While this goes against Reni’s message in many ways: if you’re a liberal, white left-winger this book will surprise you. Do read it.
Starting with her blogpost, Reni states that she is “no longer talking to white people about race”, ironically, this has probably increased the amount of effort she has to put into it. The letters she received from white people saying that she ‘shouldn’t give up’, and that she ‘has to keep going’ were well meaning, but missed the point: white people telling minorities what they should do, even using antiracism as a way of making themselves look and feel good.
A cause such as this should be lead by those affectedly it. Everyone else should be listening to their recommendations, not making their own up.
This is a book for hardy left-wingers: I finished it thinking that I’m inherently racist - and you know what?people are brought up to be. So accept it. Counteract it. Listen to people. I love a book which shakes my underlying left-wing beliefs: could positive discrimination, so often seen as just another type of racism, just be a method of counteracting our biases? is the action of being ‘colour blind’ actually harmful? From inadvertent racism in mixed families and adopting, to stop and search policies and the Stephen Lawrence case, a black Hermione Granger even recent issues are addressed in a calm analytical way.
But Reni also looks further back. The study of race history from the UK isn’t always as prevalent as black history in the US. So it was interesting to hear about the treatment of the thousands of west Indian soldiers in WWI - bribed to join with promises which weren’t fulfilled, taken from a hot county to a cold one in inappropriate clothes and given a lower rank than any white soldier.
The interview with Nick Griffin was interesting, giving a view of why he feels the way he feels: Reni does apologise for giving him a platform, but this didn’t detract from the absurdness of his ideas.
I think what rang the most true with me is the parallels with feminism: I’ve had moments of thinking “I’m no longer talking to men about sexism” where men just DON’T GET IT. But as a middle class privileged white woman I take Reni’s points of “white feminism” which can overshadow black feminism as it’s proponents are often already in power. and it’s heartbreaking to hear about her being told that should shouldn’t bring her race into feminist events. Feminism should be about equalising people, which needs to take into account race, class, sexuality, disability and many other characteristics, not just sex.
Although I don’t fully understand all the points of view as I haven’t lived them myself, I can understand the frustrations which are so hard to explain, having spend time explaining my feminist views with sympathetic yet misunderstood men. Reni makes many points which I could never make so eloquently: not just because finding the words is so hard, but a white person could never fully understand the emotions and minutiae of both sides of race relations.
This really is a must-read, especially for left-wingers - let your feathers be ruffled!