A U.S.- based organization with a substantial worldwide audience cannot only focus on the issues of the United States. In truth, we might be well-served by looking toward more than one book reviewer, so as to broaden the base of what gets recommended beyond the publishing areas of the U.S. The gift of electronic publishing allows us to more easily see and acquire books from around the world. Yet, in reviewing, one tends to toward the safety of what is considered “good” in one’s own neck of the woods, so to speak.
With that in mind, I am leaning out of my own bubble toward U.K. publishing in this month’s recommendation. I saw Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge in many places across the book web, such that it seemed foolish to ignore it. It’s less than $10 on Amazon Kindle for the US, so I hope the ebook cost elsewhere is affordable. Eddo-Lodge is a London-based journalist and a black feminist, well-known in part for her 2014 blog post that shares a title with the book.
The book contains a significant amount of research and the first couple chapters read quickly, but contain an astounding amount of information. It is a comparable experience to reading an academic book for a subject one likes. The author gallops through Britain’shistory in slave-trading and in colonization, noting that history means that black and brown people were present in Britain’s history, landscape, and ballrooms for at least the past 300+ years, but have largely been ignored as being truly “British”.
She then moves into the shape and tone of the racist arguments within Britain in the past decades and how they affect the present political landscape and fights.
For a long time now, far-right political groups have hijacked the anti-colonial struggles of native people in America and Australia to create a story of the embattled indigenous white British, under siege from immigration.
Not seeing race does little to deconstruct racist structures or materially improve the conditions which people of colour are subject to daily. In order to dismantle unjust, racist structures, we must see race. We must see who benefits from their race, who is disproportionately impacted by negative stereotypes about their race, and to who power and privilege is bestowed upon- earned or not- because of their race, their class, and their gender. Seeing race is essential to changing the system.
Fear of a black planet maintains that people of colour are unfairly vying for precious, rationed, and scarce resources, and that having more people of colour in these positions of power might instigate a drastic tipping of the scales.
The white feminist’s characterisations of black feminists as disruptive aggressors was not so different from broader stereotyping of black communities by the press.
If feminism can understand the patriarchy, it’s important to question why so many feminists struggle to understand whiteness as a political structure in the same way.
Reading this book was like holding up a mirror for me. I could see the echoes of what is going on in my own community- the stories I know- but I also glimpsed the shapes and outlines of other issues that may be ahead or are not long behind. This book has plenty for the curious American who wishes to read it.
Within the RevGalBlogPal community, our efforts regarding racism have often been focused on the United States context. The reality is that nearly all of us have divisions and racialized issues that are affecting our communities and our ministries. Eddo-Lodge notes that the global press, and her local English press, draw attention to issues of race and inequality in the U.S., sometimes at the cost and sometimes for the purpose of ignoring the same issue in Britain.
Particular for our RGBP siblings in Britain, I recommend this book and conversations with your friends and colleagues about what it says and the context in which this book has been long-listed for prizes. Maybe you’re already too familiar with this work or maybe you’ve been dragging your feet because it was popular. Either way, this is one of those books that is working hard to start a conversation. Let it.
The Reverend Julia Seymour serves Lutheran Church of Hope in Anchorage, AK. She blogs at lutheranjulia.blogspot.com and readsallthethings.com. She contributed to There’s A Woman in the Pulpit.
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