When Reni Eddo-Lodge first published the blog post this book is based on in 2014, and admitted she was “no longer engaging with white people on the topic of race”, she hit a nerve with -obviously- the very kind of white people the blog post had mentioned, (the ignorant ones). She was labelled exclusionary, racist (because of course white people only notice the mythical ‘reverse racism’ and deny the existence of proven structural racism), and a propagandist, ironically by the very people that would benefit from such a book.
Just take a look at the ten or so one-star Amazon reviews and it becomes clear they all have one thing in common-did they even read the book? I ask this because a reader has to look no further than page 7 for the maddeningly common “she’s being racist by excluding white people” argument to be debunked, which is what most of the geniuses protested when they furiously stated they wish they could give zero-stars instead.
Eddo-Lodge begins the book with a whole essay on why she has chosen to not discuss race with us white people anymore, so you cannot sit there and expect the rest to be a sunshine-and-rainbows explanation of racism, no, it has to be hard-hitting, full of eye-opening statistics, and it has to grab your attention. And that’s what it is. That is the point. The controversial title got the book in the mouths of racists quicker than if it had been named “Can we pretty please discuss how racism is bad…please?”.
When given a genuine chance (and by that, I mean reading beyond just the title), this book is incredible. I learnt more about Black history in one chapter than I did in 14 years of schooling. I was educated on racism within feminism and the privilege my skin affords me in ways that would never have crossed my mind without this masterpiece. I found myself bookmarking every other page in an attempt to make it easier to touch upon the most useful sections when I read it a second time, ending with practically the entire book highlighted.
This book should be mandatory reading. For everyone. Every ignorant and uneducated argument I’ve ever heard about racism is easily exposed in ‘Why I’m’ for what it is: complete and utter nonsense. I felt like purchasing copies to shove through the letterboxes of racist’s doors, or plastering quotes from the book on my forehead, because if I had a pound for every time a paragraph so quickly made sense of what so many racists struggle to understand, I would be right up there with Jeff Bezos.
However I quickly realised that route may not work, as to benefit from ‘Why I’m’, you need to open it with an open mind, something racists don’t tend to own. If you barely make it past the introduction because you’re angry about the title or bored of hearing about racism, then that narrative is all you will see on the rest of the pages. You will prevent yourself from seeing the bigger (and more important than your own feelings) picture. You will continue to be blind to the countless injustices still being faced today by people of colour, you will stay swimming in the comfortable pool of privilege that others don’t even have the luxury of dipping in to, and will be admitting to the world that you do not care about those people.
“In the age of information, ignorance is a choice”. – Donald Miller
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather just read the book.