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Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race

In this edition of the B+G Book Club, Aoife Murphy, Executive Strategy Director, tells us about “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge.

In 2014 Reni Eddo-Lodge, an award winning journalist, penned a blog post with the title above venting her anger and frustration about the way in which discussions about race and racism were being led by people who were not directly affected by it. The piece sparked a huge conversation around the world, leading Eddo-Lodge to publish a book in 2017 expanding on her subject.

What did I think

If the events of 2020 (and early 2021) taught us anything, it’s that we don’t know enough.

I, like many Irish women, went to an Irish catholic girls school in a small town. It had about 500 students, 99% white, 99% Irish born. We didn’t talk about the colour of your skin or if you had a different religion, there was no one to talk about that with.

2020 put racism high on the agenda once again. It was clear that even in the most diverse country in the world, even in post-Obama America, racism was still rife there and around the world. So, feeling a bit lost, I decided to try and educate myself a little better by starting with this book.

Eddo-Lodge helpfully steps through an overview of black history, white privilege and some of racism’s compounding issues like feminism and class. While it’s not laid out as such, it can be viewed as a framework to help identify, acknowledge and counter racism. It certainly positioned the topic in a way I had never considered. I particularly enjoyed her view on quotas and why they’re necessary for change.

This is a book about race and racism – a serious topic, so this isn’t a light read. It’s also relatively short for a topic of this depth. At times the book can be a bit frustrating as it scratches the surface of more existential problems, like how the feminist movement has contributed to societal racism rather than helping it, and can leave you wanting more information.

In the last chapter of the book the author offers a number of different ways to counter the systemic racism that we are hopefully now better at identifying. Some of them I found a little confronting but her overall message of talking about it (race, racism) gives you confidence that there is a way forward.

Perhaps recognising the lived experience of its writer, I didn’t get a great sense of hope that society is on the right track or there are great strides being made. Instead it seems we’re at the point of being willing to admit that yes there is a problem but we’re very far from the solution.

Honestly, I felt a little overwhelmed at the end of this book but perhaps that’s the point. Overall, it’s a good book to read if you want to be armed with some insight to be able to contribute to a conversation about race but don’t expect simple tips or shortcuts on how to be a better ally.

Who should read it

  • Anyone who wants to understand more about black history, prejudice and racism in western society
  • Anyone interested in seeing race and class from a different perspective than their own
  • Anyone looking for ways to be positively involved in conversations about race

★★★★☆