3 Things We Learned About Race at the Melbourne Writers Festival

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Reni Eddo Lodge

Reni Eddo Lodge gave a standout talk about race at the Melbourne Writers Festival. She spoke to a jam-packed audience that intently listened and absorbed all her thoughts. Benjamin Law, the interviewer, asked stimulating questions that exposed Lodge’s intense insight and clarity into a sensitive topic.

Lodge produced a blog post during 2014 entitled “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race”. The frustration in this post clearly resonated because it hit the internet like a storm and bubbled into massive publicity, a New Yorker post and her current book.

Here’s what Reni Eddo Lodge had to say about race at this year’s Writers Festival.

  1. White people’s racism is exercised on an institutional and structural level

Reni cited studies that proved that people of colour have inhibited chances at university and during employment because they are not white. Law echoed this statement by citing a study undertaken by ANU. This proved that Anglo-Saxon names received more job callbacks than those that sounded ethnic (or, in some cases, even Italian).

To bring light to her point, Lodge provided an amazing anecdote. She recalled purchasing meat from a meat holder. He stated that he saved the best cuts of meat “for people like us”. Lodge argued that, yes, this man had an influence on his customers’ lunch, but could he exercise this discrimination on dominant modes of authority? The danger in racism is that people of colour are deterred by prejudices that are enacted on an institutional and structural level.

  1. British Civil Rights Struggles

The American had their civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s but so did the British. Unlike the Americans, the British civil rights campaigns were locally rather than nationally remembered. Lodge mentioned the Bristol Bus Boycott of 1963. This arose from the refusal of the Bristol Omnibus Company to employ black or Asian employees in the city of the Bristol. The boycott lasted for 4 months until the company changed the colour bar. Lodge mentioned the legacy of Dr. Harold Moody. Though qualified and experienced, Dr. Moody had been refused employment on the basis of his race. He had campaigned against racial prejudice and initiated the League of Coloured People in 1931.

  1. White People’s Duties

Lodge claimed that on being asked to comment on race, people feel “bullied”. “We need to challenge the mentality about the morality behind their racism,” she explained. Many people situate a racist as a bad person. They dislike the label because their moral character is brought into question. Lodge argues that morality and racism are not co-related. “It is not about morality. [Rather, a racist is a person that] re-enacts and safeguards dominant modes of authority”. Lodge encourages her audience “think critically about race”. She encouraged people to talk to other people about race. If the situation is to be progressed, it is important for critical discussions to take place.

Check the Melbourne Writers Festival website to learn more about the events they hold.