Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge [Book Summary – Review]

In the year 2014, Reni Eddo-Lodge has gotten enough. Her conversations with white folks regarding racism were heading nowhere. Upset, she wrote a blog post titled, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. It became viral, and the outcome wasn’t what she anticipated. She renounced her first opinion and recognized the need for engagement. This book was the outcome of that change.

Britain nowadays, just like a lot of nations, is still racist. Individuals might attempt to deny it; however, it’s still present. If you feel that you can look the other way, then you’re probably white and are exploiting what’s known as white privilege. Individuals from ethnic minorities don’t have the opportunity to do that. 

There is a racist history in Britain. If we want to work hand in hand to defeat it and make sure that everybody has the same opportunities, we’re going to need to know about that history and handle its consequences, which are still felt now. Yes, slavery as well as the British Empire might not be present gain; however, their legacies remain in deep institutional as well as societal discrimination and racism.

Eddo-Lodge reveals to us that if we work hand in hand together, the scourge of racism can be defeated, and also a brighter future is possible.

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Chapter 1 – A communication difference between white folks and people of color is hindering the progress of race relations in Britain.

“I don’t see color.” You’ve most likely heard some well-meaning white progressives yell the word out in whole sincerity, and you’ve virtually indeed heard it more than one time. It’s intended to show that the speaker wishes to stay in a meritocratic world where everybody is afforded chances according to innate gift and skills. Also, it shows they are leading by example.

However, not just is it very disdainful; also, it completely misses the point. Even worse, this myth of “colorblindness” ruins conversations that might aid progress.

Let us be clear about this matter. For people of color –in spite of social status – racism is intertwined into the harsh fabric of day-day life.

As a result, if Britain’s racism issue is going to be fixed, then the communication difference between white individuals and people of color needs to be bridged.

Back in the year 2014, the author – a Black British journalist – was on a task. She wanted to find out structural racism. However, white individuals only replied with boredom, outrage, or defensiveness.

Out of pure frustration, she wrote a blog post.  The title was “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race.” She was anticipating a racist reaction; however, much to her surprise, it became viral, and majorly for positive reasons as well.

In general, conclusions on the blog post went two ways. Black individuals felt that she had obviously voiced out experiences they’d had issues articulating. Conversely, white folks were shocked at the idea that they’d jointly made people feel this manner. They were interested to learn about how they could fix the issue.

The two groups agreed that dialogue was the answer. Also, the author’s gift in articulating these problems meant it was important that she continues discussing race to white people.

From that point, Eddo-Lodge has worked as an activist discussion nearly entirely to white folks about race. She’s tried to grow her knowledge of racism in Britain. She wished to move things forward and has left the frustration of that first work behind. Productive discussions about race inequalities in Britain need to happen between every stratum of society, regardless of what color they may be.

However, before we begin examining the specific problems relating to racism in Britain now, we’re going to need to dig a bit deeper into its history.

Chapter 2 – The history of Britain’s racism can be dated back to colonialism, imperialism, as well as slave-trading.

Far-right rhetoric isn’t a subtle device. When white racists are faced with black and brown folks, their screamed chorus is usually “Go back to where you came from!”

However, as Ambalavaner Sivanandan, the Institute of Race Relations’ director, said to an audience in the year 2008, “We are here because you were there.”

Meaning, racism in Britain now is totally connected with its history of colonialism, imperialism, as well as its engagement in the transatlantic slave trade.

The majority of the British folks are blind to the role Britain played in this nefarious trade. Pretty wrongly, they see it just as part of American history. In the year 1562, that was when British slave-trading started and it finished with the Abolition of Slavery Act in the year 1833. That signifies that less time has passed between now and the eradication of slavery than across the whole period of British slave trading.

The majority of people that were enslaved were out of sight for the British population: they eventually ended up in plantations in colonies far from Britain itself. However, even then, enslaved Africans were constantly transported via ports such as London, Exeter, Bristol, and Liverpool.

These enslaved individuals were forcibly parted from their families and transported across oceans. In this confined trips, sickness, as well as death, were widespread. Also, during the end of their torment, they had to withstand a life of awful difficulty and violence, which continued for generations to come.

However, Britain’s racism isn’t only deep-rooted in the slave trade. Its international empire essentially operated on it. This was particularly obvious during times of war: the British Empire constantly relied on the sacrifices of black as well as Asian soldiers, just to treat them as lower to white British soldiers.

In the First World War, more than one million Indian soldiers fought for Britain. They did that with the knowledge that India would be released from the colonial rule when the fighting ended.

In the war itself, they were ranked inferior on the battlefield than the lowest-ranking white British soldiers. They were isolated at treatment centers. In the war, 74,000 Indian soldiers passed away, and eventually, Britain refused to stop the colonial rule.

Pointless to say, this extremely discriminatory as well as racist behavior raised its ugly head once again after black soldiers from the West Indies stayed in Britain after the war. The police constantly raided the homes of the black peoples’, and in Liverpool, a 24-year-old black seaman was murdered publicly by white men throwing bricks.

This whole thing goes to show that if you want to know racism in Britain now, you need to come to understanding with the extremely racist legacy of British history.

Chapter 3 – For us to know race problems in Britain now, we have to learn the history of black Britain.

As it usually occurs when we talk about the transatlantic slave trade, British folks have a tendency to link the civil rights movement with the United States. But, it is vital to know that Britain, as well as has its own history of black civil rights movements.

Let’s go back a little. Historically speaking, Britain made it very hard for people of color to blend in, even when legislation supported them to move there.

The 1948 British Nationality Act offered Commonwealth citizens –meaning, previous subjects of the British Empire – the exact right to stay in Britain as British folks. Also, they were encouraged to come. This caused a sharp increase in Britain’s black people. But, as they assisted to rebuild war-ravaged Britain, they encountered a lot of issues. They were mostly denied housing across London based on the color of their skin. One wicked and an immoral landlord in Notting Hill exploited the scarcity of housing stock and charged expensive rents for dilapidated apartments.

In August of 1958, what started as a dispute between a white Swedish woman and her black husband outside the Latimer Road underground station, intensified into a full racist riot. A group of white men assembled around them, and by the following day, 200 white folds were parading around the streets of London screaming racist abuse.

Rather than addressing the racism, Parliament concluded in the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act to minimize immigration rights for British Commonwealth inhabitants. Now they’d require a work permit to settle. The system still runs that way in Britain now.

Institutional racism was widespread beyond the political system as well, especially among police officers.

The London protests of 1985 began when police went into the house of 37-year-old Cherry Groce and shot the man in the chest. Although he wasn’t staying with the family during that period, the police were there searching for Cherry’s 21-year-old son, Michael, who was suspected of being part of a robbery.

Cherry was paralyzed from his waist down, and the police’s actions produced riots in Brixton. The riots were barely isolated occurrences in the charged surrounding of 1980s Britain.

Usually, replies to those kinds of riots have not been adequate. Those in charge are all really ready to put the blame on the alleged “racial disadvantage,” instead of accepting the reality of institutional racism.

Chapter 4 – Equal privileges can be formed for people of color as soon as structural racism is recognized.

When you don’t know how racism functions, it’s very easy to link it only with institutions like the police force. However, as a matter of fact, racism can be experienced in a lot of manners. It might be the expression a person gives you or some implicit bias you go through.

This is called structural racism, and it works much more largely in a society than a country’s institutions.

Structural racism signifies that people of color effectively have fewer opportunities in life. They are adversely affected in their education as well as in the job market. Likewise, their social as well as personal lives, and their health, will suffer as well.

Research indicated that if you are a black boy in Britain, your teachers will give your white colleagues more marks for exams of the exact standard. That kind of bias is only defeated when the scripts are markers anonymously by teachers at different schools.

Also, the issues don’t end in the schoolhouse as well.

Say you are really fortunate to defeat the odds and get accepted into a high-ranking university and then graduate. Research conducted by the UK government’s own Department of Work and Pensions has revealed that you’ll be less likely to be invited for an interview if your name doesn’t seem white and British.

Some individuals still don’t get the point though. They believe that as people of color constitute just a little percentage of the British population, they are not worthy of many jobs as white employers. However, the research has been obvious: the issue of structural racism is not one of just equal representation but of equal opportunity as well.

But, there is a means to fix this issue. It’s likely to balance the playing field for people of color via positive discrimination.

Positive discrimination is confirmed to work: there’s no reason to dismiss it as tokenism.

Consider the Rooney Rule. This rule was implemented in the year 2003 by America’s National Football League (NFL) as an effort to handle the lack of non-white football coaches. The rule requested that teams interview a minimum of one black or ethnic minority person for each vacant senior coaching or operations work.

Nothing more difficult than that. No request for percentage targets, quotas, or all-black shortlists. Only an interview.

In just a decade, more than 29 people of color had been employed. It was completely successful, and the only thing it had needed was the creation of opportunity via the slightest form of consideration.

Chapter 5 – White privilege is a deep-rooted kind of racism that positively impacts white people’s life opportunities.

If you’re a white person, you’ve probably never actually thought about how your status as a white individual might have assisted you.

Systemic racism adversely affects people of color; however, it also functions in the opposite way. White individuals gain from white privilege.

Sadly, white folks don’t know they are complicit in systemic racism even when they don’t consider themselves racist. Worse, they usually appear unable to know the fact of it.

The author understands this from her own direct experience.

One time, she was chatting with her friend’s white French girlfriend. The woman was expressing her dissatisfaction having to work twice as hard as her male coworkers since she was the youngest and she was the only woman in her company. 

The author was of the same thought. However, she as well shared her experiences of structural racism. She described the period she lost out on a job to a white woman who had nearly the same qualifications.

The French woman instantly became defensive. She claimed that there ought to have been other causes why the author didn’t win the job.

Subsequently, the only thing she attempted to do was betray the reality that she was totally unaware of her white privilege. Regardless of whether she liked it or not, the race was positively affecting her life opportunities. By failing to know this, she was perpetuating structural racism.

However, we shouldn’t single this woman out only: her action is symbolic of a greater problem. White privilege has a tendency to be most noticeable on a smaller scale, operating between people. This signifies that black people who call it out are instantly regarded as unruly at best, or “reverse racist” at worst.

Certainly, if the author had made the woman know her white privilege, she would have been ignored and regarded as intentionally unruly. She might have not gotten invitations anymore to chill at her friend’s place or been stereotyped as an angry black woman.

The reality is that a lot of people of color acknowledge that discussing with progressive white individuals who don’t recognize their white privilege is usually more annoying than facing down a self-declared racist. However, then you understand where the boundaries are.

Chapter 6 – The absence of black heroes in general culture shows the white dread of a black planet.

When the author was four-year-old, she asked her mother when she would turn into white. Her reasoning was that she had only ever noticed good people depicted as white on TV, whereas bad people were unavoidably black.

The absence of a positive black depiction is symptomatic of a deeper fear: the fear of a black planet. Meaning, some white folks quake at the notion that black people will one day turn into the majority in any historically white nation.

The concept behind this absurdity is that people of color are unjustly taking over resources and land. However, definitely, that’s only a proxy argument; these white folks eventually dread losing power as well as a privilege in the system.

Let’s consider an illustration which is the 2016 vote in the United Kingdom to leave the European Union. It was written on the One Vote Leave campaign poster that “We want our country back.”

It left a horrible taste in the mouth that remembered the racist dog whistles of the British far-right. For example, Nick Griffin, the British National Party leader, had asserted that one British demographer assumed that “white British” would turn into a minority in the United Kingdom by the year 2066. Due to the fact that the British population in 2017 was 81.9% white, this looks extremely unlikely. 

In spite of this, immigration was the actual cause of why individuals voted to leave the European Union.

This raises the question. What is the reason why these voters were really scared of immigrants who hardly had any impact on their lives when real power obviously stayed in the capacity of a few, really privileged white people? Basically, the voters were scared of losing their privileges, and, with no positive notions about black folks, they regarded that as a negative. 

One means to handle the impacts of that kind of fear is to champion black protagonists in fiction. By doing that, white folks will begin to see people of color differently and begin to sympathize with them.

Although it can be difficult. In the year 2015, Noma Dumezweni a black actress was cast as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in London’s West End.

A lot of folks commented on the choice because, nevertheless, author J.K. Rowling had never indicated that Hermione was white.

However, a lot of online commenters couldn’t tolerate the casting. It only goes to reveal how the default mentality so frequently reverts to “whiteness” as an accepted norm.

Chapter 7 – We require feminism that fights for every disempowered individual instead of white women only.

In the year 2012, when Lena Dunham’s TV show Girls first showcased; at first, it was received with critical acclaim. It was praised as the most feminist show to air in decades and a precise, contemporary depiction of the lives of young women. However, a backlash ultimately came after, and pretty rightly as the cast were nearly entirely white, in spite of being set in the diverse melting pot of New York City.

It’s symbolic of a wider craze. As a matter of fact, the majority of leaders of popular feminism now are white women.

This signifies that mainstream feminism is basically white feminism. Similar to white privilege, white feminism doesn’t accept its involvement in preserving deep-rooted systems of power. But, its advocates unwittingly, just fighting the system in the service of their own demographic. They are not fighting for women of color and hence for society at large.

However, it becomes worse. Some white feminists have continuously rejected the idea that their kind of feminism could become part of a wider range of connected prejudices. Basically, this is a repudiation of what is called intersectionality.

The word intersectionality was invented in the year 1989 by the black feminist academic, Kimberlé Crenshaw. Intersectionality signifies that different types of discrimination can be experienced at the same time. Meaning, black women experience the prejudices of racism and sexism. Their experiences vary from that of white women.

But, even though a lot of black feminists saw the word beneficial for describing their experiences, it has been faced with some resistance. A lot of white feminists plus Sarah Ditum as well as Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett have flat out rejected the word, on the basis that it is really too academic a nuance for practical daily applicability.

But, the author doesn’t agree with that. Feminism has to include race analysis. By doing that equal privileges, as well as pay for all types of people, can be accomplished. Or else, the feminist movement will just benefit the interests of white women and carry on to support the systems of exclusion that it asserts to fight.

Chapter 8 – Race, as well as class prejudices, are extremely connected events that are denied by self-serving British politicians.

If you stay in Britain, you’ve most likely heard the word “white working class” discussed as a means to explain the nation’s disadvantaged.

As a matter of fact, British politicians have a specific fondness for the work. It would look to imply there are individuals at the bottom of society who have been refused priveledges as well as rights due to their class, and that’s nothing more to it.

But, the fact of the class structure in Britain is very more complicated. The old model of a three-tier system with the white working-class at the least bottom just doesn’t work again.

The simple reality of the situation is that if you’re not born as a white person, you’re as well very unlikely to become rich.

Research conducted by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealed that black, as well as minority ethnic individuals, are more likely to suffer from income poverty compared to white British individuals.

This signifies that when the government does budget cuts, people of color are the people who bear the brunt of severity measures. To place a number on this, a race equality think tank known as the Runnymede Trust, discovered that four million people of color as well as ethnic minorities would be negatively impacted by the summer budget of the year 2015.     

Hence, problems of race can be regarded as compounding class inequalities.

However, there’s a good cause why politicians refuse to allow the term “white working class” to die. It intensifies fears of immigrants; hence, efficiently splitting employees who have the same worries. By doing that, power stays in the reach of an elite white ruling class.

Also, this divide as well as conquer method is working. A survey that was conducted in  2014 showed that British individuals believe that the nation’s immigrant population remains at 31% instead of the true number of 13%. Also, it revealed that individuals with higher incomes were very moe likely to believe that immigrants were draining public resources.

There’s an ambiguity in this. A report that was done by Economist has shown that the wealthiest individuals in the United Kingdom, as a matter of fact, gain more from public transportation as well as the National Health Service than their fellow poor UK citizens.

The result of these whole facts is clear. We can’t deny that white working-class individuals experience class prejudice. However, equally, the presence of racialized class prejudice needs to be considered if we are going to begin to understand the reality of working-class Britain nowadays.

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

While a lot of white British folks have a tendency to consider racism as an issue of the past, that just isn’t true. The colonial history of the United Kingdom’s has formed structural racism that negatively affects the lives of every black and ethnic minority people in Britain now. A new system whereby people of color have the same privileges will not be an easy task to create; however, it is possible. If white people know their privilege, then the fight for gender equality as well as the fight for equal privileges can be won. Of course, a brighter future for race relations is likely.

If you’re white, talk to your friends and family about white privilege. 

Up until now, the weight of enhancing race relations has usually been put on people of color. However, as we’ve noticed in these book chapters, it will need white people accepting their complacency and passive engagement in the system if we ever wish to defeat racism in Britain. Instead of updating on social media which eventually does nothing, begin a discussion about the meaning of white privilege with the people whose views you can transform.

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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