It’s been already 6 months now that the world woke up to the reality of everyday racism and police brutality. I’m happy to give you the review of the book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race today because it’s not the time to go back to sleep about injustice and inequality my friend my sister.
1- Of the importance of emotional connection
It’s time to connect to our brothers and sisters of all colours and listen to them, not with our rational mind but with our heart. If you’re white, you have no idea of what it feels to live with racism every day. So before saying anything, let’s listen with the kindness and respect due to all human beings.
Reni Eddo-Lodge writes “I can no longer engage with the gulf of an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates their experience.”
Because I am white, I cannot take a step back because some people decided that white would be the norm. “This emotional disconnect is the conclusion of living a life oblivious to the fact that their skin colour is the norm and all others deviate from it.” explains the author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race.
2- Racism is not discrimination
I agree that injustice is sadly everywhere. However, words matter here. Racism is not a simple discrimination: “I distinctly remember a debate about whether racism was simply discrimination, or discrimination plus power.” precises Reni Eddo-Lodge.
3- What is the white privilege
Honestly, I discovered the term white privilege this year in 2020 my friend my sister. This privilege is perfectly described by the author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race: “Whether I talk about white privilege, I don’t mean that white people have it easy, that they’ve never struggled, or that they’ve never lived in poverty. But white privilege is the fact that if you’re white, your race will almost certainly positively impact your life’s trajectory in some ways. And you probably won’t even notice it.”
White people don’t talk about their privilege because they don’t realize they have it and moreover it truly benefits them: “Who really wants to be alerted to a structural system that benefits them at the expense of others?”
I was shocked at the misunderstanding about such a concept on social media. By no means the idea of a white privilege says that because you are white you are wealthy, happy and have an easy life. Nevertheless, it is a privilege because it means that my life for instance, has never been negatively affected by the colour of my skin. This is what I call a privilege. “(…) white privilege is an absence of the negative consequences of racism.” writes Reni Eddo-Lodge.
4- What is structural racism
Sadly, racism runs very deep into our society. The issue is that it’s not always very obvious: “This isn’t about good and bad people. The covert nature of structural racism is difficult to hold to account.” I feel that police brutality is the tip of an iceberg my friend my sister. The author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race writes that “Structural racism is never a case of innocent and pure, persecuted people of colour versus white people intent on evil and malice. Rather, it is about how Britain’s relationship with race infects and distorts equal opportunity.”
The face of racism has changed over the centuries. Today, not only does physical violence sadly exist but there is also a whole system that makes the future of any black child more difficult than a white child just because his skin is one colour and not the other: “(…) racism was about so much more than personal prejudice. It was about being in the position to negatively affect other people’s life chances.”
5- Who is covertly racist
Who comes to your mind when I say racist my friend my sister? The truth is, racism is very wide-spread, far beyond the far-right extremists: “The sharpest rise in those self-admitting were, according to a Guardian report, “white, professional men between the ages of 35 to 64, highly educated and earning a lot of money”. (…) It is not just about personal prejudice, but the collective effects of bias. (…) Highly educated, high-earning white men are very likely to be landlords, bosses, CEOs, head teachers, or university vice chancellors. They are almost certainly people in positions that influence others’ lives.”
Why is today’s racism so difficult to identify? Because “(…) their racism is covert (…)” explains Reni Eddo-Lodge.
Worse, the author of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race states: “I don’t think that any amount of class privilege, money or education can shield you from racism.”
6- Meritocracy is an illusion
We all like to think (I am guilty of that too) that with enough efforts and willpower, anybody can do anything. The truth is: if the dice are loaded from the start, this game of life is unfair. I am not finding excuses, I am unveiling a harsh reality. Ignoring it harms black people even more. “The insistence is on merit, insinuating that any current majority white leadership in any industry has got there through hard work and no outside help, as if whiteness isn’t its own leg-up, as if it doesn’t imply a familiarity that warms an interviewer to a candidate.” Reni Eddo-Lodge adds: “We don’t live in a meritocracy, and to pretend that simple hard work will elevate all to success is an exercise in wilful ignorance.”
7- It all started with slavery
As white people, it’s our duty and responsibility to understand that not focusing on the color of the skin of people is great (we are all humans, all equals in theory) but sometimes it can be harmful: “Colour-blindness does not accept the legitimacy of structural racism or a history of white racial dominance.” I watched several documentaries made by Arte about slavery. I talked about them to my children and watched one episode with my son at this request. If you understand French, here is the link to one episode (it seems that the other three episodes are not freely available anymore): “1620 – 1789 : Du sucre à la révolte | Les routes de l’esclavage Partie 3 | ARTE”. My point is: we need to understand slavery. We need to look at slavery in the eyes. Yes it is in the past but slavery created racism. Slavery is the root of the problem but we tend to forget it.
Reni Eddo-Lodge herself writes that “There was a received wisdom that all black and brown people in the UK were recent immigrants, with little discussion of the history of colonialism”. However, as Ambalavaner Sivanandan said “We are here because you were there”. White people have blood on their hands. Feeling guilty is not the answer. Taking responsibility is.
8- The fear underneath racism
Reni Eddo-Lodge talks about an interview she did with a politician from the far-right. Read her book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race if you want to know more. I admire her bravery and think it’s time to face the lies that are still spread like: “white British people are or will become an ethnic minority in Britain” or the idea of mass immigration as some form of genocide of white people. I loved how Reni Eddo-Lodge draws a parallel between racism and homophobia: “There is an old saying about the straight man’s homophobia being rooted in a fear that gay men will treat him as he treats women. this is no different.”
9- How to talk to white people about race
Feeling ashamed for being white is not the answer and won’t help black people. Reni Eddo-Lodge asks us to move our butt sister: “White people, you need to talk to other white people about race.” Recently, I went to the beach with a friend, so two white women. I was telling her about documentaries I recently saw about colorism: “Full Episode: “DARK GIRLS 1” | Dark Girls | Oprah Winfrey Network”, “Full Episode: “Dark Girls 2 (NEW for 2020) – OWN Spotlight” | Dark Girls | Oprah Winfrey Network” and “Full Episode: “Light Girls” | Light Girls | Oprah Winfrey Network”. My friend had no idea colorism existed. I didn’t do something difficult nor extraordinary, I just shared, I just talked. Everybody can do that. White people, let’s wake up! We can do our part in honor of humanity and it doesn’t need to be complicated so no excuses.
10- Racism is a white issue
Lastly, I want to highlight that racism is a white thing. White people decided to go to Africa and kidnap people. White people chose to treat human beings as objects, destroy families, villages, tribes and children, steal so many resources from Africa. Therefore “Discussing racism is about discussing white identity. It’s about white anxiety.” Reni Eddo-Lodge also writes: “It is a problem in the psyche of whiteness that white people must take responsibility to solve.”
Again, I’m not reviewing the great book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race to make you feel guilty my friend my sister. I’m doing it because it’s my duty as a human being. I’d love to do so much more. I’d love it if slavery was only a nightmare, but it happened. The future is ours to create. The future of relationships with our fellow human beings is in our hands. Let’s honor the innocent victims of slavery and racism by talking about it, doing our little part, uniting to our brothers and sisters, uniting to our true nature, uniting to what makes us human.