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  • Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race

  • By: Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • Narrated by: Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • Length: 5 hrs and 53 mins
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (9,881 ratings)

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

By: Reni Eddo-Lodge
Narrated by: Reni Eddo-Lodge
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Summary

"I couldn't have a conversation with white folks about the details of a problem if they didn't want to recognise that the problem exists. Worse still was the white person who might be willing to entertain the possibility of said racism but still thinks we enter this conversation as equals. We didn't then, and we don't now."

In February 2014, Reni Eddo-Lodge posted an impassioned argument on her blog about her deep-seated frustration with the way discussions of race and racism in Britain were constantly being shut down by those who weren't affected by it. She gave the post the title 'Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race'. Her sharp, fiercely intelligent words hit a nerve, and the post went viral, spawning a huge number of comments from people desperate to speak up about their own similar experiences.

Galvanised by this response, Eddo-Lodge decided to dive into the source of these feelings, this clear hunger for an open discussion. The result is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today, covering issues from eradicated black history to white privilege, the fallacy of 'meritocracy' to whitewashing feminism, and the inextricable link between class and race. Full of passionate, personal and keenly felt argument, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race is a wake-up call to a nation in denial about the structural and institutional racism occurring in our homes.

©2017 Bloomsbury (P)2017 Audible, Ltd

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Flagrant Racism Posing as Social Justice

I was recommended this book by a great Nigerian friend I’ve know since I was 16. Given nature of the title, I was ambivalent but decided to give it a go all the same. I did my best to engage the book in good faith, giving the author credit when she made good points, and not strawmanning those with which I disagreed (however strongly).

Here is the crux of my problem with this book. Eddo-Lodge frames her argument in such a way that it’s impossible for a “white” person to have an honest disagreement with any of her premises without reinforcing them, i.e. “See? You just don’t get it because you’re white. You just proved my point”. It’s the intellectual equivalent of “You’re in denial”, “Why are you so defensive?”, or “You always want to have the last word” (or even the classic last resort that Christian fundamentalists use when confronted with a good faith argument, “That’s exactly what Satan would say”). In other words, if there is no possible good faith retort that wouldn’t reinforce the very point of contention in the eyes of the other person (e.g. “I’m not in denial”, “I’m not defensive”, “I don’t always want to have the last word” etc.) you have rendered your inoculated your argument against criticism. This is the sign of a bad argument, not a good one.

Incidentally, I’m Hispanic, I have lived in three continents, have belonged to both the majority and the minority group for years at a stretch, and as the latter have experienced prejudice, profiling, and discrimination, as well as immense privilege, and whether I’m “white” depends on who you ask, where and when. The fact that my life story doesn’t fit neatly into Eddo-Lodge’s essentialist picture of “white” people gives me a different perspective on many of the issues she raises, and no doubt some of my disagreements (but also some agreements) are born out of that. However, my gripe with the the book is deeper than that the sum of my experiences.

In analytic philosophy you’re taught to detect both the explicit premises stated in an argument and the tacit premises that underpin them. The latter are the unstated assumptions that would have to be true in order for the explicit premises to make sense. Generally, the more assumptions there are, the more vulnerable the argument is. Eddo-Lodge’d book is laden with such assumptions, generalisations, and rather embarrassingly for a supposed anti-racism activist, essentialist claims about race.

This is not to say that there isn’t also some sharp analysis of the issue of racism in modern Britain, but it’s undermined rather than strengthened by her style of argument, which is a shame given the real need to address racism across multiple levels of society.

I’m frustrated by a glaring contradiction in her book that she seems to be oblivious to. This is, on the one hand, the notion presented in her last chapter that the conversation about race will be necessarily messy and uncomfortable, and that we should overcome that in order to address racism. Yet, on the other hand, she tells readers only talk to people who already agree with them about these issues, and confirms this in her own experience of breaking out of white feminist circles simply because of their disagreements with her. In others words, we are at once implored to have a “messy conversation” while seeking out and remaining inside echo chambers, avoiding confrontation with opposing view points. The whole point of a messy conversation is that, by nature, there will be uncomfortable disagreements, and you should be prepared to face them, not run away because you “can’t be bothered with white people”.

The climax of this diatribe is in equal parts depressing as it is dangerous. Don’t seek unity, she says. Power must be taken by force, and there is no end in sight to the struggle, so don’t bother asking me about what my goal is. Doing so, according to her, will only confirm her suspicions that you are not a genuine advocate of progress but instead would rather just put a lid on the whole racism thing and continue to sweep it under the rug. This type of rhetoric has echoes of the Communist Manifesto, and has more in common with a Malcom X than with Martin Luther King (the latter’s call to judge people by the content of their character rather than by the colour of their skin derided early on in the book).

Her worldview, seemingly born out of Marxist conflict theory, is not just incompatible with dialogue, but positively hostile to it. In her eyes, the liberals flying the flag of Martin Luther King are more dangerous to her movement than the BNP because while the former are a stifling and insidious form of opposition, at least you know where you stand with the latter.

When this is the style of argument invoked, there is no possible disagreement that could be seen as being in good faith. Every bad argument I protest against is merely a confirmation of her original view. Forget the fact that black intellectual heavyweights such as Glenn Loury, Thomas Sowell and Coleman Hughes also disagree with her views vehemently.

Despite occasional citings of research, this is not a scholarly book. It is a political manifesto written by an activist. The lazy argumentation, strawmanning of opposing views and outright calls for echo chambers that reinforce
– rather than challenge – confirmation bias demonstrates this. If you’re looking for sharp political theory, this is the wrong book. Anyone from Russeau to Rawls or Nozick would be more appropriate. If what you’re after is the writings of a radical political activist á la Owen Jones, you’re in the right place.

With that said, and in spite of the low rating (mostly due to quality rather than content) I still recommend people read it. The reason is that it’s important to familiarise oneself with this style of argument, particularly as it gains prevalence in schools, universities, the media, and increasingly, mainstream society (particularly on the Left). If you can borrow the book from someone, do so. If your only choice is to purchase it, I still begrudgingly recommend you do it.

Next I plan to read “Brit(ish)” by Afua Hirsch, which deals with similar issues but which (given what I’ve seen of her on TV) I hope will be more carefully argued.

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cherry picked science to fulfill a narrative

the performance was good and the book ws very well written which kept be engaged throughout. it gave me insights into other views but also used language and data that was used was very biased to side with the author's narrative which seemed extremely inflammatory and bitter.

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It sees what it wants to see...

Beyond the dreadful, ideological slant of the title, be wary of those who claim to know what your beliefs are, and who interview Nick Griffin thinking there is something broadly representative about his views.
Race is as ever an important issue, and further division isn't what is required in order to address it, which may be an outcome of this unfortunate and recklessly provocative read. There is undoubtedly racism in British culture, and it exists in many different areas, but there is also anti-racism in the culture, and the antagonism between the two is where the culture has been for some time, making, dare I say it, progress. This is not the vision of the book. Britain seems a morally bleak place,unrepentant about its past and unable to move forward in a meaningful way. I stuck with the book until the end, curious about whether any sense of nuance was coming, and curious to know why so many people had praised the book. The nuance did not come and the book is at times painfully reductionist. I did however, gain some sympathy for the waving off of dialogue alluded to in the title. It would be very difficult to have a conversation with someone who believes they know everything about you as a result of your skin colour.

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I have it a chance as ethnic minority myself..

You know what being from ethnic minority in Britain myself I gave her a chance and read the whole book but I in no way can agree with the nonsense. I don't believe you can just come to someone else's country and expect to make it what YOU want.
Some clever thought in there.
And on feminism? what a bunch of.. no in some cultures sexism is indeed a widely spread problem and you dont want around. you cant patronise me by saying "it's nothing to do with race or culture" because I'm from that kind of culture myself. I left to this country and dont all for not letting dangerous sexist in. yes deportation will resolve the issue massively.

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A Terrible Disappointment

A book littered with blatant contradictions driven by nothing more than ideology. A wasted opportunity.

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Monologue comes to mind.

Lots of statements of sometimes questionable facts. Hoped to learn something but failed. Missing dialogue.

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Rambling and Incoherent

Hooked in by the title only to be disappointed. Unsure whether it is trying to be a piece of academic work or the authors experience in the form of new age word salad . The outcome is poor either way.

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Interesting listen. But very one sided.

She makes some interesting points. Overall it was a worth while listen.

She should however rename the book. Why I no longer talk to people about topics they dont 100% agree with me on.

She has her opinion which is fine, but should open her mind up and not berate others that dont agree with her. Like her poor friend that was criticised for not enjoying the black history lectures. I wonder whether she still speaks to her.

She also has an obsession with identity boxing people.

She looks at her own failures and points the finger at others for this.

Alot of the book is a rant about why she is unhappy about her achievements.

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Doesn't deserve the hype.

A shockingly bigoted book. A rant rather than an honest study of the society in which we live.

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really didn't like this

First book I haven't finished in a decade. Lecturing, biased and overcomplicated, I was looking for facts & reccommendations, counters even. Could I have my token back please

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