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Reni's Book On Race Has Everybody Talking, Part 2

LET’S GET TALKING: Reni Eddo-Lodge, left, speaks to an audience in Waterstones, Birmingham with Dr. Nicola Rollock

DR. ROLLOCK said she found it ‘distressing’ that despite all the equalities legislation that we all pat ourselves on the back for now, when it comes to race, we don’t have an honest conversation about it.

“When it comes to diversity, we can have a conversation on that, providing it only focuses on gender.”

Eddo-Lodge replied:

“Diversity is often about assimilation. It’s a case of: ‘Let’s get more people round the table, but don’t change the table.’

“I also hate the word 'tolerance', which means putting up with something – that makes me angry when you think of the contributions black and brown people have made to this country.”

And she won a round of applause when she said:

“If anyone is tolerant, it’s us!”

Dr. Rollock asked if she had any coping strategies for dealing with her critics and the pressure that the book has brought, but she said that now she felt she was being ‘adequately heard’, she had, in a way, been able to distance herself from some of the work on this topic.

Eddo-Lodge said:

“Grand-scale rhetorical racism still disturbs me to my very core, but at least I feel that I have tried to do something to counter this. Sometimes, talking about these things is the ultimate taboo. Now I feel almost at peace with these issues.”

Eddo-Lodge fielded many questions, including how she got the book published, immigration, the unjustified attacks on Diane Abbott, and why she interviewed Nick Griffin of the British National Party for the book.

One young girl said:

“Thank you for this book.

"It’s amazingly relevant and you’ve managed to express what a lot of us are thinking in such an articulate and intelligent way.

BRUGHT FUTURE: Reni Eddo-Lodge (image credit: Stylist

“Many of us have struggled with this conversation because we can’t back it up with anything other than our own experiences. But you have managed to take history and facts, mixed with examples of lived experiences.

“I have found myself having this book around me all the time, because I feel that it empowers me.”

Dr. Rollock added:

“The book has been doing phenomenally well – you’ve got white people talking about race in a public sphere.”

Eddo-Lodge replied:

“I hope this has got people talking about racism in an anti-racist way, not just about white people’s fears, or about the black threat.”

Why does she feel the book has become such a success at the moment?

“I don’t know. I’m in the eye of the storm here.

“What I’ve found in the responses thus far, both to the original blog and the book, is that it works as a catharsis for some people who have felt scared to speak out. And for those who have never been affected by these issues, it is absolutely blowing their minds – they had never considered these perspectives before. I do feel that the book has countered some straight-up ignorance and I’ve had a lot of people contacting me saying: ‘I didn’t know any of this stuff. How did I not know about any of these arguments?’

“The book has allowed me to publish an extended monologue, without being interrupted because that was a big thing after that initial blog post – I couldn’t get a sentence out without being interrupted. People were saying: ‘No, you’ve got it wrong, it’s not racism at all, you’re the wrong person to determine what racism is’, etc.

“One question I get asked is: ‘Who is the book for?’ I hope it gives a voice to so many of us who have been feeling this way for such a long time, and also for those who want to know more but don’t know where to start and don’t want to offend. There’s a large amount of fear among white people when talking about race. I hope this book just kicks that into the dust.”

There’s every chance it will.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race is published by Bloomsbury.

To read part 1 of this piece, click here.

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