It is not often that I feel a desperate need to respond, but while reading this, and now that I’ve completed it, I cannot stop thinking and wanting to talk about it.
Here is the thing. I am privileged. I have been lucky my whole life. My mum and dad care about me deeply, I have had a great education and access to some amazing opportunities, my sister is incredible and my friends are fantastic. Right now, I am enjoying the beginning of a career I have worked hard for, developing a deeper relationship that has made me happy for many years and will continue, and looking at what hopefully will be a very bright future.
All these things have led to an ignorance in my life that I had not even realised was there. Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race has made me think and realise a lot of aspects of my life that I have never noticed before. Importantly, I have never truly realised or identified as the categories that I belong to – a black, working class, female – until I realised that I was at the cross-section of these things. And at that moment I understood why Reni Eddo-Lodge no longer talks to white people about race. I realised why Reni Eddo-Lodge should not talk to me about race.
There are things that I have said in the past that now seem so ignorant. Things I did not realise were because of how lucky I have been. I have never experienced racism myself. I have never experienced sexism directly. I have never wanted for anything. I don’t think that experiencing these things are a precursor to realising that others do experience them, but they do go a long way to helping empathy, and that is what I have been lacking. Empathy to recognise the way others who are in the same cross-section of these groups are treated. Empathy to recognise that things I have taken for granted are real opportunities that I should not squander, real opportunities which mean that I am in a position that others are not – a position to use my voice, a position to educate others, a position to make a difference – however small.
The majority of my students fit one, two, or all three of these groups and I need to start understanding the world that they experience every day, and the world that they will be going into. I want to make sure that when my classroom is an opportunity for each of them. A safe space to learn, grow and discuss. That is what I am going to take away from this book. In the future, I think it is vital that I stop ignoring some aspects of the world and start educating myself. I need to read more articles, books and hear discussions on topics I’ve otherwise avoided because I felt very removed from them. I must make a more concerted effort to be aware of situations much closer to home and not just aware of those most widely publicised.
This was an incredible book to read, and I will continue to think about it, read more and do better.