This book is essential reading for me. If you’ve been reading through anti-racism book suggestions, you will have no doubt seen this book high up on the list. It discusses how race relates to class and gender, yet still educates people on basic ideas of white privilege and how racism reaches into every aspect of life. I decided to write about this book because our feeds and the news have returned to ‘normal’ and BLM seems to have been swept back under the rug for many. Being white, I feel obliged to keep pushing with the movement so we don’t keep expecting black people to shout their lives matter while we sit back and watch.
Written by a black British woman, this book discusses issues of racism in modern day Britain and black British history. Growing up in Wiltshire, the only times I was taught about racism was when talking about African American history, and even that wasn’t covered extensively; I find this really interesting considering how much my hometown benefitted from the slave trade, something that is discussed in this book. I found it helped me to learn about specifically black British history so I could understand how I have been put at an advantage due race inequalities, and how I can try and fix that issue.
No one seems to want to admit any discrimination exists because then they have to admit they’ve been complicit
One of the most interesting things I learned in the ‘history’ section was that the bus boycotts in Bristol, which took place on the same day as the ‘I have a dream’ speech, happened because a bus company refused to hire a black man. Even acts of racism took place in Royal Leamington Spa, like the man who left a sign outside the house he was selling, reading ‘positively no coloureds’. I think it’s so important to learn about Britain’s racist history so we can better understand why it still continues to exist.
I would say one of the most moving parts of the book is the introduction where the author talks about what it feels like to try and talk to white people about racism. Being white I can definitely sympathise with her disappointment and hurt that comes from trying to talk to white people, as I recognise the reaction from the people around me, and myself in the past.
Learning about how you’ve been privileged can be an uncomfortable conversation to have, as some people take it to mean that you’ve had an easy ride, when in fact white privilege is just that your life hasn’t been made harder because of your skin colour. I think this issue also spreads to other systematic discriminations, in that I recognise how no one wanted to talk about how being queer put me at a disadvantage. No one seems to want to admit any discrimination exists because then they have to admit they’ve been complicit.
As a white person I found this reading incredibly essential in helping me understand black British women’s issues
‘The Feminist Question’ chapter was also an extremely enlightening part to me, as it spoke to how I and many other feminists act towards black women, and how they have been left out of the movement altogether. Many western feminists seem to want to ignore black female issues, and if the media does talk about feminism, it mainly only shows white women. As the author explains, this is a big problem because these issues need to be looked at intersectionally so that black female issues are taken into account, and black and brown women feel like they have a community that really recognises their specific needs.
Like I said at the very start of this article, as a white person I found this reading incredibly essential in helping me understand black British women’s issues. I would highly recommend this to any person who feels they need more help in understanding why the BLM movement is something everyone needs to support and the progress that needs to be made. While us white people can never truly understand the full extent of the racism we and our ancestors inflicted, this book can help in the journey towards fixing it.