ‘default’ from which everything is forced to d

    Reni Eddo-Lodge opens up her provocative and challenging viral blogpost of 2014 into a 224-page (big type) book that has something to say, but says it unbelievably poorly. Eddo-Lodge may be right that ‘structural’ (institutionalised) racism is the biggest problem facing Britain today, she’s definitely right that anti-immigrant narratives are cynically used by those in power to divide the working class, and her early insights into whiteness being the ‘default’ from which everything is forced to deviate (unless it will try to conform) are incisive and valuable. But her narrative voice – which she complains is too often characterised as ‘angry’ because she’s a black woman – is increasingly monotonous, patronising and illogical, with vast leaps between evidence and conclusions, and she repeatedly misrepresents or mischaracterises dissenters and their views (whether socialist commentators or those who opposed Rhodes Must Fall), slinging accusations at them which simply aren’t borne out by the case studies she offers.

    Eddo-Lodge isn’t a historian – the selected examples of 20th century British racism are horrific but presented with no real coherent commentary or through-line – she isn’t a particularly good writer, and she seems to lack the rigorousness, contextual aptitude and transmittable empathy to be a decent polemicist. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by James Baldwin, but this haphazard book – containing one isolated piece of council reporting, much re-hashing of Twitterstorms about black Hermione et al, and an exclusive interview with Nick Griffin, the author apparently labouring under the misapprehension that otherwise he can sue her for libel for quoting him on Question Time – is frankly all over the shop. Her overall thesis – that the dice are loaded against black people from the start, that white people unthinkingly benefit from this system and that intersectionality in feminism is essential – is absolutely sound, but a lot of her arguments are conjecture, and a lot of her contentions are nonsense. Like the idea that Britain failed to take the killing of Stephen Lawrence and the purposefully botched investigation seriously. Or that Diane Abbott’s moronic statement after the eventual trial came to entirely dominate the news agenda, scuppering the chance to have a serious debate about the issues involved. She’s right that modern black history should be taught in school, but wrong that it’s entirely kept out of the mainstream: I learnt of the Windrush at university and of the Brixton and Notting Hill riots by reading newspapers. We studied Stephen Lawrence in extraordinary depth in lessons for three different school subjects, and from personal, social and political perspectives.

    Every so often she’ll say something that catches you completely off-guard, and causes you to question and interrogate your beliefs, and that’s where the book is valuable. She’s great on the failings of ‘colourblindness’ and at dismantling the argument against quotas, does well at challenging the unions and the Labour Party for their culpability in racism, and (more comfortably) at highlighting conservative hypocrisy in adopting progressive language to further reactionary ends. The personal insights are quite moving at first, but she also engages in some utterly unedifying score-settling (largely aimed at white feminists), and absolutely loses her shit about an acquaintance who failed to believe that Eddo-Lodge definitely failed to get a job due to racism. The author’s evidence for this racism is that she had the same qualifications as the person who got the job, and is sure that it was racism. She’s poor, too, at suggesting how we effect change, tripping herself up with unyielding ideology. She says that racism is a white problem but that white people can’t be at the vanguard of the fight against it, at least not in multi-ethnic spheres, which isn’t only confusing, but also unhelpful and patronising.

    It’s incredibly important to listen to diverse voices, but being one of those voices doesn’t excuse you from the basic duties of writing, research and logic. This is a poor polemic: disjointed, misleading and too often repetitive when it should be relentless, its genuine insights lost in a shapeless collection of personal beefs, yellowing Twitterstorms and disparate case studies. Eddo-Lodge doesn’t care how she comes across, which is good for her, as she comes across as someone who’s so intolerant of others that she manages to rub you up the wrong way, despite being in the right.

  • Peter

    Utter crap!

    Let me explain why.

    My wife is from Bangladesh, we will have been married for twenty years this december and have two wonderful daughters.

    My point: I have had more racist abuse from blacks and asians since we have been married and my wife as had almost nothing in comparison. In fact the police found it very funny that my wife phoned them because it was I that was getting the racist abuse at our house not her at the time. It's amazing that they can laugh at white people for getting raci

    Utter crap!

    Let me explain why.

    My wife is from Bangladesh, we will have been married for twenty years this december and have two wonderful daughters.

    My point: I have had more racist abuse from blacks and asians since we have been married and my wife as had almost nothing in comparison. In fact the police found it very funny that my wife phoned them because it was I that was getting the racist abuse at our house not her at the time. It's amazing that they can laugh at white people for getting racist abuse but not the other way round.

    I was (many years ago), waiting for a bus in East Ham when a young asian woman with a baby was racialy abused by a black guy, because she was pushing a buggy and going slow he points at her shouting, "Why don't you fuck off back to YOUR own country bitch".

    Not being able to let this stand I responded that "She has got as much right to be in MY country as you". The emphasis on "my" was the response to him saying "your". The frustration I felt was because there was no white people involved in the initial altercation it was ignored by everyone around me, but if it was a white guy everyone around me would have exploded.

    In the end I was rewarded with a thank you and a smile knowing that not everyones a bastard.

    Black and asians are becoming openly racist and the native white population are not supposed to retaliate, the title of the book reflects this very well. If the title had the words black people there would be an outcry.

    I am certainly not racist but this book would make me change my mind if not for my wife and daughters.

    This book is erratic, poorly researched and without substance and partial truths. The author should not have been allowed to publish this one sided racist argument.

    A book that only fans the flames rather than extinguishes them.

    Before anyone throws a hissy fit let me point out that to only way for us to marry was if I converted to islam.

    PS: We only have one world so shut up and let's all get along, hey...

    Shhhh... I still do not tolerate religion.

  • Ian Connel

    "Why I'm No Longer Talking to Black People about Race."

    Consider that statement if you want to read this book. Avoid the mental gymnastics of postmodernism. Ask yourself, "does this statement show love and respect to other humans?"

    If you answered no, then you are not a moron. Stay that way. Treat people as individuals, not as stereotypes.

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