posted on December 17, 2018 10:47
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, Book by: Reni Eddo-Lodge. Publisher: London: Bloomsbury Circus, Pages: 272. ISBN: 978-1408870563. Price: £8.99
Review by: Samantha Ahern email@example.com, Digital Education Project Officer, University College London
Reading Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race (Eddo-Lodge 2017) helped me better analyse and understand my own implicit biases, areas of privilege, and cultural conditioning when discussing the existence of structural racism and its impacts. I had previously failed to recognise the everyday othering (the implicit and explicit exclusion, for example the lack of hair care products being available for Afro-Caribbean hair being available in supermarkets) of historically marginalized and oppressed student populations (in a North American context this includes Black, Latinx, Native-America, Asian-American populations, in a European context: Black, Asian and South Asian) in my community. This book lifted the blinkers. Around the same time as reading this text I also attended a talk by Professor Kalwant Bhopal and read her book White Privilege: The Myth of a Post-racial Society (Bhopal 2018).
Like Eddo-Lodge, I grew up and was schooled in the UK. I was taught a little about the slave trade, the abolition of slavery in the UK and the US civil rights movement. The history lessons we did receive on these topics were often white-washed, ignore important events/people, and decreased the level of violence that actually occurred. Therefore, the opening chapter on histories was both extremely informative but equally unsettling, as we had been taught nothing about invited migration, race relations or civil rights concerns in the UK. It spoke of a UK I did not recognise, and gave much needed context to recent events such as the Windrush scandal and increases in reported incidences of hate crime.
In the UK there is a Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) attainment gap, this gap was largest in England in 2015/16 when there was a 15.6 percentage point gap between the number of BME students attaining a first/2:1 and their white peers(‘Degree Attainment Gaps’ n.d.). Where Higher Education Institutions have undertaken value added analyses, the value added metrics have shown that it is what happens within the institutions themselves, structural racism, that impacts negatively on the outcomes for BME students compared to their expected outcomes (‘Challenging the BME Attainment Gap Using the Value-Added Score Metric | Higher Education Academy’ n.d.).
Kalwant Bhopal’s book, White Privilege (Bhopal 2018) is well researched and focuses predominantly on education and structural racism within education including racism against white traveller populations, it does not have the same impact. Many of the same issues are identified in Bhopal’s text as Eddo-Lodge’s, but it does not invoke a need to take stock of your surroundings in the same way. Much of this is to do with the personal nature of Eddo-Lodge’s writing. She writes about societal issues but also personal experiences, it is this combination that invokes a response and a desire to better understand the issues affecting the BME communities and a will to act.
In this context, this book is important for anyone interacting with and supporting students from BME communities as it gives context to the experiences of these students in both the Higher Education environment and their day-to-day lives. This will benefit advisors from non-BME backgrounds in particular as it will provide them with a better understanding of the reality of daily life for many students. Structural racism is not new and part of the authors frustration is when White people and others with a high level of privilege act bewildered when they grapple with this, it is also a frustration that will held by students attending our institutions.
Bhopal, Kalwant, author. 2018. White Privilege : The Myth of a Post-Racial Society /. Bristol : Policy Press.
‘Challenging the BME Attainment Gap Using the Value-Added Score Metric | Higher Education Academy’. n.d. Accessed 28 November 2018. https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/individuals/strategic-priorities/retention/bme-attainment-gap/value-added-score#section-1.
‘Degree Attainment Gaps’. n.d. Equality Challenge Unit. Accessed 11 June 2018. https://www.ecu.ac.uk/guidance-resources/student-recruitment-retention-attainment/student-attainment/degree-attainment-gaps/.
Eddo-Lodge, Reni. 2017. Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race. London : Bloomsbury Circus.