Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race (2017) examines the often-dismissed problem of racism in Britain and offers insight into how it might be overcome. Contrary to the title, this volume provides a starting point for productive conversations about racism in Britain today. It examines British black history, white privilege and the links between class and race.
“I don’t see color.” You’ve probably heard some well-meaning white progressive bleat the phrase out in total sincerity, and you’ve almost certainly heard it more than once. It’s meant to indicate that the speaker wants to live in a meritocratic world where everyone is afforded opportunities based on innate talent and abilities. What’s more, it signals they are leading by example.
But, not only is it extremely condescending, it also totally misses the point. Worse still, this myth of “colorblindness” scuppers discussions that might help progress.
Let’s be clear about this. For people of color – regardless of social class – racism is wound into the harsh fabric of daily life.
Consequently, if Britain’s racism problem is going to be solved, then the communication gap between white people and people of color has to be bridged.
Back in 2014, the author – a black British journalist – was on a mission. She wanted to investigate structural racism. But white people just responded with boredom, indignation or defensiveness.
Out of sheer exasperation, she wrote a blog post. It was entitled “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race.” She was expecting a racist backlash, but, much to her surprise, it went viral, and mostly for positive reasons too.
Generally speaking, verdicts on the piece went two ways. Black people felt that she had clearly expressed experiences they’d had trouble articulating. On the other hand, white people were alarmed at the idea that they’d collectively made people feel this way. They were keen to learn how they could improve the situation.
Both groups agreed: dialogue was the solution. What’s more, the author’s talent in voicing these issues meant it was critical that she keep talking about race to white people.
Since then, the author has worked as an activist talking almost exclusively to white people about race. She's attempted to expand her understanding of racism in Britain. She wants to push things forward and has left the frustration of that first piece behind. Productive conversations about race inequalities in Britain have to take place between all strata of society, no matter what color they may be.
But before we start looking at the specific issues relating to racism in Britain today, we’re going to have to dig a little deeper into its history.