Book Review

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can’t afford to stay silent. This book is an attempt to speak.

The book that sparked a national conversation. Exploring everything from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is the essential handbook for anyone who wants to understand race relations in Britain today.

Where does one even start with reviewing a book like this?  There’s a part of me that just wants to highlight that it’s an incredibly important book and that everyone should read it, but I’m not sure that constitutes a review and I suspect that my blogging credentials might be revoked as a result.  That doesn’t change that fact that it’s an incredibly important book and that everyone should read it. 

It’s interesting that I read this shortly before the recent report from the UK government declaring that there is no evidence of institutional racism in the UK and that we are in fact a “model of racial equality”.  I would love for this to be true but I’m not at all convinced, and while I’m not here to tell you what to think, I do recommend reading Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People Race to get a different view – one that for me is far more believable – on the findings of this report. In it, Reni Eddo-Lodge covers a broad range of topics that are imperative in understanding racism in Britain today.  It’s approachable and informative, it will make you angry and it will make you think, and perhaps most importantly, it will make you want to do something to address racial inequality. 

Reni Eddo-Lodge begins with a history lesson.  Britain’s role in the slave trade is now more widely known and acknowledged, and yet it’s only in recent years that I’ve become aware of it – shocking when you realise that I’m in my 30s and educated to degree level.  Anything at school that touched upon this topic was in an American context, and while it’s not pleasant, brushing it under the carpet does no one any favours whatsoever.  The focus of this book – is manifesto a better word? – isn’t the past, but this is invaluable context in understanding racial inequality in the present day and some of the root causes.

The author also looks at race in relation to other discriminatory factors including class and gender.  I have to admit that I was shocked and ashamed that even within the feminist movement there is discrimination by race and ethnicity.  I – naively as it turns out – thought that feminists, in being able to appreciate what it is like to be discriminated against would be more open to others who have had similar experiences even if not for the same reasons.  That has not been Reni Eddo-Lodge’s experience, and I am genuinely shocked and disgusted at this.  (Not all feminists etc., don’t @ me).

The book goes on to consider white privilege and positive discrimination, and for me casts the latter of these in particular in a new light.  I had – again naively – been ambivalent about positive discrimination, and if you’d asked me, I’ve have said that a role should go to the person best suited and most qualified for it.  This unintentionally assumes that we live in a true meritocracy, and that no other factors come into consideration in the hiring of an individual for a particular job.  It’s become much clearer to me that this is not the case, as showcased in the blatant cronyism apparent in our own government of late as well as the nepotism displayed by the former President of the United States. I work in financial services, and it’s apparent there as well although perhaps a little less so than it used to be, and I’m sure other industries are the same.

Like most people, I like to think that I’m open minded, but I freely admit that I have a lot to learn, and Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race has been a truly enlightening read about the extent of racism today, even if the government does not want to admit to and address the issue. I think it’s unusual to say that I liked the ending of a non-fiction book, but Reni Eddo-Lodge closes by saying that she does not want sympathy or regret at her experiences. She wants people to get angry and to use their voice to discuss racism openly and to change minds, and let’s be honest, I think that’s the very least that people can do. 

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