Saturday, September 30, 2017

Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race

This is a book which arose out of the aftermath of a blog post here

I can very well understand the frustration and weariness of trying to carry on a conversation and feeling that you're just not being seen or heard.   I grew up in the 70's, mostly in London, as the offspring of 2 Irish academics.  I've been told I look like a 'poster child for Irish tourism' and it wasn't meant in a nice way.  But, that being said, white on white racism isn't her experience and obviously I have no real method (or desire) to compare my experience to hers and say 'I get it'.

People are complex and race issues are unique to, and tied inextricably with, the places and people involved.  British racism is quite distinct from American racism and neither are the same as the racism intrinsic to eastern Asia, Australia, Africa, or Northern Europe. She somewhat narrows her focus to specifically talk about her experience as a person of color growing up and living in England.  Even so, it's wide ranging and well researched and makes some valid points.

This was an exhausting book for me to read although Ms. Eddo-Lodge has a clear and very readable voice, the subject matter was so draining for me that it took me several tries to manage to finish it and I'm still in the digesting stage, going back to read chapters and try to understand. She spends a fair bit of effort explaining in the book why there's a fundamental disconnect between even well meaning white people and people of color and why white people just don't understand.

As a biotech professional, I just wish we'd get on with using our human resources and richness and diversity to solve our bloody problems and not just create new ones.  Without denigrating or denying that many people are generally a waste of protoplasm and white privilege is really awful, I really do feel like I don't engage differently with my colleagues based on where they're from or what they look like.  I don't think my colleagues are promoted or held back based on their ethnicity or the melanin content of their skin (I currently live, work, and study in Northern Europe).

This is sort of like those really long arguments which you had with a partner you really cared for back in college, but you were just really really weary of fighting and wanted to stop arguing.  I get very sad that we seemingly can't move beyond this stage.  For me personally, this book was read with a backdrop of black lives matter, NFL athlete protests, utterly tone-deaf divisive sound bites from the media talking heads (and government), and neonazi marches and violence.

Difficult reading.  It made me very tired and sad.
Four stars (likely would've been 5 if I wasn't a basically 'color blind' bionerd labrat).

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher

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