Photo by APA
By PHOEBE RUGURU
At the age of four, Reni asked her mother when she would become white; it is a moment too saddening, but all too common to startle. As young black girls, we are taught to endeavour for many things, among those, the aspiration of whiteness. In our lifetime, we are constantly reminded of this expectation, and when we fail to achieve it, we are punished with misrepresentation.
When Reni is reliving her childhood, observing the media’s portrayal of whiteness as good and that of blacks as not, when dismissing the possibility of a black Hermione because only whiteness can be associated with intelligence, it is in these chapters that we can surely nod to the depictions which we feel have at some point in our lives, exhausted us and our relationship to race.
As an in-depth follow-up to her viral blog of the same name, 'I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race' is an informative reflection of the trajectory in which racism in Britain has transpired. Despite the ironic title, Reni Eddo-Lodge pertinently sifts through key historical moments that impacted race relations in Britain, trailing the racial discrimination of black people from the inhumane trade in black bodies (in which over 11 million Africans were enslaved) to the criminalisation of blackness in the media and politics.
In addressing historical crimes and current ones, Reni does so in a way that doesn't separate the history from the present, but rather challenges racism as a systemic vice that curls and embeds itself deeply in the personal and nationalistic character of Britain.
To black readers, the personal experiences in much of the book may not be as surprising, but they situate the book comfortably as a testament of our lived experiences in Britain, to which we can appreciate.
The historical accounts and some stories, such as the tormenting murder of Charles Wootton in Liverpool who was drowned and lynched, reveal some of the dark and gruelling parts of British history not taught in schools.
To White readers, it is compulsory to understand why a black person might not want to talk to you about race. Though the book provides a balance of personal and historical facts, it is a necessary read even though it does not satisfy the entirety of information necessary to dismantle the posture of a racist society.
Chapters such as 'The Feminism Question' are paramount. In this chapter, Reni acknowledges the strength of feminism in fuelling her fight against racism, whilst still addressing its weaknesses: the passive and dismissive attitude towards racism and the experiences of black women.
These are observations that also echo of the strong impact and influence of some of the most remarkable feminists, such as Audre Lorde, who also stressed the importance and necessity of a feminism that intentionally and actively engages women of all classes and races in the book `The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House’.
In the enduring fight against racism and all its cognitive and structural manifestations, Reni Eddo-Lodge's 'Why I'm No longer Talking to White People About Race' is a must-have for all part of this fight.
The book is among those illuminating the lack of progress in British society; a progress stifled not only by ignorance and contempt, but also by the deliberate whitewashing and forging of history. Which is why, through this fight, we have to note that, "faced with our collective forgetting, we must fight to remember."