Reni Eddo-Lodge on how to navigate conversations about race in 2020

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Reni Eddo-Lodge has continued to lead the conversation about race relations in Britain since the publication of her award-winning book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race. Here, she weighs up the balance between celebrating moments of progress and continuing the conversation. 

In 2017, Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote a book and, in doing so, sparked a national conversation.

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race gave a platform to the histories and commentaries previously unspoken: from its exposure of the UK’s almost eradicated black history to its detailed exploration of the link between race and class, Eddo-Lodge’s book challenges many pre-established thoughts to make way for new, important conversations.

As Eddo-Lodge acknowledges in the preface to the 2018 edition of her book, there’s something paradoxical about the success she’s seen since.

“I’ve turned Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race into a book – paradoxically – to continue the conversation,” she writes. “Since I set my boundary, I’ve done almost nothing but speak about race – at music festivals and in TV studios, to secondary-school pupils and political party conferences – and the demand for this conversation shows no signs of subsiding.”

That demand – including reviews by attendees of Eddo-Lodge’s Stylist Live talk in 2017 – has taken the award-winning journalist, author, podcaster and activist all over the world. Earlier this year, Eddo-Lodge was one of the 10 cover stars we revisited to celebrate our 10th birthday, and on Sunday (10 November) she returned to the Stylist Live LUXE stage to talk about the future of race conversation as we move into another decade.

Appearing in conversation with fashion stylist, writer and filmmaker Basma Khalifa, Eddo-Lodge spoke about how conversations about race have changed since the book was published two and a half years ago.

Reflecting on the world as it exists going in to 2020 – with the topic of Brexit looming over any conversation about race and equality – Eddo-Lodge weighed up our current political situation and the progress she sees occurring in popular culture.

Reni Eddo-Lodge
Reni Eddo-Lodge on stage with Basma Khalifa at Stylist Live LUXE.

“There’s this weird polarisation of anti-racism and feminism in pop culture, when politically things feel further to the right than ever before,” Eddo-Lodge said. “I think for me, it’s like, are we really making any change?

“We’ve got all these best-selling books and these amazing TV shows and films, but if politics is really far to the right, maybe our efforts could be used elsewhere? To be honest with you, I’m still undecided.”

Talking about the growing number of black people in positions of power – from the likes of Meghan Markle to Edward Enniful – the pair weighed up how to approach moments of progress when there’s still so much more to be tackled.

“I feel like it doesn’t need to be either/or,” Eddo-Lodge argued. “It’s good to shout out Edward Enniful, but also register to vote.

She continued: “It’s our job as a citizen, it’s my job as a journalist, to hold [politicians’] feet to the fire in terms of what they are doing on the front of feminism, and what they are doing on the front of racism – I think it is important for us to interrogate that as much as we shout about, you know, Lizzo on the cover of Vogue.

“I don’t think it has to be either/or, I think we’d find ourselves at a bit of a dead end.”

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Images: Mark Harrison/Bronac McNeill

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