Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race

by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Paperback, 2019

Status

Available

Publication

Bloomsbury Publishing (2019), Edition: Reprint, 288 pages

Description

Politics. Sociology. Nonfiction. HTML:'Every voice raised against racism chips away at its power. We can't afford to stay silent. This book is an attempt to speak' The book that sparked a national conversation. Exploring everything from eradicated black history to the inextricable link between class and race, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race is the essential handbook for anyone who wants to understand race relations in Britain today. THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER WINNER OF THE BRITISH BOOK AWARDS NON-FICTION NARRATIVE BOOK OF THE YEAR 2018 FOYLES NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR BLACKWELL'S NON-FICTION BOOK OF THE YEAR WINNER OF THE JHALAK PRIZE LONGLISTED FOR THE BAILLIE GIFFORD PRIZE FOR NON-FICTION LONGLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE SHORTLISTED FOR A BOOKS ARE MY BAG READERS AWARD.… (more)

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Rating

(280 ratings; 4.2)

Media reviews

Reni Eddo-Lodge has become the first black British author to take the overall No 1 spot in the UK’s official book charts. Eddo-Lodge's Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race topped Nielsen BookScan's UK top 50 in the week to 13 June, making her the first black British author to take
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the top slot since Nielsen began recording book sales in 2001. The only black author to have taken the No 1 spot on the overall charts is the former US first lady Michelle Obama in 2018, with her memoir Becoming. In 2016, analysis from the Bookseller found that a writer was more likely to make it into the bestseller charts if their name was David than if they were from an ethnic minority.

Eddo-Lodge responded to news of her achievement on Twitter. "Feels absolutely wild to have broken this record," she wrote. "My work stands on the shoulders of so many black British literary giants - Bernadine Evaristo, Benjamin Zephaniah, Zadie Smith, Andrea Levy, Stella Dadzie, Stuart Hall, Linton K Johnson, Jackie Kay, Gary Younge - to name a few." Last week, Eddo-Lodge became the first black British author to be No 1 on the non-fiction paperback charts, which she called "a horrible indictment of the publishing industry". "Can't help but be dismayed by this - the tragic circumstances in which this achievement came about,” she wrote. "The fact that it's 2020 and I'm the first."
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User reviews

LibraryThing member Eyejaybee
This was certainly an uncomfortable read, which was, I suppose, the point. As a middle-aged, middle class, white man who likes to think of himself as holding fairly liberal views, I probably fall right into the group at whom Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book is aimed.

Having heard a few people discussing
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this book, I think that part of me was hoping I could dismiss it as a collection of exaggerated grievances that struggled to make an overly emotive point. Nothing could be further from the truth. Ms Eddo-Lodge has written a clear, coherent and essentially incontrovertible account of the institutional and structural racism that abounds, in the most self-perpetuating way throughout society.

It also serves to reinforce the fact that one of the greatest disappointments in not how nasty or unfeeling the bad people can be – that is, after all, what one would expect. Sadly, it is the inadvertent and occasional, even casual, but no less damaging, unpleasantness from the decent people that often comes across as most painful. The sad irony is that it is the self-satisfied liberals who constantly tell themselves that they aren’t racist so don’t have anything to worry about on that score who represent one of the biggest factors hindering the eradication of racism.

Eddo-Lodge’s book arose from a blog post that she wrote which drew thousands of comments, provoking an extensive, and often heated, online debate. As a consequence of the response to her blog, she has expanded the book, covering a lot of the history of the black and non-white community in Britain, and its frequent invisibility. For instance, hundred thousands of servicemen from the Caribbean and the rest of the Empire participated in Britain’s armed forces in the two world wars, but their huge contribution has scarcely ever been acknowledged.

The book is well-written, comprehensively researched and definitely worth reading, regardless of how uncomfortable its impact might be.
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LibraryThing member ASKelmore
Best for: People interested in great writing on race, especially writing that gives perspective on race that isn’t US-centric.

In a nutshell: Ms. Eddo-Lodge explores the history of racism in Britain and looks at ways to address it today.

Line that sticks with me: “Being in a position where their
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lives are so comfortable that they don’t really have anything material to oppose, faux ‘free speech’ defenders spend all their spare time railing against ‘offense culture.’” (p133)

Why I chose it: I follow Ms. Eddo-Lodge on Twitter and find her work to be insightful and interesting.

Review: This book was released last month in the UK; I ordered it on Amazon to be able to read it before its official US release in December. And I’m so glad I did, because it is a fantastic book that I think US readers can really learn from. Ms Eddo-Lodge weaves her own experiences in with a thoughtful analysis of the difference aspects of racism, including strong chapters devoted to the intersections of racism and sexism as well as racism and class.

The book is broken down into seven chapters, each of which could stand alone as its own but also fits in and builds upon the others. The first chapter focuses on the history of race and racism in Britain. Those of us familiar with Brexit and the rise of white nationalism in the UK (not to mention its imperialist history) will not be surprised by some of this. At the same time as someone raised in the US it was interesting to read the perspective of a British person. Specifically, the idea that the US tends to take up so much of the discussion world-wide about racism, which can leave other countries thinking that they don’t necessarily have it within their own borders.

I found two chapters to be especially resonant. “Fear of the Black Planet” talks about the deeply held fear of white nationalists that they are losing ‘their’ country to people of color, and that they need to fight this. Because of libel laws in the UK, Ms. Eddo-Lodge had to offer Nick Griffin, a white nationalist, a chance to respond to some comments, so part of this section is a transcript of their interview. It is fascinating in that Mr. Griffin digs his own hole, as it were. Not to him I’m sure, but I think that anyone just reading his responses to Ms. Eddo-Lodge’s thoughtful questions will recognize how utterly wrong he is about race and what makes a country and its people.

The other chapter is the one on feminism, where she delves into the concept of white feminism. I think we’ve seen a lot of that in the US lately as well, and she offers up a strong and straightforward way of explaining it: “It’s not about women, who are feminists, who are white. It’s about women espousing feminist politics as they buy into the politics of whiteness, which at its core are exclusionary, discriminatory and structurally racist.”

If you are in the UK, Australia or New Zealand, I strongly recommend you go buy this at your local bookstore. If you are in another country, you might be able to order it online through Amazon. If you have a tall to-be-read pile at home, please place a request with your local library and bookstores that they be sure to carry this when it is released in December.
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LibraryThing member strandbooks
I'm very grateful to my friend Angela for recommending this book. I'm going to pass on the same advice she gave. If you read a part that makes you uncomfortable, stop and think through it and your experiences, then reread it.
Eddo-Lodge is British and talks about the history and current state of
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racism in Great Britain. She points out that growing up she learned about slavery, civil rights and racism in America, but not about her own country. There are a lot of universal systemic ways racism is similar between the two, but some interesting differences. I think this book can bring some new understandings since it is set against a different background and historical perspective.
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LibraryThing member caanderson
This book is the most informative book on race relations I have ever read. Reni Eddo-Lodge is correct in every word she has written. This is a must read for every white woman out there. Reni Eddo-Lodge explains why we still have not settled race relations and how we move forward and no only talk
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about race, but talk about being truly equal regardless of sex and color. I highly recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member asxz
I understand the provocation of the original blog post's title which is now the title of this book. I get it and so does the author. But what is contained within is so measured, so considered and so carefully elaborated that it is impossible to dismiss. The irony, as stated by the author, is that
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since making her declaration, she has done very little BUT talk to while people about race. And I hope she continues, as she is a clear, unembittered, yet urgent voice whether she's talking about privilege or intersectionality or the parts of black British history which are left out of the textbooks. This was accessible, reasoned and undeniable.
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LibraryThing member thenumeraltwo
The title did as intended and got me to read it now, rather than earlier when it would have been more helpful.

To over-trivialise with an inappropriate personal example (my strongest suit), Brexit has often sent me to bed grumpy. And this is increasing in frequency as I feel impotent with the lack
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of recognition of the problem and leaders that swat away concerns as imagined slights. Which is my first attempt at feeling structural rather than direct racism. "We hear you, but plan to do nothing other than continue in what we were doing anyway."

I get the privilege of being able to tune out of I want and resume a life though, so I guess I just want to live like common people and see whatever common people do. And I'll never understand.
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LibraryThing member davidroche
Looking at the bestseller charts, it would seem I am not alone in selecting Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Bloomsbury), by Reni Eddo-Lodge to read at the moment. How this can be the first non-fiction paperback number 1 by a British black author is just astounding – in the
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same week as Bernadine Evaristo becomes the first black author to top the paperback fiction chart. Thanks to those who suggested this as a good place to look to become more educated – it is certainly delivering of that, and so much more. UK’s Publishing industry really needs to seek edification in what Banksy quite rightly identified as the white people’s problem, and give real action, as well as thought, as to what we do about it.
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
As a white, Western male - the target of much of Eddo-Lodge's diatribe - it's hard to know what to say in response to this book, if any response at all is necessary or justifiable.

First off, I want to say that, on the whole, this book was enlightening. I had no idea just how far-reaching and
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endemic racism was in the UK (I thought that, given our joyously multicultural ethic perhaps things were better now than in the past, and to an extent they are, but post-Brexit it seems like we're in danger of a return to the miserable days of the 1970s and before), and Eddo-Lodge has done much to set me right.

However, and as some other reviewers have suggested, the author does not manage to keep an objective viewpoint throughout her book. This is understandable; the title tells you everything you need to know about her experiences of discussing race; but it is not acceptable in my mind that a book that is otherwise so smart and well-argued should fall back on anti-white rhetoric and stereotype. Suggesting that all white university students are lager-loving party animals (and the corollary that black students are not), and that most white middle-management workers are wastes of space, do not help to reinforce Eddo-Lodge's arguments. If anything, they undermine them - a shame, given how eloquent the author is for much of the time.

A strange thing happens during the course of this book. The first few chapters, full of bilious vitriol, feel like extended blog posts buttressed by a smattering of supporting statistics. Perhaps Eddo-Lodge would have liked to have ended her book somewhere around page 150. But books need to be longer than that if they are to be taken seriously these days (the golden era of the pamphleteer is dead, it appears). Fortunately, to fill the remaining chapters, it's as if Eddo-Lodge takes one long deep breath before proceeding; what follows is the most balanced examination of the current race debate, providing unarguable support for inclusion and understanding. For me, these more deeply considered pages represented Eddo-Lodge at her best, and when I finally reached the end of her extended essay I found myself nodding in complete agreement.
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LibraryThing member Pepperwings
This is a personal and also historical perspective of black people, race relations, and the influence on people in England, mainly.

I really appreciate this viewpoint, because I felt there have been far fewer issues with race in the UK compared to the US--and I still believe that's true, but
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there's still a LOT that people have to contend with in England and other parts of the UK.

The problems are different, and sometimes less clear, I was initially a little disappointed when reading this because I didn't realize that it wasn't talking from a US perspective. I'm glad I continued reading, understanding more global perspectives is useful.
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LibraryThing member amberluscious
I always wondered why race relations are different in Europe, and why white Europeans deny racism in themselves and constantly call the U. S. racist. I grew up in a racist environment in a southern state, I know the racism that holds people down, that held my parents down and that I am still trying
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to get loose from. So, to read this very clear and honest telling by Eddo-Dodge of the constant, ingrained, act of covering up the history of Blacks/Africans in The UK was a balm to my psyche. Eddo-Dodge puts an end to the gaslighting of Black's and other non-white communities by British whites and tells the story that no one wants to hear, but needs to be told because continuing to deny the telling of the history of slavery and racial discrimination in Europe is, in fact, racist and the continuation of enslavement of another kind.
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LibraryThing member the.ken.petersen
OK, I'm in trouble already: the obvious response to this book, whether one has read it, or no, is to praise it to the hilt and beat one's breast.

Perhaps I am not the audience for this, but I would have to say that I didn't learn much from the experience. I was shocked when the art press announced
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that Reni Eddo-Lodge was the first black writer to top the book sales chart. That is an amazing proof of institutional racism: or rather, of the inherent racism within us all.

The book treats racism as a white problem. It is such only because the capitalist system was created by white society and leaders tend to be white, male and late middle aged. I am sure that, had our dominant political system come from Africa, China or India, both anti-white and anti other races would have occurred. This does NOT mean that racism is acceptable, or one of those unfortunate things that we just have to grin and bear. It does, however, mean that we need to approach it at a deeper level than "Racism is a white problem".

Overt racism; lynching black people, signs that read, "No Irish, No blacks and No dogs" are, rightly, illegal and almost banished. Hidden racism will, I fear, always be in the make up of every human and we need to be constantly vigil in our actions. I genuinely believe that the British government consider themselves to be clear of racist bias but, would Grenfell have received so little assistance were it in a white middleclass area?

Racism is an important, and on going, problem. I am sorry, but I didn't feel that this book added greatly to the debate.
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LibraryThing member bookwyrmm
I have read so many American anti-racist books that it was nice to see the UK side.
LibraryThing member thewestwing
Really interesting book. Found the chapter on black women and feminism to be really thought provoking. And opened my eyes to the issues with the white women led movement.
LibraryThing member elahrairah
For a four star book I kind of struggled with this at times. Why? Because I agree with almost everything she says and every conclusion she draws and so it felt like I was mostly reading a load of really obvious thoughts peppered occasionally with bits that I really didn't agree with. However, my
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disagreements really are very minor compared to the agreements so I won't even bring them up except to say that she is basically on the cusp of becoming a communist and thats going to surprise her when she finds out. Oh, and Fear Of A Black Planet is a Public Enemy album from 1990, but she implies that its an expression she has invented to describe fear of black people. "Structures are made of people" which is a clever thing her friend said is a Crass lyric from 1981. "There's no justice, just us" which she attributes to Terry Pratchett is an activist slogan dating back at least to the 80s - I had a Levellers t-shirt with that on in 1994 and it appears as a call and response chant on a Chumbawamba live album from the year before. Just, you know, because people born in the 1989 didn't invent being really upset with society. It's just that racism and class oppression are really difficult to change. Here's hoping her generation have more success than mine.
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LibraryThing member Kavinay
So many books about the experience of racialized people are written essentially for a white audience. What a delight that Reni Eddo-Lodge speaks directly to the constant frustration of having to explain and defend the banal ubiquity of structural racism to a majority that reflexively shirks from
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the idea.

If you are a person of colour, read this book. It doesn't purport to solve racism or provide whiteness 101 training. Rather, it's likely the first time you will see your thoughts and frustrations at living within the bounds of white supremacy articulated so clearly and passionately by a superb writer.
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LibraryThing member rosienotrose
Eddo-Lodge starts this book by explaining its origins. A 2014 piece on her blog, entitled: 'Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People about Race'. Paradoxically the response to the blog made her realise that the conversation had to continue and thus the book was born.

I was struck by how much I
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didn’t know about the British history with the slavery trade. The global focus is so much on the US story that we [and by we I mean me own white Irish ass] would be lead to believe that Britain has never had a problem with race or indeed a trade in slavery. How wrong we are and Eddo-Lodge is here to inform us.

In her own words: "Faced with a collective forgetting, we must fight to remember."

Eddo-Lodge approaches race from many angles; the British history and system of racism, what white privilege is, fear of a black planet and how politicians use language to stoke this fear. But for me the areas where this book shines is when she gets personal. Where she talks about her own memories of Stephen Lawrence’s murder and his mother tireless pursuit of justice, where she delves into feminism and the difficulties when we do not see the intersectionality of race and sexism.

Eddo-Lodge gave me an education I was thirsting for. But where does it leave us?

I feel the last words in this review should be from Reni Eddo-Lodge herself...
"If you are disgusted by what you see, and if you feel the fire coursing through your veins, then it’s up to you. You don’t have to be the leader of a global movement or a household name. It can be as small scale as chipping away at the warped power relations in your workplace. It can be passing on knowledge and skills to those who wouldn’t access them otherwise. It can be creative. It can be informal. It can be your job. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you’re doing something."
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LibraryThing member Linyarai
I wish I had enjoyed it more, but I just didn't feel enlightened or educated after finishing it.
LibraryThing member Michael.Rimmer
In response to a one-star review on a different book-review website:

A book full of analysis of the underlying hate and racist prejudice against black people in majority white society. Why such an insightful text took so long to be published is beyond me. It starts with its title, which is
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eye-catching and thought provoking, and the author carefully explains her meaning in a well-considered and personal way. If you want to see what real structural racism is, read this book.

It's easy to understand why some white people take offense at the title of this book. Eddo-Lodge seems to have designed it to slap the reader in the face, to take notice of their position in relation to her declaration. It's like a Zen koan, designed to snap the reader into an immediate awareness of their underlying feeling, rather than their thought. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, then, if you can be open to hearing the author's experience as a black person in a majority white society, there's undoubtedly much to learn.

I, as a white person, you're prepared to squarely look at how you have a head start in life simply by being born with a characteristic that society considers the baseline for normal (doubled and re-doubled if you happen to be male, tripled and re-tripled if you happen to be born into wealth), then you can begin to understand the exasperation of the author at constantly having to fight the same battles over and over again; constantly having the discussion about racism subverted into accusations of racism against whites.

As is obvious from the existence of the book, Eddo-Lodge has not stopped talking about race, and much of the book is directed towards white people. Yes, in a challenging way, but not in a vituperative way. Eddo-Lodge explicitely states that she does not want to evoke "white-guilt" in her readers, but rather makes a call to action, to take an anti-racist stand where it matters most, in our own lives and with the people we live and work with.

White people need not fear Eddo-Lodge's message, however uncomfortable it might feel at the outset. Awareness is a precursor of change, and she advocates for a harmonious society in which everybody is prized and is able to live a fulfilling life free from oppression.
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LibraryThing member Daumari
I am not the target audience for this book, but I still strongly encourage everyone to read it as Eddo-Lodge addresses essential factors underpinning the structure of our society.

This year (2018 at time of writing) is exhausting and feels like it's gone on forever. I recognize part of that fatigue
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has been due to doing ally-adjacent work of explaining in conversations why coded language and power structures are harmful (it's unfair to put the burden of educating the unaware on people of color, but as I am a non-black POC, I feel I can be useful here). A friend was accused of "reverse racism", and their acquaintance had to gently but firmly be informed that racism is prejudice power, so it doesn't check out to accuse their one black acquaintance of it. Eddo-Lodge goes into detail with history and statistics on why this is so.

The chapter on intersectionality with feminism also struck a chord with me, as I have [white] female friends who mentioned early in the current administration that they just didn't check the news any more as it was stressful/frustrating/etc. I absolutely understand the need for relief from the firehose onslaught of, well, everything but at the same time, there are fellow citizens who cannot afford to tune out as policy changes immediately affect them.

I was caught off guard by this book being centered on British structural racism, but realized that as an American, most of my prior reading is centered on a domestic lens. There's a cool comfort in recognizing other countries have similar issues (though we arguably inherited it from the mother country before ah, making it our own). Not sure if other US readers are aware, but typically when Brits refer to Asians, they mean South Asians instead of East. The Asian diaspora includes everyone descended from Asian countries, but it's an interesting geographical linguistic distinction (and a good reminder that I and fellow east Asian Americans need to show solidarity with our brown brothers and sisters).

Societal struggle is not a zero sum game. The "take back our country" rhetoric is frustrating because the success of black and brown people does not diminish white people in the same field. It's not the job of minority folks to educate our white friends, but this book is a good start.
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Awards

Orwell Prize (Longlist — 2018)
Books Are My Bag Readers Award (Shortlist — Non-Fiction — 2017)
Jhalak Prize (Winner — 2018)
Foyles Book of the Year (Winner — Non-Fiction — 2017)
Bread and Roses Award (Winner — 2018)

Language

Original language

English

Original publication date

2017

Physical description

288 p.; 8.28 inches

ISBN

1635572959 / 9781635572957
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