REVIEW: Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
This is absolutely essential reading. Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race should be drawn on in secondary and tertiary curriculums, as it explains racism, its history and the intersections between race and class, race and feminism, and race and immigration.
Reni Eddo-Lodge’s debut novel, Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, stemmed from a blog post of the same title, posted in February 2014. The blog post, included in the book, triggered a mass of responses both positive and negative. Focusing on the persons of colour who identified with her experience, and then those of sympathetic white people who felt apologetic on behalf of their race,
“I didn’t know at the time that I had inadvertently written a break-up letter to whiteness” (p. xiv)
Eddo-Lodge encourages engagement, education, and respect. From white people specifically she passively urges them to listen - as there is little use in not understanding the histories of racism and contemporary structural racism - and to act - not as the voice of, but as a supporting part of a movement to seek out equality and equity.
I particularly enjoyed the first chapter on the history of people of colour in the UK (and some Europe and US). Like Eddo-Lodge, my education on civil rights and race was centred largely on what occurred in the United States, ignoring for the most part Indigenous race relations in Australia - and foolishly, I did not know the origins of persons of colour in the UK. Spanning from the beginning of the English slave trade in the 16th century, through World War I and II, and to modern-day racism, the chapter succinctly provides a UK companion to the reader’s knowledge of slavery and civil rights in the United States.
Perhaps controversially, Eddo-Lodge lends her platform to conservative British politician Nick Griffin. Interviewing him about immigration and mixed-race relationships, she is able to display the politician’s nonsensical opinions, to which she eloquently counters. The contrast between the two truly demonstrates the idiocy of racist ideology.
Another highlight, was the discussion of mixed-race relationships - particularly about the support and education children of mixed-race relationships may need as though they are equal parts of two races, they often present and identify as persons of colour and as such, are subject to both structural racism and plain old racism and bigotry. The lack of support experienced by these children, the author discovered, was that the parents seemed to adopt the notion that they ‘do not see colour’ and therefore did not address it, causing some children to feel out of touch with their culture and heritage, and feel misunderstood regarding their own identity.
Concerning discussion of identity, however, I’d like to draw on a central point of the novel,
“Discussing racism is not the same thing as discussing ‘black identity’. Discussing racism is about discussing white identity. It’s about white anxiety. It’s about asking why whiteness has this reflexive need to define itself against immigrant bogey monsters in order to feel comfortable, safe and secure. Why am I saying one thing, and white people are hearing something completely different?” (p. 215)
I gave Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race 5/5 on Goodreads. It was well-written and thoroughly researched and covered several topics concerning race and intersectionality (also importantly addressing the issue of ‘white feminism’). I want to thrust this book into the hands of everyone I know.