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Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race: The Sunday Times Bestseller Hardcover – 1 June 2017

4.7 out of 5 stars 10,456 ratings

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Product description


This is a book that was begging to be written. This is the kind of book that demands a future where we'll no longer need such a book. Essential (Marlon James, author of Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings)

One of the most important books of 2017

A book that's set to blow apart the understanding of race relations in this country (Stylist)

An incisive and uncompromising commentator on the iniquities of oppression ... Comprehensive and journalistic, the book leaves a devastating trail of case histories, statistical and anecdotal evidence, personal stories and opinion about the manifestation of overt and covert racism ... Eddo-Lodge is a gifted writer, with a talent for bringing together debates around race, gender and class in a timely and accessible way (Times Literary Supplement)

Daring, interrogatory, illuminating. A forensic dissection of race in the UK from one of the country's most critical young thinkers. Reni's penetrative voice is like a punch to the jugular. Read it, then tell everyone you know

I've never been so excited about a book. Thank God somebody finally wrote it . Blistering . Absolutely vital writing from one of the most exciting voices in British politics. A stunningly important debut . Fellow white people: It's our responsibility as to read this book . This book is essential reading for anyone even remotely interested in living in a fairer, kinder and more equal world

It's deep, it's important and I suggest taking a deep breath, delving in and I promise you will come up for air woke and better equipped to understand the underlying issues of race in our society (ELLE)

A riveting deep-dive into the history and communication of race in Britain. From white-washing to intersectional feminism, it is an eviscerating and hugely educational read . This book is destined to become cult (Red)

A wake-up call to a nation in denial about the structural and institutional racisms occurring in our homes, offices and communities (Observer)

Laying bare the mechanisms by which we internalise the assumptions, false narratives and skewed perceptions that perpetuate racism, Eddo-Lodge enables readers of every ethnicity to look at life with clearer eyes. A powerful, compelling and urgent read (Ann Morgan, author of A Year of Reading the World)

A strong assessment of our current conversations and the beginnings of a new framework for grappling with racism (Emerald Street)

A seething take-down of commonly held attitudes towards race and racism in the UK and beyond ... Entirely essential . Eddo-Lodge reveals why anti-racist work should be a universal objective, even if racism isn't a universal concern. The book is ultimately a defiance against the silencing of people of colour (The List)

Eddo-Lodge is digesting history for those white readers who have had their ears and eyes shut to the violence in Britain's past . An important shift that undermines the idea that racism is the BAME community's burden to carry. The liberation that this book offers is in the reversal of responsibilities (Arifa Akbar, Financial Times)

Eddo-Lodge accurately takes the temperature of racial discussions in the UK. In seven crisp essays, she takes white British people to task for failing to accept that "racism is a white problem" . She's strong on the pervasive racial marginalisation of black people (Guardian)

Thought-provoking (and deeply uncomfortable) ... What Eddo-Lodge does is to force her readers to confront their own complicity . Her books is a call to action ... What makes the book radical is the way it shifts the burden of ending racism on to white people (Sunday Herald)

Searing . A fresh perspective, offering an Anglocentric alternative to the recent status-quo-challenging successes of Get Out and Dear White People. This book's probing analysis and sharp wit certainly make us pray she will continue talking to white people about race (Harper's Bazaar)

The black British Bible . I discovered more about Black British history in that one chapter than I ever did through my secondary school education ... I owe Reni for doing much of the hard work and instigating dialogue that I've never had time to do, often put off, or simply found too painful (Gal-Dem)

'Reni Eddo-Lodge is that rarest of delights - a young, working -class black woman from Tottenham with a voice in public life . This book is a real eye-opener when it comes to Britain's hidden history of discrimination . A book like this matters now (Refinery 29)

Now it's out of her head, it's on the shelves and accompanied by a hugely successful regional tour that sees people of all colours, all races and all genders queuing up to ask questions, to share their own frustrations and to thank Reni for finally giving them a voice (i-D)

Her searing examination of what it means to be a person of colour in Britain today covers a lot of ground, from the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the whitewashing of feminism to the casting of a black actress as Hermione in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Independent)

Eddo-Lodge explores the nuanced ways in which racial prejudice continues and is ignored (Vogue)

Vital dialogue from a powerful voice (Daily Telegraph)

To anyone who has not thought much about the subject, what she finds will be a revelation . Impassioned and often moving . Undoubtedly essential (Ellah Allfrey, Spectator)

This book has a vital role as a tool that people of colour can refer others to, particularly when called upon, yet again, to parrot the ABCs of racism ... This is the book to give your problematic family friend/neighbour/uncle . Marks the beginning of a national conversation that many have been trying to have for a long time (New Humanist)

Shines a light on a conversation about race, racism and whiteness that must be had in every village, town and city in the UK and beyond. This is an absolute must-read (Resurgence & Ecologist)

The political book of the year - and one all your friends will be engrossed in (Pride Magazine)

Fresh and challenging (Mslexia)

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Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Bloomsbury Circus; 1st edition (1 June 2017)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 272 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 140887055X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1408870556
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 15.01 x 2.92 x 21.72 cm
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.7 out of 5 stars 10,456 ratings

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Reviewed in Australia on 28 June 2018
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good subject not given justice it deserves
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 3 October 2018
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A Reader
1.0 out of 5 stars An unfortunate and predictable diatribe
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 2 March 2020
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1.0 out of 5 stars A Wasted Opportunity
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 September 2018
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1.0 out of 5 stars A Wasted Opportunity
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 11 September 2018
I was recommended this book by a great Nigerian friend I’ve known since I was 16. Given the nature of the cover, 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 straw-manning 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 1) her attributing the disagreement to their race, and 2) reinforcing those premises i.e. “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 Jehova’s Witness and the Westborough Baptist Church members use when confronted with an argument, “That’s exactly what the devil would say”). In other words, if there is no possible good faith retort that wouldn’t reinforce the very point of contention (e.g. “No, I’m not in denial”, “I’m not defensive”, “I don’t always want to have the last word” etc.) you have inoculated your argument against all 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 I have experienced prejudice, profiling, and discrimination, as well as immense privilege. Whether I’m “white” depends on who you ask, as well as 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 book is deeper than the sum of my experiences.

In analytic philosophy you’re taught to detect both the explicit premises stated in an argument and the implicit 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. The more assumptions there are, the more vulnerable the argument is. Eddo-Lodge’s 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 and valuable insight into the issue of racism in modern Britain (the section about identity in mixed race families being one example), but it’s undermined rather than aided by her style of argument. This is a shame given the real need to address racism across multiple levels of society.

I’m also 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 advises her target audience to only talk to people who already agree with them about the nature of these issues, and confirms this in her own experience of breaking out of white feminist circles to set up a black-only group simply because of their disagreements about the role of intersectionality in feminist discourse. In others words, we are at once asked to have a “messy conversation” while also being told to seek out and remain inside echo chambers, avoiding engagement with opposing view points. The whole point of a messy conversation is that, by definition, there will be uncomfortable disagreements, and you should be prepared to face them and refine your arguments, 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 please don’t ask me about what my goal is. A perfectly legitimate question such as “what is the end point”, in her eyes, would 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 all-or-nothing rhetoric has echoes of the Communist Manifesto, and the “by any means necessary” sentiment has more in common with 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 being derided early on in the book).

Her worldview, in part seemingly born out of Marxist conflict theory, is not just incompatible with dialogue, but positively hostile to it. Dialogue with people who hold opposing views is counterproductive as it diverts valuable time and energy away from the movement. In her eyes, white liberals flying the flag of MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech are a bigger threat to her movement than the BNP because, while you know where you stand with the latter, the former are a stifling and insidious form of opposition. This is not merely my personal interpretation of her book. She actually says that.

When this is the style of argument employed, there is no possible objection that could be seen as being had in good faith. Every bad argument I protest against is merely a confirmation of her original view that I don’t get it, and I can’t get it, because of my race. Forget the fact that black intellectual heavyweights such as Brown University professor Glenn Loury, Harvard-educated economist Thomas Sowell and the up-and-coming columnist Coleman Hughes have vehement disagreements with her analysis.

Despite occasional citings of research, this is decidedly not a scholarly book. It never seriously engages the counter argument, which is a prerequisite for any serious academic work. 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 in full. 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 lackadaisical, 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 to the content itself) I still recommend you read it. The reason is that it’s important to acquaint oneself with this style of argument, particularly as it gains prevalence in schools, universities, the media, and increasingly, mainstream society (particularly on the Left). For better or worse, as this gains political currency, this atomised worldview of humanity will increasingly shape not just the dialogue about race, but the kind of society we live in. 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 argued in good faith.
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C Young
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh poor little me
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 1 November 2018
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1.0 out of 5 stars Dissapointing
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 10 August 2019
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