Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race Summary
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is a nonfiction book exploring issues of race and racism in Britain and beyond.
- Author Remi Eddo-Lodge begins by recounting the history of Black people in Britain and tracing the origins of the structural racism that pervades British society today.
- Eddo-Lodge examines the idea of White privilege as an obstacle to honest conversations about race and unfounded White fears as one of racism’s driving forces.
- After describing the intersections between race, gender, and class, Eddo-Lodge encourages readers to further the movement to dismantle systemic racism.
British journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge begins her book by explaining its origins. In 2014, she published a blog post of the same title. The blog post, which voiced her frustration at discussing race with white people, went viral. Ironically, it sparked years of discussion about race—with white people and people of color—and, eventually, a book to expand on Eddo-Lodge’s argument.
In chapter 1, Eddo-Lodge lays the historical foundation for understanding race relations in Britain. Like many British people, Eddo-Lodge grew up with little knowledge of British Black history. It was not until university that she began to explore the history of Black people in her country—a history, she explains, that can be difficult to find. Eddo-Lodge outlines this history, beginning with the transatlantic slave trade. Post-slavery, Black and Brown people made contributions to the British war efforts in World War I. After World War II, Britain encouraged immigration to help rebuild the country.
Despite these realities, British society was generally unwilling and unable to cope with its own legacy of colonization. Anti-Black sentiment grew in the UK, and many Black immigrants campaigned against the discrimination they faced.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the link between “blackness and criminality” was strengthened in the imaginations of White British people. “Sus” laws and police harassment eroded trust between the police and people of color. Despite these problems, the police service and government officials have generally denied that racism is at the root.
The history of Black people in Britain is necessary to understand the current system of structural racism at work in the country. In chapter 2, Reni Eddo-Lodge explores “the system.” Using the case of Stephen Lawrence as a prime example, Eddo-Lodge explains how racism is structural and pervasive. Citing “swathes of evidence,” she highlights how racism hinders Black people, statistically, at every phase of life.
Despite this widespread systemic racism that works against people of color, attempts to “level the playing field” through positive discrimination measures are met with backlash. Eddo-Lodge rebuts these arguments, claiming that we do not live in a meritocracy to begin with. While positive discrimination measures are demanded to address gender imbalance, the same measures are rejected as an effective way to combat racism.
In a world of powerful and pervasive racism, “color-blindness” is not an effective approach. To dismantle racism, Eddo-Lodge argues that we must see color.
In chapter 3, Eddo-Lodge explores the reverse side of structural racism: White privilege. White privilege is difficult to define because, Eddo-Lodge explains, it is an absence. White privilege does not mean that all White people live in luxury; it simply acknowledges that race, specifically, has not been an obstacle in the lives of White people.
While prejudice can be held against people of any race, racism cannot. Racism, Eddo-Lodge explains, is “prejudice plus power.” A Black person can be prejudiced against White people, but they cannot, realistically, leverage widespread systemic power to hinder their life chances.
Eddo-Lodge explains that the concept of White privilege is a key obstacle to fruitful discussions about race with White...
(The entire section is 1,274 words.)