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Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge: Book Review

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Hi, friends! Thanks for joining me today; I’m so glad you’re here đŸ’™. Today I’m talking about Reni Eddo-Lodge’s 2017 debut: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Don’t let its provocative title fool you; this is an incredibly thorough, well-researched, and rational address to anti-racist BIPOC and non-marginalized allies alike.

Book Cover for Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

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

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Year Published: 2017

Genre: Non-Fiction | Social Justice

Features: Woman Author | BIPOC Author

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I read this book as part of my 2021 Reading Challenge. Check out all the books I’m reading for the challenge here.

I write — and read — to assure myself that other people have felt what I’m feeling too, that it isn’t just me, that this is real, and valid, and true.

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

Or, more accurately titled, “why Reni is no longer talking to white people about race”. In the preface to her book, Reni discusses her now-famous 2014 blog post from which this book gets its name. In the blog post, she cites two key reasons for setting boundaries between herself and anti-racist discourseâ„¢. The first reason was a lack of willingness from white people to listen in good faith and learn from the Black experience; the second reason was the prioritization of white feelings in said discourseâ„¢.

Through her book, Reni says she wants to assure herself and others that they are not alone in their experiences. She seeks to validate others in what they have been through and provide her readers with more tools with which to constructively and effectively engage in the discourseâ„¢. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is an intersectional examination of Blackness at the crossroads of various social injustices.

But Reni does more than just examine the far-reaching effects of race and social inequality. She dissects them, backs up the existence of the problem with evidence, and (where she can) provides a solution. Where she cannot offer a solution, she lays out the facts, steps back, and asks us, “now, what do you think about that?”

I’ve written this book to articulate that feeling of having your voice and confidence snatched away from you in the cocky face of the status quo… It has been written to counter the lack of historical knowledge and the political backdrop you need to anchor your opposition to racism… I hope you use it as a tool.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is a Good Book

I gave Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race five stars for two reasons. Firstly, it’s just a damn good work of non-fiction. That is, of course, just my humble Black opinion. Secondly, it resonated with me on a level no book up to this point ever has. But more on that later.

Now, we don’t have the time to get into the minutiae of my non-fiction rating system here. Suffice it to say that I believe a few criteria must be met to take a non-fiction book from simply interesting to well-written and constructed. Suffice it to also say, Reni’s book does all of these things.

In her book, Reni strikes an excellent balance between objective facts about how racism manifests and the real, first-hand accounts of those it affects. Secondly and similarly, her own diversity of experiences emphasize the importance of her voice in this conversation. And lastly, the text is extremely well-organized. Each chapter clarifies what issue it is addressing, what this issue looks like, and what can be done about it.

So, without further ado, let’s talk about those things.

Plausible deniability? I don’t know her.

In Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, Reni supports every claim she makes with a healthy variety of research, interviews, her own experiences, or some combination of the above. She uses personal anecdotes where necessary to bolster (not fabricate or construct) her arguments.

In a work attempting to prove the existence of — and problems with — particular social iniquities, supporting one’s claims is critical. However, striking a balance between faceless statistics and personal experiences is just as important. The author must prove (1) yes, this problem exists; (2) here’s how it manifests on a large scale; and (3) here’s how it hurts real, individual people.

For most, the “50% of minority children in Britain living in poverty” is just an amorphous, non-specific clump of people. By sharing the experiences of people the system failed, Reni removes our plausible deniability. It stops us from saying “Oh, but not here“. It doesn’t allow us to claim “Oh, but not me or the people I know“. Reni wants us to recognize our privilege and do what we can to help those who do not share it.

White denial [is] the ubiquitous politics of race that operates on its inherent invisibility… Who really wants to be alerted to a structural system that benefits them at the expense of others?

Reni Eddo-Lodge: Our spirit guide on this anti-racist journey

Another thing I appreciated about Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race was how Reni’s voice came through in the narrative. Throughout the book, she speaks plainly and clearly about what lies at the heart of the issues she discusses. She’s emotional, yes — how can you not be as a woman of color speaking about the compounding nature of race, gender, and class inequality? Still, she avoids unnecessary dramatization and doesn’t disregard the humanity of the people whose stories she tells.

In one chapter, Reni doesn’t shy away from calling out her own privilege. Specifically, she calls out her privilege as an able-bodied person. She writes about a time when she was commuting via public transportation every day. Lugging her bike through various tube and bus stations opened her eyes to the lack of accessibility accommodations for folks with mobility issues. This recognition of her own privilege emphasizes her qualifications to speak on the ramifications of not acknowledging one’s privilege.

In other chapters, Reni talks about her experiences in other activist circles. All too often, she explains, she felt pressured to stifle different aspects of her identity to placate the (usually Caucasian) folks who controlled the conversation. This dichotomy of experiences — acknowledging her privileges and recognizing where its limits lie — makes Reni’s voice a vital and valid one to elevate in (say it with me, folks) the discourseâ„¢.

I used to be scared of being perceived as an angry black woman. But I soon realized that… my assertiveness, passion, and excitement could all be wielded against me. Not displaying anger wasn’t going to stop me from being labeled as angry, so I thought: fuck it. I decided to speak my mind.

And aren’t we glad she did?!

Problem, proof, process; repeat.

The final bit of non-fiction-specific writing I want to praise Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race for is its structure. To be honest, I had my expectations challenged in the very first chapter. I had just read another work of social justice non-fiction that often veered out of semi-objective reporting and into memoir. So, when I came to this book, I expected a stream-of-consciousness discussion on Reni’s challenges in attempting to engage white people in the discourseâ„¢.

I am pleased to report, however, that this was not the case! I quickly came to appreciate, and soon after, love, the way Reni organizes the text. In each chapter, Reni identifies the problem, proves its existence and impact, and offers either a solution or points for further reflection.

I’m sure Reni likely knew the “provocative” title of her book would lead less-than-well-meaning folks to pick up the book looking for something to get angry about. Much of the “proof” portion of the problem-proof-process formula may not be telling her BIPOC readers anything new. However, it is particularly effective (and necessary) here, because it clearly identifies and proves the problem’s existence. This means allies and hate-readers alike are each their only excuses for willfully ignoring their contributions to — and complicity in — social injustice.

The perverse thing about our current racial structure is that it has always fallen on the shoulders of those at the bottom to change it. Yet racism is a white problem. It reveals the anxieties, hypocrisies, and double-standards of whiteness. It is a problem in the psyche of whiteness that white people must take responsibility to solve. You can only do so much from the outside.

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

Now, I want to talk about one chapter in particular from Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. This chapter, I feel, exemplifies the criteria I discussed above and, honestly, just really resonated with me. Initially, I was going to talk about three chapters… But I realized I’d already been droning on for some time, so I exerted self-control for once in my life. You’re welcome, dear reader.

(Just to put this in perspective, I had 157 highlights in my Kindle version, which is 288 pages long. That’s about a highlight on every other page. So yeah, I guess you could say this book hits.)

For anyone who has read, or will be reading this book, the other two chapters were “Fear of a Black Planet” and “The Feminism Question”. I’d absolutely love to have a dialogue with anyone interested in discussing this book and those chapters in particular. Drop me a line or leave me a comment with your thoughts!

Anyway, let’s get on with the show.

The System

One of my favorite chapters in Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race was “The System”. In this chapter, Reni reminds us that racism is deeply embedded in a long history of structures and systems built to limit people’s life chances. One way society has tried to combat this is through diversity programs. Programs that any BIPOC job applicant can tell you accomplish very little if actual inclusion isn’t a vital part of the process.

Another way people have tried to overcome the systemic inequities faced by people of color is to simply “not see color”. Yep, people really do the {i pretend i do not see it} meme with racism. This, if I have to say it, helps no one. According to Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw in an interview with Reni, these people think remaining aware of structural inequities somehow brings us further away from achieving equality.

In reality, we must be hyper-aware of these differences in opportunity. This is the only way to rebuild the system that doles out advantages and disadvantages to people based on the color of their skin.

We must see who benefits from their race, who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes about their race, and who power and privilege are bestowed upon — earned or not — because of their race, their class, and their gender. Seeing race is essential to changing the system.

Who is Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race For?

The short and long answer to this question is “everyone”. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is for BIPOC who are tired of being guilt-tripped for needing a break from the discourseâ„¢. It’s for white allies who want to learn how to be better allies. Above all, this book is for anyone seeking a few more statistics, stories, or tools to store in their social justice arsenal so they can do better and be better for the people who need them the most.

If you’re a human, alive in [current year], and haven’t read this book, then Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is for you.

It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you’re doing something.

You can also read my reviews on Goodreads. Check this one out here.

What’s Next From Reni Eddo-Lodge?

And there you have it: my thoughts on Reni Eddo Lodge’s incredible debut: Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. What Social Justice books are on your reading list this year?

I’d also like to take a moment to congratulate the Reni, who I’m absolutely positive is reading this book right now. Recently, Reni received the Gold Bestseller Award from Nielsen Book after selling 500,000 copies of Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Not only is she totally deserving, but she’s also a total selfless badass.

I’ll be back soon with another blog post, so keep your eyes peeled for that! In the meantime, you can keep up with my reading on Goodreads, or follow my other social media. I’m @simplespines on Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

As always: thanks for reading, and I’ll see you soon. đŸ’™

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