I saw two white girls reading this book, and thought I should check it out. Reni Eddo-Lodge hits it right on the nose with this powerful read about the roots of racism, anti-racism, structural racism, feminism and racism, white privilege, and how we can all move to affect positive change. While it takes a closer look at racism in Britain, its historical context, background, and messages are a must read for all.
This book particularly struck a chord with me, because it articulated everything I've been thinking, feeling, and have experienced but had trouble articulating myself. It also encouraged me to challenge my own colorblindness.
I always joke about how I sometimes forget my husband is white, because "I don't think in color." I guess when I'm with my friends and family I'm not necessarily thinking about the color of their skin and their race, unless I'm thinking about how I need or they need a tan, or both. Also, I have a diverse group of friends, so when I am thinking about race it's usually because I'm realizing we look like a United Colors of Benetton ad. So for me, being used to people of all different colors and really embracing and being proud of my diverse world was what I considered being colorblind. I realize now though, it's not so much colorblindness that is my goal and intention, but rather embracing every color. However, I was still colorblind in other ways. I think that being "colorblind" is a survival tool for minorities. If I'm colorblind, then hopefully others, especially white people, will see past my skin color and judge and accept me for the contents of my character and not the stereotypes they assume based on my race.
On the other hand, white people also practice colorblindness. At the end of the book, the author highlights one way white people get defensive about racism is by diverting the conversation to "we're all one race, 'the human race." I still believe in the "human race," but I agree with her that you can't be colorblind about it. Instead, we must embrace all colors. If a human race was a giant quilt, then each patch on the quilt has its own stories. Each patch has its own stories of struggle, of triumph, of sorrow, of joy, and all of that must be acknowledged, embraced, and accepted.
Colorblindness is dangerous, because it encourages and leads to silence. What good will we ever do if we are silent on the matters most important to us? It wasn't until recently that I've become more confident, more encouraged, and more empowered to talk about my own race issues. I've worried about being told I'm being "too sensitive" or that "not everything is about race." I was afraid of being looked at like an alien in my own country, my own home, and calling attention to that. No more. It's no longer about wanting to be included and accepted; it's about challenging and changing the standard. Who decided and/or demanded white was the standard anyways?
When we talk about racism we oft think of racism as violence, hateful actions and hateful words, and while I've experienced some of that, most of the racism I've experienced is structural racism. I had never heard of this term until I read this book, and it finally gave me the vocabulary that I've been searching for but could not pinpoint in order to describe and identify my own experiences. Structural racism helped me understand so much of the parameters that have been set around my life since the day I was born, because I was born not white.
The chapter that really resonated with me was about feminism and racism. The two are not exclusive of each other and cannot be. They are intertwined. As the author writes, "Feminism at its best, is a movement that works to liberate all people who have been economically, socially and culturally marginalized by an ideological system that has been designed for them to fail." She drives a very important issue home when she expresses her concern that, "although white feminism is palatable to those in power, when it has won, things will look very much the same. Injustice will thrive, but there will be more women in charge of it."
We've lived in a world dictated by a white narrative, a white standard, and feminism is not exempt from that. So for feminism to work, we must make sure that every woman is represented in that movement.
It's funny, as I was reading the book, the question that kept popping up in my head was, what are white people so afraid of? So much of racism is rooted in white people's fears. White people are afraid that blacks, Muslims, or all of us colored people are going to take over the world. What I realized is that their fear is most likely stemmed from their own guilty conscience. For some it may not be guilty conscience, but just plainly that, white people fear colored people will do to them what they've done to the rest of the world. It's quite ironic isn't it?
I think the most powerful statement the author makes, is that "racism is a white problem." It's about white people's "anxieties, hypocrisies, and double standards of whiteness." It's about what makes white people uncomfortable. Talking to white people about race is often like talking to an unaware and self-absorbed ego-maniac. This of course doesn't apply to all white people, but certainly many. Some people just don't get it and some of them just don't want to. Again, it's too uncomfortable.
I've heard white people complain about Black Lives Matter and why do they always have to get loud and rowdy about it? Or when are they going to stop complaining? And I'd just like to say that until every peoples in a nation and in a community feels heard and represented, you cannot just sweep them to the side or brush them under a rug. Ignoring them doesn't make them go away, they still live here. It's like communication in a marriage. If one partner feels frustrated and unheard, no matter how hard we try to ignore certain issues or tell ourselves to pick our battles, it never really goes away and the frustration builds. It will keep coming up. So, it's time to put guilt, fear, and egos aside and have a real conversation. We can't be afraid to hear things that might make us look into ourselves, and we can't be afraid to be uncomfortable from time to time. We must challenge and change the standard.
Some people fear that one day soon, white people will be the minorities in North America and western Europe. If that is the case, all I can say is that one day children will be reading about this in history books and it will be a fascinating lesson on evolution. It will read, "Once upon a time we were all monkeys, and now look at us..." Do you think monkeys had these same fears and conversations?
I hope by this day parents will no longer have to tell their daughters that life will be harder for them because they are female, and that people of color will no longer have to tell their daughters that life will be doubly harder for them because they're female and a minority.
This book is a must read for all, and especially white people. I highly recommend it.
BIG LOVE & HUGS