3 years after publishing, Eddo-Lodge's book continues to feature prominently in displays around the nation's bookstoresEsmee Wright

Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote her blog post Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race in 2014, fueled by a hopelessness over the difficulty of communicating her racism-related experiences in the face of the “emotional disconnect” of a white audience. While this blog post gave its title to the book and forms its introduction, the pessimism they both convey does not give an accurate overview of the book. If, after picking up Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, one reads it through to the end, one will find a note of hope. It’s the hope of being part of a movement, of seeing the development between the original publication of Eddo-Lodge’s blog post and her book. Three years after the publication of the book, with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, it is clear that Eddo-Lodge’s writing could not be more central to our lives today.

If an optimistic endpoint can be reached, it requires working through aspects of systemic racism. Eddo-Lodge takes us through the importance of education and undoing the results of a partial education. She goes from introducing aspects of British history erased from the mind of the public, to the history of racist crimes and the first anti-racist movements; she points the reader towards the possibility of an ideal future. She does not limit herself to a discussion of racism: she shows the inextricable links between discussions of racism, feminism and class. Intersectionality is key, and Eddo-Lodge guides us to a conclusion about the power of the collective through an inclusive analysis that questions not only race, but also sex and class; she denounces ableism, transphobia and homophobia along the way.

“If an optimistic endpoint can be reached, it requires working through aspects of systemic racism”

Education is at the heart of Eddo-Lodge’s book. The author offers details of her personal learning process: “For an embarrassingly long time,” she writes, “I didn’t even realise that black people had been slaves in Britain.” Such personal details draw the reader in, and redirect the personal blame and discomfort that a reader will (hopefully) feel, towards a blame of the system itself, in which the individual is complicit. She voices, with regard to the education she received, that “this was inadequate education in a country where increasing generations of black and brown people continue to consider themselves British (including me).”

Eddo-Lodge introduces the reader to aspects of Black British history that have been entirely erased; she also draws up a history of anti-racism campaigns, as well as of racist crimes, allowing for a recognition of the continuity of events that have led us to our present movement. In fact, Eddo-Lodge seems to be struck by the similarities between events of our near-past, such as riots in London following the death of Black woman Cynthia Jarrett, with events from decades ago: “When the London riots of August 2011 mirrored […] what happened in Brixton in 1985, I wondered how often history would have to repeat itself”. For us readers picking up Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race today, Eddo-Lodge’s recognition of these similarities takes on a new importance in the face of the current Black Lives Matter protests.

“If feminism is intersectional, discussions around class have to be too”

Whilst outlining a history, Eddo-Lodge also points to a potential ideal future. In her chapter ‘Feminism’, she quotes and follows in the path of writer bell hooks, “I choose to reappropriate the term ‘feminism’.” Far from being focussed solely on women’s rights, especially those of the white woman – Eddo-Lodge explicitly denounces ‘white-feminism’– she writes “Feminism, at its best, is a movement that works to liberate all people who have been […] marginalised by an ideological system that has been designed for them to fail.” If feminism is intersectional, discussions around class have to be too, as Eddo-Lodge goes on to argue in her chapter ‘Race and Class’.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is impactful because of Eddo-Lodge’s often personal tone. The author leads the way by showing self-awareness; she does not shy away from acknowledging the learning process necessary for everyone – to achieve a stance that looks further than one’s own privilege. “When I write as an outsider, I am also an insider in so many ways. I am university-educated, able-bodied, and I speak and write in ways very similar to those I criticise.”


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If Eddo-Lodge criticises herself, she also highlights that rather than blaming an individual, an entire system can be blamed – shocking aspects of this system are efficiently heightened by Eddo-Lodge’s subtle use of a sarcastic tone in certain places. “I want to deconstruct the structural power of a system that marked me out as different”, she writes. If “the default is white”, causing four-year-old Reni Eddo-Lodge “to ask her mum when she would turn white”, this mindset has to be dismantled. Most of all, discussion has to be kept up against what Eddo-Lodge points out to be “an obsession with stopping discussion about race in Britain.”

If the word ‘hopeful’ can be attached to ‘discomfort’, it is because Eddo-Lodge states that the process of change requires discomfort. Being faced by discomfort in the process of reading Eddo-Lodge’s work allows for the recognition that one is complicit in the structural racism that she denounces, “If you feel burdened by your unearned privilege, try to use it for something, and use it where it counts”, she asks.

Through acknowledgment of discomfort, empathy with the reader, and Eddo-Lodge’s own self-criticism, the reader is encouraged on the path towards anti-racism. Making it to the end of Eddo-Lodge’s book is only the beginning of the work in which she calls all readers to participate. Using personal anecdotes and poignant details, cleverly balancing the reader’s discomfort for their complicity in the system with her personal self-awareness, Eddo-Lodge’s call for the reworking of an entire system could not be more powerful. Additionally, instead of allowing a potentially overwhelmed reader to turn away from participating in this fight, Eddo-Lodge strengthens them by ending on a note of hope: through a description of the history that led up to today, she reminds those fighting against racism that they are not alone, that they are part of a movement, and fighting together is the only way to make changes, “this is the power of the collective.”

The book is available online here: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Reni_Eddo_Lodge_Why_I_m_No_Longer_Talking_to_White?id=LMovDgAAQBAJ .

Reni Eddo-Lodge’s podcast ‘About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge’ is available on Spotify here https://open.spotify.com/show/6RNwASBcNjuK4tuqdaXzBn?si=fnluMkyaSpKrfywx5jcKpA .

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