Afua Hirsch: Trying to talk to white people about race


Reading Afua Hirsch in this week’s Guardian and watching the painful discussion on her Sky News progamme, The Pledge, with four media talking heads about racism, thrust me to thinking about  Rene Edde Lodges book, ‘I’m no longer talking to white people about race’.

During the interview Greg Dyke, the former BBC Director General, LBC presenter Nick Ferrari, columnist Carole Malone and former apprentice winner Michelle Dewberry, individually and collectively shut Hirsch’s contention forcibly down, that racism is still prevalent in the UK.

How Hirsch didn’t’ just scream is a miracle. At every juncture they dismissed her claims that Donald Trump’s, ‘Shithole Africa’ comments, and Jo Marney’s ‘The Royal family will be tainted with Black blood’, as having absolutely no bearing to a growing undercurrent in which overt and covert racism is prevelant today.

‘If it was painful to watch; Hirsch wrote in the Guardian, adding  ‘it was worse being there’. At one point Carole Malone turned her nose up to Hirsch and dismissively huffed, ‘You see racism everywhere'. Whilst Dewsbury arrogantly snooted, ‘I don’t look at the race of anyone', before going on to say, 'I’m uncomfortable about people pushing stuff on racism that I didn’t even consider.’

You can almost visibly see Hirsch’s heart sink. For Hirsch and perhaps other Black veiwers, that moment was a powerful snapshot of the nation’s collective denial of racism. Hirsch continued her thoughts in her  Guardian piece; ‘White fragility operates powerfully against progress; that there are those in our society, including high-profile and influential people, who prefer defensiveness to a cold, hard analysis of the patterns of prejudice.'

What’s most worrying, but not altogether surprising is that Hirsch has all the credentials to have these difficult conversations-with white people- about race inequality that many of us don’t have: She’s female, mixed heritage, and has, in her own words, been afforded a ‘privileged education’. And yet all of that still counted for nothing if, as she did,  you dare talk about the continued phenomenon of persistent race inequality.

If Hirsch cannot have this conversation without ruffling the feathers of powerful white society, what chance of we got? In the end Hirsch and many others will conclude with Rene Edde Lodge; I’m no longer talking to white people about race’.

Simon Woolley