Reni Eddo-Lodge, author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, originally wrote a blog post titled the same thing, which stirred up a lot of controversy. Paradoxically, writing the blog post ending her discussions with white people about race, led to her having many more discussions about race with all kinds of people and we have been blessed with the book that those conversations spawned.
Let’s just get this out of the way, first: people of color, especially women of color honestly, do not owe white people an education on any aspect of racism. Therefore, when a person of color takes it upon themselves to teach you something, you should listen. Or in this case, you should read. And you should definitely appreciate. Now, let’s dive in.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race begins with an exploration of the history of Black people in the U.K. I learned so many things from this section, like the fact that politically in the U.K. apparently Black is synonymous with people of color? I honestly had no idea. What I did know was that the U.K. did a lot of colonization (is probably still doing a lot of colonization if the U.S. is anything to go by). The effects that colonization had on the Black people that migrated to Britain is something that I don’t know too much about. I mean, I’ve watched Bend It Like Beckham (obviously, because that movie is brilliant) and I adored the secondary plot in Courtney Milan’s The Heiress Effect, which featured the heroine’s little sister falling into a friendship and then more with an Indian man who was attending university near where she lived. Oh, and also, Talk Sweetly to Me, also a Courtney Milan book, which features a Black (American definition) heroine. On that note, please recommend me more historical romance with POC heroes and heroines, thank you.
Anyway, my point is that I learned so much from this book just in the first chapter, which was on history. And this was information I feel like I should have some idea about, but I guess it’s not that surprising that I don’t considering how little I know about the United States Civil Rights movement… Okay, enough getting distracted: Eddo-Lodge teaches black British history in Chapter One and does a great job of keeping you engaged.
Chapter Two moves on to discussions of structural racism, something that exists in many countries, and the difficulty people who cling to color-blind mentalities face in managing to see how being color blind does nothing to solve or lessen the effects racism. I think, and Eddo-Lodge seems to agree, that color-blind racism is like a starter place for many white people. Eddo-Lodge explains that it’s a childish way of dealing with race and explains that it allows a person to avoid reckoning with the structural inequalities in place. It is imperative that white people move on from this place of color blindness and reckon with race in a more serious and educated fashion to begin dismantling the structural road blocks in the way of true equality.
There is also a chapter dedicated to White Privilege, which explains the concept remarkably well–I wish I could provide you with quotes, but ARC edition so… Alas. Hopefully I can pick up a final copy soon though because I must own it! Anyway, the chapter also discusses some of the challenges biracial children face, especially when one half of their family is white and that half of their family fails to recognize the every day racism they face. I think too, it explores, without going extremely in depth how damaging micro-aggressions can be. At one point, Eddo-Lodge mentions that she wondered when she was going to become white because whiteness is associated with good and hope and love in the media, at the expense of Black and Brown people. This passage broke my heart, but also reinforced my desire to continue using my money to support diverse projects, from film to television to books.
My favorite chapter, though, was on gender and race. Sometimes I regret that I only minored in Women’s Studies in undergrad instead of majoring in it and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that regret more than in reading this chapter. First of all, if your feminism isn’t intersectional, it isn’t really feminism. I think that’s something we could all use a reminder about, honestly, but it’s an imperative lesson that we learn. I believe this chapter is the one where Eddo-Lodge acknowledges all of the pieces of her identity that make her privileged because there are so many intersections of her identity, some of which hold privileged places in our society and some which don’t. I thought this was an excellent reminder not to forget things like able-bodied versus disabled bodies and a reminder that we’re always learning. Basically, if your feminism is about building other women up, you have to remember that other women includes all women. (Please note, this does not mean that criticism of a woman automatically equates to sexism, thank you.)
I wish this gif could continue forever with a million different women, but you know. It’s a fun loop, nonetheless.
Moving on, the Race and Class chapter was the first time I felt like there were things I wasn’t understanding because I’m an American. The British system is set up differently than ours in terms of housing access and I don’t (and didn’t) understand those differences well. However, that said, many of the points Eddo-Lodge transfer here just as well. Because there is immense structural racism in housing issues in the U.S. so even if you don’t understand the exact explanation of this specific scenario in London, it serves as a reminder that race and class issues are intwined, but not separate. Specifically, this addresses the idea that inequality stems more from class than from race. There are many advocates of this idea–or at least, there were when I was in college. I think now, we’re beginning to recognize anew that, hey wait, nope, we’re wrong. So hopefully this chapter will help move the discussion in the appropriate direction.
Overall, I cannot recommend this book highly enough! And it’s Nonfiction November so what a perfect time for you to pick it up! It inspired me to finally read Bad Feminist so if I don’t have that included in my November Wrap Up, Part One, please take it upon yourself to yell at me. Thank you.
I also wanted to include links to some other reviews that I thought were excellent and are from Black people so you can have an own voices perspective as well. From Brown Girl Reading, click here. This Goodreads review from Leynes: click here. And finally, another Goodreads review from The Skeptical Reader: click here.
If you do decide to give this book a shot, let me know what you think! And if you’ve already read it or if you have any recommendations, let me know down below!