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

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

'One of the most important books of 2017' Nikesh Shukla, editor of The Good ImmigrantA powerful and provocative argument on the role that race and racism play in modern Britain, by award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-LodgeIn 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 b...

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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

  • Emma Wallace

    Beautiful, harrowing, emotional and raw; quite possibly the best book I have read all year! I write this review with an awareness that this book was never designed for my consumption or even education: this is such a personal account of Reni's experience and the historical experience of all POC in Britain and that connection is deeply felt in Reni's direct, emotive prose. I have felt a plethora of emotions while reading this book and have been shook to the core by the knowledge of the racist roo

    Beautiful, harrowing, emotional and raw; quite possibly the best book I have read all year! I write this review with an awareness that this book was never designed for my consumption or even education: this is such a personal account of Reni's experience and the historical experience of all POC in Britain and that connection is deeply felt in Reni's direct, emotive prose. I have felt a plethora of emotions while reading this book and have been shook to the core by the knowledge of the racist roots in my hometown, the slave port in my university town, Exeter, and the generally disgusting crimes my race have perpetrated throughout the many years of imperialism. I have felt all consuming rage at the historical injustice faced by those communities forced to participate in a world war they thought would guarantee the independence of their countries; the abhorrent crimes committed against the black community during Britain's civil rights movement and have cried learning of the history of injustice, immorality and cruelty that has been shielded with the apparent dismantling of colonialist occupation. I am truly not the same person through having read this book and feel a great sense of introspection through having read this: what is my role in shoring up this systemic racist network; the wrongness of my earlier color blindness in mindlessly consuming white washed content or not even being conscious of the many benefits accredited to me by my white privilege and the methods I must adopt if I am to be a genuine ally to the black community and the boundaries I must observe and the privilege I must manipulate if I am to truly contribute to the challenging of white supremacy. I am numb and so emotionally wrung out by this book and I think that the emotional resonance of this book is stunning; everyone due to the nature of their experience in whatever racial identity will relate to this book differently and will gain a different awareness through that. Undeniably an essential read this book is empowering, incitive, even hopeful; Reni has achieved something remarkable here and should undoubtedly be raised as the feminist icon and intellectual she is. Everyone must read this book!!

  • 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) 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 saw US Democrats in a new light and we came across racism from the self-proclaimed progressives on the left in a way I hadn’t thought possible.

    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’s a dilemma we clearly failed to address.

    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.

  • 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.

  • leynes

    I read

    based upon the recommendation of Yamini. So make sure to check out

    .

    And it's definitely a book that I, myself, will start recommending to people. Reni Eddo-Lodge has a very distinct and clear voice. I liked that she displayed her thoughts in such a structured way, and didn't try to sound academic or elaborate. Thi

    I read

    based upon the recommendation of Yamini. So make sure to check out

    .

    And it's definitely a book that I, myself, will start recommending to people. Reni Eddo-Lodge has a very distinct and clear voice. I liked that she displayed her thoughts in such a structured way, and didn't try to sound academic or elaborate. This book is really for the average person trying to educate themselves. You don't need a degree in Gender of African Studies to understand it, and that's why I appreciate it so much.

    On 22 February 2014, Reni Eddo-Lodge published a post on her blog entitled

    . She wrote about the fact that she can no longer engage with the gulf of an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates their experience, and that she can't have a conversation with them about the details of a problem if they don't even recognise that the problem exists.

    These are sentiments that most black people can probably relate to. Discussions about race, whether on- or offline, can be damn frustrating and emotionally draining. Oftentimes, one has the feeling that white people don't even want to listen, they just want to prove you wrong.

    It's really refreshing that Reni doesn't feel like she owes white people anything. She puts herself first – self-care and self-preservation are her top priority, and if talking to white people about race wasn't a give and take for her, but just a

    , I'm glad she put a halt to that.

    She starts her examination by looking at Britain's history with racism. Slavery as a British institution existed for much longer than it has currently been abolished.

    She distinguishes between simple discrimination and discrimination + power. Only the latter should be called racism. She states that structural racism is an impenetrably white workplace culture set by those people, where anyone who falls outside the culture must conform or face failure. It is the kind of racism that has the power to drastically impact people's life chances. It doesn't manifest itself in spitting at strangers in the street. Instead, it lies in an apologetic smile while explaining to an unlucky soul that they didn't get a job.

    I think that distinction is very important, and, sadly, something that most white people still don't get. I will never understand why they see the fact that one can't be racist towards them as an insult? As if being racially targeted was somehow desireable?

    I also highly appreciated that Reni proved her statements with recent studies. Research indicates that a black schoolboy is three times more likely to be permanently excluded compared to the whole school population. He will also be systematically marked down by his own teachers. Researchers found that applicants with white-sounding names were called to interview far more often than those with African- or Asian-sounding names.

    A 2013 British report revealed that black people are twice as likely to be charged with drugs possession, despite lower rates of drug use. A 2003 NHS England report confirmed that people of African or African Carribean backgrounds are more at risk than any other ethnic group in England to be admitted to psychiatric hospitals under the compulsory powers of the Mental Health Act. In 2015, just 7 percent of judges across courts and tribunals were black or from an ethnic minority background.

    One of the best sections in the book is where she dissects white privilege. She defines it as 'an absence of the consequences of racism. White privilege is the fact that if you're white, your race will almost certainly positively impact your life's trajectory in some way.'

    I also highly appreciated that she, as the kids say,

    , by admitting that she is university-educated and able-bodied – factors which bolster her own voice above others. I think it's very important to be aware of the fact that you can be privileged in some areas and not in others.

    Another excellent section is her dissection of the feminism question, and in particular the problem of 'white feminism'. She asks herself the important questions: Can you be feminist and be anti-choice? Can you be a feminist and be wilfully ignorant on racism? Spoilert alert: The answer to both is NO.

    As bleak as some of the statistics and facts may be, Reni ends on a hopeful note:

    We must work together to dismantle the fucked up system we live in, we must work together on calling out the injustices that we witness. We can use our anger for good!

  • 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.

  • Alice Lippart

    Very interesting and articulate, but would've loved if it had gone more in depth.

  • Mohammed P Aslam

    Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote in the Guardian (June 2017) where she stated, White privilege is a manipulative, suffocating blanket of power that envelopes everything we know, like a snowy day.

    Why wouldn’t we wish to talk to white people about race, this would be an automatic response to the title of this book from any normal white person and many black people too. This book is certainly a very edifying as much as an instructive book by all accounts and without question it will keep you engrossed in the

    Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote in the Guardian (June 2017) where she stated, White privilege is a manipulative, suffocating blanket of power that envelopes everything we know, like a snowy day.

    Why wouldn’t we wish to talk to white people about race, this would be an automatic response to the title of this book from any normal white person and many black people too. This book is certainly a very edifying as much as an instructive book by all accounts and without question it will keep you engrossed in the debate whether there is substance or not to the detail she covers.

    This book came out of a blog that Eddo-Lodge wrote sometime back with the same title and consequently she received many favourable responses for the work, some of whom I am sure are most likely the politically perturbed co-conspirators to the racial discourse under discussion. However, writing a book on the same topic is a little more complicated, it requires more data, its needs further analysis and it demands unique evidence to support the assertions. Unlike a blog, much like a Facebook blog where you can shout the odds and no one really cares that much. Just another loud voice in the gloomy, dark and often politically obscure wilderness. We will see if we explore these points a little later in this review.

    The scene is set when Eddo-Lodge starts her writing with her opening gambit of explaining why she feels she is unable to speak to white people about race. When I read this statement, I was immediately thrown towards the political work of Malcolm X who at the start of his religio-political life, after decades of living a delinquent life style, he too refused to acknowledge white people as he saw them as autocrats, oppressors and tormentors of black people and their history from across the world. The comparisons were very striking initially. There is a well-known phrase used by Mr X where he commented about racial integration and said;

    It's just like when you've got some coffee that's too black, which means it's too strong. What you do? You integrate it with cream; you make it weak. If you pour too much cream in, you won't even know you ever had coffee. 

    This is the premise from where Eddo-Lodge starts her journey. She certainly isn’t our modern-day Reni X and she isn’t suggesting, she doesn’t wish to integrate into wider British society either, all she is doing is, acknowledging that white people fail to understand race and all that comes with it. Therefore, we need to find a new way of defining what we are experiencing.

    The defining line she has introduced in the early chapter of the book is a concept of structural racism. This is her term and she spends some time attempting to explain the meaning of this term. Eddo-Lodge argues there is an emotional disconnect between white people and what she terms as the people of colour. This is, in her view, justified by her statement that white people fail to understand, listen or engage in race and are more content on talking and listening to themselves. However, she did, for the purpose of the book interview the Leader of the British National Party, the outcome of which is not made clear in the book nor is the purpose of interviewing him. But I suppose if you wish to fill a few pages in your quest to find a definition for a term that is barely recognisable, then a short telephone interview with Nick Griffith may not be too bad an idea (maybe!).

    Eddo-lodge starts with an historical look at race hate in Britain and steps up to the plate with her general analysis of the race debates over the last five decades and its relationship with systems, feminism, class and politics. She outlines a number of important events in history of racial discrimination from slavery to the election of four black parliamentarians but fails to state the precise periods in which these historical events took place. A chapter about the history of black people’s struggles without dates, times and places isn’t an encouraging sign I must admit and sounds much like an elongated blog on Facebook. This debate took her to the door of academic familiarities by attempting to define what she means by structural racism. Her definition began with firstly setting out the inferences relating to the Stephen Lawrence murder and the subsequent public inquiry Chaired by a High Court Judge Sir William Macpherson. It was at this point the book begins to focus on her theory of structural racism, although still unclear but she equates this term as more workable than the term introduced by the Macpherson Inquiry of Institutional Racism. Macpherson’s term of Institutional Racism looked at what is broadly defined as racial discrimination that has become the established norm within an organisation or society. Eddo-Lodge’s term of structural racism on the other hand is defined by the EHRC as structural discrimination based on socio-economic factors and not socio-political factors as she has attempted to redefine. This is a pointedly and expressively important clarification for the book and clearly there is an implied challenge to how Eddo-Lodge refers to her concept without a proper academic analysis and a racial discourse to support any empirical findings.

    The term structural racism is argued by Eddo-Lodge as a series of processes, procedures and actions that limit the success experienced by black people and therefore unlike institutional racism, structural racism recognises the failures of white society in addressing such injustices. Quite honestly, after reading Eddo-Lodge’s work, when one compares institutional racism with structural racism it is hardly a notable difference. However, this book appears to be attempting to rewrite this term in Eddo-Lodge’s own image with a new concept that claims to be a more updated and refined explanation of how black people experience racist behaviour in British society. The idea of not talking to white people about race is a soundbite for public consumption in order to capture ones’ mood rather than a serious attempt to exclude white people from the debate.

    Throughout her book, Eddo-Lodge uses the term people of colour referring to those who are not white. Mostly in a social context. She goes a step further by using a commonly accepted term Black as a political definition used by the Labour Party Black Sections in the 1980s and who described people of colour as Black in order the create a collective identity. The book lends itself to discussing various political events where black people struggled to gain important recognition in politics, business and employment and thereby the most notable event was in 1987 where she referred to the black parliamentarians getting elected to the House of Commons, and named them as Bennie Grant, Paul Boating and Diane Abbott. Mysteriously Keith Vaz (The only Asian) was omitted from her list of Black MPs elected on the same Black Section ticket in 1987. Did he not fall in to her definition of structural racism or was he not black enough?

    By talking about the term structural racism which seemingly excludes at least Keith Vaz MP from the definition, she enters another arena of namely ‘white privilege’ where she examines how privilege has been a costly perception for black people in Britain and consequently responsible for black poverty, discrimination and hate crime; this claim is supported by Eddo-Lodge when she argues that white peoples’ experiences are not the same as black peoples’ experiences because white people are privileged. What Eddo-Lodge had inadvertently done is that she has classically confused ignorance with class privilege leading to a separation between class and race. This implies that black people due to their race are less privileged than white people because of their class. By the same token, are white women more privileged than black women. Has the concept of sisterhood gone because ‘privilege’ defines not just who you are but also who are your friends, I agree that there may be some value in this debate.

    An article in the Guardian Newspaper (7 December 2014) titled Dear White people, your discomfort is progress by Rebecca Carroll and Jess Zimmerman discuss the concept of privilege and its definition when they commented:

    … if you have black friends and black people in your life and it still doesn’t gut you when another black boy or man or person gets shot and killed, then you need to examine your friendship.

    Our legacy as black folks is of pain and strife; your legacy as white folks is of cultural decimation, violence and human ownership.

    It is in this direction that Eddo-Lodge has taken the debate of structural racism away from Institutional racism by pretexting it as a new definition, a more modern version of describing organised exclusion and which she may argue is more appropriate for the 21st Century. My view on this point is that definitions don’t change through date order, they don’t have expiry dates like you would find on a can of baked beans, politically charged definitions are modified through events and circumstances changing where previous definitions do not work anymore and a new explanation is required.

    Eddo-Lodge certainly a well-defined writer, equally an enjoyable and informed writer. However, after reading her book, I am curious as I am minded to think her whole book which is aimed at introducing her conceptual theme as a means of promoting her political and academic vanity. The concept fails to acknowledge the parameters of the term, it doesn’t have a firm base upon which the debate is soundly analysed and all it has attempted to do is knock of its perch the term Institutional Racism only to try and replace it with her own unqualified term of structural racism.

    Eddo-Lodge wrote over 200 pages in an otiose attempt to place herself on the Ouija board for academic racial discourse however the ‘spirits have yet to appear’ to support her argument.

  • Mindy Reads

    Although I do believe many points she made are valid, I have a hard time with how a lot of the book makes generalities and doesn't back up what it's claiming.

  • 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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