Chapter 4 Summary
In 1968, the politician Enoch Powell gave “one of the most racist speeches in British history.” In it, he warned that immigration would ultimately lead to a world where “the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.”
Powell’s warning tapped into an already existing fear among British Whites, and one that hasn’t disappeared with time. This fear of “a flipped script,” with Black people in power over Whites, is what Reni Eddo-Lodge calls “the fear of a black planet.”
This fear hides behind concerns that British culture, and Western civilization as a whole, will eventually be diluted and extinguished by multiculturalism. Political campaigns to “[preserve] our national identity” and “get our country back” play on these fears.
This political angle “[hijacks] the anti-colonial struggle of native people in America and Australia to create a story of the embattled indigenous white British, under siege from immigration.” The former British National Party leader, Nick Griffin, equated the struggles of the Maori of New Zealand, or the Indigenous peoples of the US, with the challenges faced by white people in the UK.
Eddo-Lodge argues that Nick Griffin is blind to his existing privilege and blind to the fact that he is part of a strong majority; she considers it insulting that he would use the struggles of Black and Brown people under British colonization to create an argument against people of color in Britain.
In order to give Nick Griffin an opportunity to rebut her criticism, Eddo-Lodge interviewed him over the phone and decided to include the transcript of their conversation in her book. In this “surreal” conversation, Eddo-Lodge questions Griffin on his fear of demographic trends, his beliefs about mixed-race relationships, and his accusation that the media “happily goes along with the genocidal implications of mass immigration.”
While Griffin’s stance is an extreme one, he is communicating the “low-level grumblings and resentment” of other British people. A fear of a Black planet “maintains that people of colour are unfairly vying for . . . resources, and that having more people of colour in these positions of power might instigate a drastic tipping of the scales.” At its core, Eddo-Lodge asserts, “fear of a black planet is a fear of loss.”
This fear also manifests through “discomfort with anti-racist talk and protest.” This discomfort can shut down anti-racist conversation by citing freedom of speech. When Oxford University students protested to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes, a colonial businessman, they were accused of trying to remove him from history books and “impinging on freedom of speech.”
This so-called defense of freedom of speech is a way to derail worthwhile conversations about race. It takes away the voice of dissenters; when someone expresses offense at racist words or actions, they are accused of eroding freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech, Eddo-Lodge agrees, is “a fundamental foundation of a free and fair democracy.” This right, however, needs to be applied to everyone, including those who wish to discuss racism without “intellectually dishonest attempts to undermine their arguments.” If bigots can express their opinions freely, Eddo-Lodge argues, strong anti-racist voices should be able to do the same.
Fear of a Black planet is also expressed in film, television, and books. These forms of media provide “the most potent manifestations of white as the default assumption.” Lead Black characters are often considered “unrelatable,” and audiences require “a pre-warning” for...
(The entire section is 859 words.)