There’s a reason Reni Eddo-Lodge no longer wants to talk to white people about race, and it’s the same reason that most oppressed people don’t want to try and reason with their oppressors. One of society’s many cruel contradictions is that those whom it casts as ‘undesirable’ and ‘unworthy’ are made to spend their time fighting to convince people otherwise. It is people of colour, women, those with disabilities, the working class and those who are LGBTQ+ who are pushed into the role of ‘teacher’ by default of being born as one of the ‘marginalised’. It becomes the job of the ‘other’ and the uncatered for to make everyone else aware of the invisible structures of privilege that exist, and reveal that (shock horror!) ‘meritocracy’ is but a myth.
A year has been and gone since Reni Eddo-Lodge produced her full length book and rose to fame as an inspiring Black British writer. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race was originally crafted as an online blog post – one that still exists today. However, it rightfully garnered much attention and served as the basis for an engaging and honest book, which seeks to articulate some of the complex experiences of Black Brits without compromising for ‘palatability.’ It’s also a much needed comment on why Black people (and other people of colour) often don’t want to engage in conversations with white people about ‘race’; and why some of us can no longer bare to be the teacher to unwilling students.
In her book, Eddo-Lodge discusses an “emotional disconnect” that is often present when a person of colour attempts to speak to a white person about race:
“Their eyes glaze over in boredom or widen in indignation. Their mouths start twitching as they get defensive. Their throats open up as they try to interrupt, itching to talk over you but not really listen, because they need to let you know that you’ve got it wrong.”
I’m sure that this is something that many readers are familiar with – looking into someone’s eyes and pleading with them to respect your experience as something that is valid. It is likely that many of us have come away from spaces/conversations engulfed by defeat as we can see the inability in another to understand what it is to struggle for a full, or complete, humanity.
I for one can relate to such. I’ve spent time and energy trying to convince some of my peers and/or colleagues that all lives cannot matter until black ones do. I have advocated the view that ‘race’ is always relevant to politics, and I have defended my own self-identification as (quite specifically) a Black feminist. These conversations always seem to fall short however, when the other party seems unable to comprehend the existence of white privilege and power structures. By the time Eddo-Lodge came around to writing Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race, she was obviously just as fed up with it all as the rest of us!
When living a life where it can feel as if the odds are already stacked against you, it rightfully feels unfair when some asks you to recount your experiences of racism, to relieve your trauma just to prove the legitimacy of one’s suffering. Part of taking accountability and becoming a better and more conscious individual is realising where you need to pick up the slack and do some of the work yourself. Solidarity often looks like doing the research and regarding the lived experience of minorities as legit knowledge.
Ultimately, this much is true: with access to information being as easy as it ever has been, there is no room for tired old excuses.
Written by Rochelle Smith