In 2014, British journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge stopped having conversations with white people about race: They weren’t listening. For those who are listening now, her book offers an essential education on Black history in Britain, structural racism, and what white people can – and should – do about it.
White people, on the whole, resist the topic of racism – and seeing their own complicity in it. Black observers were pointing to the phenomenon long before Robin DiAngelo coined the term “white fragility.” For Reni Eddo-Lodge, white people’s habit of shutting down, interrupting and denying during conversations about race led her, in 2014, to stop having them. In a viral blog post, she asked what purpose there could be in talking with people who weren’t listening.
The Risks of Talking About Race
Eddo-Lodge points out that, for Black people, any discussion of racism with white people can turn perilous. Black people who talk with white people about race risk reprisals – professional or personal – and the possibility of being labeled as angry, a troublemaker or a bully. Talking about race, for people of color, can put job opportunities, work relationships and housing at risk. It can lead to social exclusion and threats of physical harm. Black people, therefore, don’t enter conversations about race with white people on an equal footing – and the vast majority of Caucasians don’t understand this. The risks and costs of these conversations partly accounted for Eddo-Lodge’s decisions to stop having them.