I’m not someone who picks up non-fiction often even though I want to. That changed with this book.
While this book was on my TBR for a long time, I didn’t pick it up until recently when it was highly recommended by multiple people online because of current scenarios. I’ll be honest, I only know things about what’s happening in US and UK because of what trends and from books.
That’s still a lot, but also not that much because I’ve been mostly reading romance, which don’t touch on current events or heavy topics often.
Not to mention, I know more about racism in USA than UK because UK racism doesn’t rise on social media often.
Hence, this book was my first introduction to racism in the UK. And it was my first book where the racism was broken down into different sections and explained just how they all come together to oppress people.
Until now, I’ve only read non-fiction books which were memoirs and autobiographies. So this was also my first non-fiction book about a specific topic which talks in-depth, places facts on the table, and provides explanations and arguments for everything. And I realized that I like this kind of non-fiction more.
I thought I’ll probably read it slowly but I flew through it. It was addicting. The rush of new information, in-depth analysis, history recounts etc. was very interesting.
This book also has REALLY GOOD LINES. I could not stop highlighting things. If I could, I’d probably tab whole sections in places. There were also times when I wanted to tab a few lines but I couldn’t decide which lines to highlight exactly. The section overall conveyed the meaning which can’t be properly captured in a few lines.
So yeah, this book was brilliant.
And since I highlighted so much, I wanted to share the quotes and let them convince you to pick up this book instead of just reviewing myself with my meager words compared to the book’s.
[…] how often history would have to repeat itself before we choose to tackle the underlying problems.
[…] until I went actively digging for black British histories, I didn’t know them.
While black British story is starved of oxygen, the US struggle against racism is globalised into the story of the struggle against racism that we should look to for inspiration – eclipsing the black British story so much that we convince ourselves that British has never had a problem with race.
[…] racism does not erupt from nothing, rather it is embedded in British society. It’s in the very core of how the state is set up. It’s not external. It’s in the system.
Structural racism is an impenetrably white workplace culture set by those people, where anyone who falls outside of the culture must conform or face failure.
Colour-blindness is a childish, stunted analysis of racism. It starts and ends at ‘discriminating against a person because of the colour of the skin is bad’, without any accounting for the ways in which structural power manifests in these exchanges.
When people of colour point this out, they’re accused of being racist against white people, and the accountability avoidance continues.
It’s a social construct that was created to continue racial dominance and injustice.
In order to dismantle unjust, racist structures, we must see race.
Blackness, however, is considered the ‘other’ and therefore to be suspected. Those who are coded as a threat in our collective representation of humanity are white.
How can I define white privilege? It’s so difficult to describe an absence. And white privilege is an absence of the negative consequences of racism.
[…] white privilege is the fact that it you’re white, your race will almost certainly positively impact your life’s trajectory in some way. And you probably won’t even notice it.
‘Shallow understanding from people of goodwill is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will.
White privilege is never more pronounced than in our intimate relationships, our close friendships and our families.
[…] for white people who are in interracial relationships, or have mixed-race children, or who adopt transracially, the only way that it will work is if they’re actually committed to being anti-racist.
That’s nothing to suggest that a black child with a white parent, or who is adopted into a white family, won’t be on the receiving end of immeasurable love and support. But, having never experienced it, the parents might not be well equipped to deal with the racism their child receive.
There is a worry the ever-disappearing essence of Britishness is being slowly eroded by immigrants whose sole interest is not to flee from war or poverty, but to destroy the social fabric of the country.
At the core of the fear is the belief that anything that doesn’t represent white homogeneity exists only to erase it.
Another incarnation of the fear reveals a deep-seated discomfort with anti-racist talk and protest. Couched in the pernicious frame of ‘freedom of speech’, it materialises when a person with anti-racist values voices their disgust at something racist. They will then be told that their sheer objection to it actually inhibits freedom of speech.
It seems there is a belief among some white people that being accused of racism is far worse than actual racism.
I think that there is a fear among many white people that accepting Britain’s difficult history with race means somehow admitting defeat.
It’s about time that critiques of racism were subject to the same passionate free speech defence as racist statements themselves.
A character simply cannot be black without a pre-warning for an assumed white audience.
We are told that black actors and actresses cast as central characters in works of fiction are unrealistic. We are told that they are historically inaccurate, or that they are too far a stretch of the imagination.
White people are so used to seeing a reflection of themselves in all representations of humanity at all times, that they only notice it when it’s taken away from them.
There is an old saying about the straight man’s homophobia being rooted in a fear that gay men will treat him as he treats women. This is no different.
Regardless, that isn’t the kind of world anti-racists are envisioning when they agitate for justice. It has always been about the redistribution of power rather than the inverting of it.
This wasn’t the place [when discussing feminism] to be discussing racism, they insisted. There are other places you can go to for that. But that wasn’t a choice I could make. My blackness was as much a part of me as my womanhood, and I couldn’t separate them.
‘That work started when I realised that African American women . . . not recognised as having experienced discrimination that reflected both their race and their gender. The courts would say if you don’t experience racism in the same was as a [black] man does, or sexism in the same way as a white woman does, then you haven’t been discriminated against.
When black feminists started to push for an intersectional analysis in British feminism, the widespread response from feminists who were white was not one support. Instead, they began to make the case that the word ‘intersectional’ was utter jargon – too difficult for anyone without a degree to understand – and therefore useless.
The white feminist distaste for intersectionality quickly evolved into a hatred of the idea of white privilege – perhaps because to recognise structural racism would have to mean recognizing their own whiteness. They were backed up by their men.
The trouble is, it has become faddish among people who don’t read books or essays but merely tweets and Internet comments, and thus don’t know what they are talking about.
If feminism can understand the patriarchy, it’s important to question why so many feminists struggle to understand whiteness as political structure in the very same way.
Whiteness is a political position, and challenging it in feminist spaces is not a tit-for-tat disagreement because prejudice needs power to be effective.
The politics of whiteness transcends the colour of anyone’s skin. It is an occupying force in the mind. It is a political ideology that is concerned with maintaining power through domination and exclusion.
After a lifetime of embodying difference, I have no desire to be equal. I want to deconstruct the structural power of a system that marked me out as different.
The ‘angry black woman’ phrase says more about maleness and whiteness than it does about black women.
This information suggests that it’s not as simple or binary as choosing between race and class when thinking about structural inequalities.
I don’t think that any amount of class privilege, money or education can shield you from racism.
The book is told in 7 chapters, each talking about one face of racism. The author has researched what she wrote, thought over everything in detail, and added her own experiences to give examples of every situation being spoken about.
It is an incredible book, and I hope everyone picks it up. It has a lot to teach.
Have you picked up this book yet? Will you read it soon? Do you have any non-fiction recommendations for me?