Reni Eddo-Lodge, Nigerian-British journalist focused on feminism and exposing structural racism speaks on her new book; Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race.
The 27-year-old award-winning journalist explores Britain’s history of discrimination through her debut book which first started as a blog in 2014. Reni once wrote, “I just can’t engage with the bewilderment and the defensiveness as they try to grapple with the fact that not everyone experiences the world in the way that they do. They’ve never had to think about what it means, in power terms, to be white – so any time they’re vaguely reminded of this fact they interpret it as an affront…”
Eddo-Lodge says she has become exhausted talking to white people about race. “It’s difficult to have a conversation about the nuances of a problem with people who don’t believe there is a problem anymore. Racism is a huge part of our history and continues to shape our lives in so many ways, subtle and unsubtle. But in talking to white people about race, I found them believing everything was fine and interpreting me as if I were saying they were racist. I wrote a blog about this communication gap. The reaction was massive – many were saying “I feel like this too”, which speaks of a messed-up situation in society. This book grew out of that blog,” she told The Guardian.
Believing racism is structural or about structural disadvantage with the purpose being to consolidate power, Eddo-Lodge holds that there’s a power balance at the heart of every conversation, particularly when people find themselves the only one of their race in a room full of white people. Sometimes it’s safer to stay quiet if you have a social position to protect. I think in that initial post and the title of the book, it was me really saying that there needs to be a new way to discuss these issues because the way that we’re all so used to is really unhelpful and destructive,” she opens up to Refinery.
“It’s about the fact that black people in the criminal justice system receive harsher sentences for possession of drugs, even though white people are much more likely to use drugs, it’s about the fact that if you have an African or Asian-sounding name you’re much less likely to be called to interview when you’re applying for jobs than a white person with an English-sounding name with identical qualifications and experience. It’s about the fact that black people are much more likely to be sectioned in mental health services because of stereotypes that we’re aggressive and uncontrollable. We can’t avoid education, we all need a job, and it’s likely that we’re going to come into contact with the NHS or policing or the criminal justice system at some point in our lives. So I’m really talking about structural bias, which means that if you’re not white, you’re more likely to lose out in those systems. I think lots of people also have personal prejudice and I tell that anecdote in the book about finding myself in a café with the black man telling me, “I save the best cuts of meat for us and not white people”. The fact of the matter is he was prejudiced.”
Reni Eddo-Lodge won a ’30 to watch’ award from MHP Communications in 2015 and was listed on the ‘Guardian one of the 30 most exciting people under 30 in digital media’. Elle Magazine also listed her in their 100 Inspirational Women list, and The Root’s 30 black viral voices under 30.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge is published by Bloomsbury (£16.99).
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