Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race opens up a bold, straight talking conversation about race. It's a conversation we need to be having and I, a white person, enjoyed every page of this book. Let's talk about it!
This book left me speechless. It's a short book, a little more than 200 pages, and I read it in just a few sittings. But when I turned that last page, all I could say was, WOW.
I've been thinking about it for a few weeks now and I'm ready to talk about it.
The adversarial sounding title comes from a blog post Eddo-Lodge wrote in 2014. Speaking about the blog post, she says she was tired of trying to talk about race with white people who wanted to frame the terms of the debate and didn't really want to talk about racism at all. But the book is not as adversarial as the title initially sounds.
In fact, the title is more than a little ironic. I feel certain that this book was written to provoke a dialogue with white people about race. And if, as Eddo-Lodge asserts, "Racism is a white problem," then I'm ready to be part of the solution.
“Discussing racism is not the same thing as discussing ‘black identity.’ Discussing racism is about discussing white identity. It’s about white anxiety.”
I appreciate this perspective so much. As a white person that wants to be a better humanbeing in this diverse world, this is the conversation I've been wanting to have. I'm writing about it here today because I want other people to benefit from this perspective too.
“Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can't afford to stay silent.”
Because racism is built into the very structure of our society, because white privilege is everywhere, and because white anxiety makes this topic so hard to address in a straightforward way, too many white people don't really understand the struggles people of color are facing. I include myself in this mass of "white people," but I'm also a white person that wants to wake up to unconscious racism and be an advocate for change. That's why I picked up this book.
Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race
The book opens with a crash course in black British history. As a white American, this is something I knew very little about. This section of the book is a quick read and gives context to the essays that follow.
In Chapter 2, "The System," we get to see what racism looks like from the point of view of those who have been discriminated against. It's a powerful chapter. This is also where white anxiety is most apparent.
In Chapter 3, "White Privilege," it becomes painfully clear that "the default is white." White privilege is built into the very structure of our modern day society.
“When I talk about white privilege, I don’t mean that white people have it easy, that they’ve never struggled, or that they’ve never lived in poverty. But white privilege is the fact that if you’re white, your race will almost certainly positively impact your life’s trajectory in some way. And you probably won’t even notice it.”
In Chapter 4, Eddo-Lodge address the "Fear of a Black Planet." This chapter feels particularly important in today's political climate. She articulates so well how racism is behind much of the fear about immigration and multiculturalism. She's coming at this from a British perspective, but there are plenty of takeaways for Trump's America too.
Chapter 5, "The Feminist Question," was my personal favorite essay in the book. Eddo-Lodge's arguments here are eloquent and persuasive. She argues that demands for equality need to be as complicated as the inequalities they attempt to address. In other words, Feminism needs to dig deeper and completely deconstruct not just misogyny, but also what writer bell hooks called "the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy" too.
“If feminism can understand the patriarchy, it's important to question why so many feminists struggle to understand whiteness as a political structure in the very same way.”
This book probably reads like a big "AMEN" to most black people - or really, most people of color. Likewise, it's probably going to feel like a punch to the jugular to a lot of white people. As Eddo-Lodge asserts, for many white people “being accused of racism is far worse than actual racism.” But I'd argue that even if your initial impulse when you read this review or see this book's title is indignation, a little humility is what most white people, myself included, need for this conversation to ever result in change.
I felt humbled reading this book. I also feel ready to do something.
“If you are disgusted by what you see, and if you feel the fire coursing through your veins, then it's up to you. You don't have to be the leader of a global movement or a household name. It can be as small scale as chipping away at the warped power relations in your workplace. It can be passing on knowledge and skills to those who wouldn't access them otherwise. It can be creative. It can be informal. It can be your job. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as you're doing something.”
Have you read this book? What did you think? I still have a lot to learn and I welcome the discussion.
“White people, you need to talk to other white people about race….white people who recognize racism have an incredibly important part to play. That part can’t be played while wallowing in guilt.”