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

Reni Eddo Lodge

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race grew about of a 2014 blog post by Reni Eddo-Lodge. A black British woman, she had tired of discussing race with white people who – not being, say, descendants of slave owners themselves – consistently failed to acknowledge their ‘white privilege’: “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.”

There is a lot to be angry about. White racial dominance and what Eddo-Lodge terms ‘structural racism’ (similar to the Metropolitan Police’s ‘institutional’ racism) mean that the labour market is skewed. We are fooling ourselves if we believe that “the homogeneous glut of middle-aged white men currently clogging the upper echelons of most professions got there purely through talent alone”.

I’m not sure about several aspects of the book: it’s not particularly well written, for instance, and I don’t think her comparison of the 1985 Brixton riots and 2011 London riots is entirely valid. On the other hand, she is good on Stephen Lawrence and Harry Potter. I don’t agree with her analysis of the Rhodes Must Fall campaign but she would say this is because such “small-scale racial injustice…looks normal. It is pedestrian…unquestioned.” That is a sobering thought, surely worth considering. It is facile to think we should be beyond seeing people’s colour because ‘colour blindness’ is a lie, “an effort to instil some sort of precarious, false harmony”. It is, she writes, “a childish, stunted analysis of racism”.

Eddo-Lodge rightly criticises a “shallow understanding of freedom of speech (generally understood to be the final frontier in the fight to be as openly bigoted as possible without repercussions)”.

And it’s certainly disturbing that a far-right narrative “about an embattled white working class has been subsumed into the mainstream”. She suggests we need to redefine our idea of what today’s working class person actually looks like: rather than a ‘white man in a flat cap’, it is more likely to be a ‘black woman pushing a pram’.

Ultimately, she suggests, racism “is…a problem in the psyche of whiteness that white people must take responsibility to solve.” How we solve it is another issue.

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