NON-FICTION//Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race- Reni Eddo-Lodge

Why I'm No Longer Talking To White People About Race (Jul)I wanted to read this book as soon as I became aware of its publication. In it, Eddo-Lodge discusses racism in British society and the frustration of people of colour (POC) at the lack of engagement, of listening, by white people; she writes that we disengage and fail to listen when POC describe their experiences- that we become embarrassed, or angry, and refuse to acknowledge that these experiences are different and difficult. Eddo-Lodge traces the history and experiences of POC in Britain from the slave trade to more modern examples, such as the Stephen Lawrence case and the reaction of some to the casting of a black actress as Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The stark statistics that show that a black boy (Eddo-Lodge points out that studies are never carried out on black girls) faces educational barriers almost as soon as he steps through the doors on his first day at school never cease to be shocking. A lot of the statistics in the book are shocking and, in 2017, utterly unacceptable.

In a post-Brexit country that appears to be embracing more right-wing ideas in its policy making, I believe it is more important to be aware of experiences that are not our own. In the last year, since Brexit and Trump, I have had to answer difficult questions from worried students who fear that they-and their parents- will be targeted because of the colour of their skin. I have tried hard to feature writers and texts outside of the prescribed curriculum of Anglo-centric texts so favoured by this government ( for example, the requirement for the study of texts from different cultures was largely removed when the curriculum was re-written a few years ago. The poetry list is full of Byron and Tennyson, with few nods to non-white poets, as an example. Because 15 year olds get really excited about poems about mythical Biblical poems that in no way reflect their actual worlds.) My students have genuinely felt like outsiders in their own country, just because of their race or religion. This is not right, nor is it fair- the fear that one boy told me he felt every time someone in his family left the house because they are Muslim is too huge a burden for anyone to bear, let alone a teenager. I have already recommended this book to some of my students. I think every teacher should read it, too.

Eddo-Lodge also writes about the role of intersectionality within feminism and the importance of moving away from a default feminism that’s white and largely middle class. True equality will never be achieved if we ignore huge parts of society, including POC and the working class.

Ultimately, what this book made me realise is that whatever we’re doing, it’s not enough and more can and should be done. Eddo-Lodge argues that it’s not enough to call ourselves ‘anti-racist’; that we should support and listen when POC speak about their experiences.¬†This is a book that will make you think and reflect- and in uncertain times, that’s not a bad thing.

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