Reni Eddo-Lodge Lifts The Curtain On A Country In Denial

Introduction

By Meranie Kairu (Lead Ambassador of the African and Carribean Society)

Last summer, during the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book, Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race graced many bookshelves across the UK. This included the bookshelves of a staff member and student who were inspired to share the book’s vital message with the rest of the BGS community.

Mrs Harrold (Head of Psychology) shared her deeply personal and thought-provoking perspective on the book in The Muse (Legend in their Lifetime) last summer. It is clear that for both Mrs Harrold and Mia Dowie (Lower Sixth), Eddo-Lodge has had a life-changing impact. In this review, Mia Dowie – a member of the African and Caribbean Society (ACS) – takes us through an honest and insightful account of how this book transformed her worldview. It moved her to advocate for change against the denial and ignorance of racism in the UK. 

By Mia Dowie (Lower Sixth)

I came across the book Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, a London journalist, during the time of the Black Lives Matter Protests in May. These protests led to my eye-opening research of race, into places where I, as a white student, never realised there was an issue. I was searching for something that went beyond the mainstream discourse that focused on America and the civil rights movement. I found Eddo-Lodge’s book during my research on racism in the UK and realised there were issues all over our nation. Among the sea of complex titles, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race stands out. Its extreme title attracts lots of attention: some positive, some curious and some defensive. 

The text moves away from the general consensus that seems to have blanketed our society. The idea that racism is not an urgent issue in the UK, in comparison to other places, like America. The author explores the timeline of racism in Britain throughout history. Eddo-Lodge explores ideas of structural racism and she shines a light on a few of the harsh realities that the ‘nation in denial’ must face. She explains all the privileges a white child may have in comparison to a child of colour whose life will be ‘warped at every stage’, despite their level of skill. A reader may come out of it viewing society in a whole new light. 

Eddo-Lodge reinforces her idea about how Britain’s relationship with race is not a neat narrative with a feel-good resolution. She expresses what many people try to deny, that a post-racial world is not in sight, yet she is not without hope. Eddo-Lodge emphasises that to fight racism there is a large change that must occur and it will be an uphill battle which requires people to feel uncomfortable. To say the world is in a post-racial society creates an excuse to bury the discussion of racism, which then halts change. It is a vital realisation that is needed in order for us to be committed to fighting against racism.  

After reading this book I realised it was not one I wished to be left on the bookshelf collecting dust. This book is the wake-up call that people need. All that I have learnt this year about racism and the challenges my peers face has motivated me to make a change in myself. As a result, I decided to join the African and Caribbean Society (ACS). 

The ACS is committed to change. We aim to make BGS a place where students of African and Caribbean descent can express themselves, feel heard and celebrate their culture. However, our work extends beyond that to reach a point where students of all cultural backgrounds feel safe and cared for. A key part of what we do involves raising awareness of racism. Students and teachers must be able to recognise and understand racism in order to speak up for others. If pupils or staff are looking for a better way to understand and help, this book is a great first step. It is clear that if there are people who wish to learn more about racism and how to fight it then there is hope and a pathway to change.

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