Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is a book born out of activist burnout. Fed up with how discussions of race, and racism in Britain have been dominated by a largely ignorant white majority, Eddo-Lodge decided to research, and create an in-depth analysis of racism in Britain. Covering colonialism, legacies of racism in the 20th, and 21st centuries, as well as its links to gender, feminism and class, Eddo-Lodge has created a succinct, and informative primer on British racism.
Still not convinced? Here are some of her most iconic quotes:
- “Opposing positive discrimination based on apprehensions about getting the best person for the job means inadvertently revealing what you think talent looks like, and the kind of person in which you think talent resides. Because if the current system worked correctly, and if hiring practices were successfully recruiting and promoting the right people for the right jobs in all circumstances, I seriously doubt that so many leadership positions would be occupied by white middle-aged men.”
- “Colour-blindness is a childish, stunted analysis of racism. It starts and ends at ‘discriminating against a person because of the colour of their skin is bad,’ without any accounting for the ways in which structural power manifests in these exchanges. With an analysis so immature, this definition of racism is often used to silence people of colour attempting to articulate the racism we face. When people of colour point this out, they’re accused of being racist against white people, and the accountability avoidance continues. Colour-blindness does not accept the legitimacy of structural racism or a history of white racial dominance.”
- I have often had white people get in touch with me, using the words of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr in attempts to prove to me that my work is misguided, that I am doing it wrong. In emails and tweets, I’m told that Martin Luther King, Jr wanted a world in which people were judged not on the colour of their skin, but the content of their character. The intent of these messages suggests to me that these wellwishers believe that, in today’s context, these words are best suited to mean that white people should not be judged on the colour of their skin.”
- (On the Rhodes Must Fall movement in Oxford’s Oriel College) “Somehow, it wasn’t believable that Lord Patten ( Oxford University’s Chancellor) simply wanted a free and fair debate and a healthy exchange of ideas on his campus. It looked like he just wanted silence, the kind of strained peace that simmers with resentment, the kind that requires some to suffer so that others are comfortable.”
- “Couching opposition to anti-racist speech and protest as a noble fight for freedom of speech is about protecting white people from being criticised.”
- “…Those who oppose anti-racism have worked themselves into quite the double bind…If, as they say, racism doesn’t exist, and black people have nothing to complain about, why are they so afraid of white people becoming the new minority?”
- “White feminism in itself isn’t particularly threatening. It becomes a problem when its ideas dominate – presented as the universal, to be applied to all women. It is a problem because we consider humanity through the prism of whiteness.”
- “Groups of white men who rape and abuse children and babies are reported on by the press, but their crimes are not seized upon as indicative of the inherent problem with men the same way that men of colour’s crimes are held up as evidence of the savagery of their race.”
- “I fear that, although white feminism is palatable to those in power when it has won, thins will look very much the same. Injustice will thrive, but there will be more women in charge of it.”
- “Affixing the word ‘white’ to the phrase ‘working class’ suggests that these people face structural disadvantage because they are white, rather than because they are working class…The class privilege of middle- and upper-class people in Britain is not challenged when we focus on the plight of the white working classes. Instead, it shifts the focus of the problem onto black and brown people…There isn’t any evidence to suggest that if ‘my kind’ all ‘go back to where we came from’ life would get any better or easier for poor white people. The same systems and practices that lead to class hierarchy would still stand.”
- “It isn’t right to suggest that every win for race equality results in a loss for white working-class people…I see class-based outcry about efforts to boost black representation from people who are in the position to bring up their working-class counterparts if they wanted to. For some reason, they choose not to, yet are quick to block other kinds of progress.”
- “…I also believe that white people who recognise racism have an incredibly important part to play. That part can’t be played while wallowing in guilt. White support looks like financial or administrative assistance to the groups doing vital work. Or intervening when you are needed in bystander situations. Support looks like white advocacy for anti-racist causes in all-white spaces. White people, you need to talk to other white people about race. Yes, you may be written off as a radical, but you have much less to lose.”
- “Solidarity is nothing but self-satisfying if it is solely performative.”
- “The perverse thing about our current racial structure is that it has always fallen on the shoulders of those who are at the bottom to change it. Yet racism is a white problem. It reveals the anxieties, hypocrisies and double standards of whiteness. It is a problem in the psyche of whiteness that white people must take responsibility to solve. You can only do so much from the outside.”
- “But rather than deeming the current situation an absolute tragedy, we should seize it as an opportunity to move towards a collective responsibility for a better society, taking account of the internal hierarchies and intersections along the way.”
I absolutely recommend this book for those of you that want to learn more about racism in the UK. Have you read any anti-racist books recently? What would you recommend?
Featured image from Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Twitter.