White Fragility is a book written by a white woman talking about why it is so difficult for white people to talk about race, and to realise our own compliance in maintaining the racist structures we see in place in society. As the author points out at the start – there are also many books by people of colour about this subject that you can also read to educate yourself.

I will start by saying that this book is probably best to read if you are already in agreement that we live in a white supremacist society and white privilege is something we (I’m speaking myself as a white person) benefit from. If you do not come to this book with an open mind and willingness to learn, then to be honest, it seems pretty pointless and you’re not going to get much out of it. I think this book may also be useful for those of us who think we are not racist, and are ‘progressive’ about ideas regarding race, and those who consider themselves ‘colour blind’ i.e. that we no longer need to consider race as an issue.

I think one of the most important aspects of this book is the explanation that it isn’t just ‘bad’ people who are racist – we have all grew up in a white supremacist society and we are all guilty of being racist, sometimes overtly, but often in more subtle and subconscious ways and without realising, and we prop up and perpetuate the racist structures that are in place. It is not just those who describe themselves as racist or are outwardly aggressive to non-white people who are – we need to look inwards at ourselves. We need to look at how we uphold these institutions ourselves and this book outlines how we, as white people, have deeply ingrained racist attitudes that manifest in many ways.

There are great chapters in the book that deal with white fragility as a form of bullying and also white women tears as a particular form of white fragility, and the historical context that it refers too. DiAngelo includes numerous anecdotes in her book of when this fragility has occurred and that I found useful to consider.

I found the end of the book to be the most useful, which deals with ways to deal with feedback or criticism. As people who benefit from this system, it is important that we are able to deal with the discomfort this can bring to us, and also learn from it. As pointed out, in this book and many others, we have far less at stake when we do this compared to people of colour, and it is often the case that white people are often far more receptive to other white people when discussing issues of race. We need to purposely put ourselves in interacts that challenge the racist status quo and consider why the spaces we are in, if they are overwhelmingly white, why is this? This is definitely something I need to work on a lot harder in my own life and the spaces I engage with.

If this book makes you uncomfortable at times, that is not a bad thing, and a reason to keep reading. It did for me at times. Despite the book sometimes feeling somewhat repetitive at times, and it being quite basic, I think it’s an important book for white people to be reading. We need to be clear that race is important, and so is how we address the issues around it. ■

Northern Jam is an Anarchist and Feminist from reet up North. Passionate about cross stitching, reading and the downfall of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

White Fragility. Published September 20018 by Beacon Press. Written by Robin DiAngelo

The End of Tolerance was written by Arun Kundnani twelve years ago – the book now seems to serve as some kind of eerie foreshadowing, or horrific prologue to where we are now.

The book traces racism in England back before the Empire, going as far back as the Victorian area, becoming more detailed as we come towards modern day, with the main focus being on immigration control under New Labour. He highlights how the concept of ‘whiteness’, and the idea of a racial hierarchy, has changed over time to suit the needs of the changing economic systems in place.

Later in the book, it focusses mainly on how Islamophobia has become more prevalent in recent years, and what has helped lead up to that fact. Kundnani specifically focuses on the idea that ‘British’ values and ‘Muslim’ values are somehow incompatible. Of course, reviewing this book in 2019, it’s scary to think how much this idea has permeated into mainstream media, and it is often this rhetoric that is used by the far right. The author points just how ill-defined and nonsensical these terms are, and how ideas of freedom and democracy that politicians like to use when discussing these supposed British values, are contrary to our colonial and racist past, and present.

Kundnani’s knowledge of the laws, legal system and statistics is beyond impressive and I was amazed by the detail he was able to go into. I think this element of the book helps make it so compelling – it’s the type of book I’d give to someone who may have more liberal ideas or hasn’t really considered just how institutionalised racism is. The policies put in place, especially under New Labour, and the effect they have had, can’t be considered anything but racist. Of course, these have continued, and worsened by the coalition government and the Conservative Party – with the Home Secretary, Theresa May, declaring the ‘hostile environment’.

One of the most interesting aspects of the book is how Kundnani explains how through the idea of multiculturism it was possible for politicians to keep race policy and immigration policy as two separate things. He asserts that this was often used as a form of control in an attempt to depoliticise Asian and black youths who had rose up in anger at their conditions, and with this came the purposeful separating of different ethnic groups in an attempt to fragment a broad reaching political movement. Of course, we see how this has now been turned into the idea of a ‘refusal’ to integrate within wider society. Reading the book, I was made aware just how much government action and policy has shaped racism in modern Britain, and how this is was often done intentionally in order to keep state control.

Kundnani focuses specifically on immigration control and how this is often arbitrary and meaningless. These controls are far further reaching than just the visa process, and they have gradually become a part of the benefits system, housing and education. He details the role of globalisation, contrasting the movement of people to the movement of capital and how this has meant that the old colonial, more developed countries have been able to amass large amounts of wealth, often at the expense of the global south.

I learnt lots of interesting, and horrible facts, for example:

Roughly two-thirds of all asylum seeker claims are refused.

Out of 380 decisions made on applications by Iraqis in the first quarter of 2008, 280 were refusals.

The percentage of asylum applicants refused at initial decision reached its highest point at 88% in 2004.

As Kundnani points out, this approach to people who are trying to seek escape from persecution, leads to more trafficking, and people being forced to put themselves, and possibly their families, in unsafe conditions or work – which the government then uses as a reason to condemn people.

Aspects of this book feel slightly outdated, it is now over a decade old, which is a lot in political terms. However, I do think this is a great background text to understanding the government’s role, with a particular focus on New Labour, in shaping race relations in Britain. I learnt a hell of a lot from this book, and it is interesting (and infuriating) to see how these ideas and laws, continue to have impact in the present day. ■


Northern Jam is an Anarchist and Feminist from reet up North. Passionate about cross stitching, reading and the downfall of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

The End of Tolerance. Published September 2007 by Pluto Press . Written by Arun Kundnani

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Coincidentally, I started reading this book two days before an MEP from Scotland called Churchill a 'white supremacist mass murder' on twitter - a statement I already agreed with from what I knew of him. I didn't start this book completely uninformed, I certainly didn't think much of Churchill beforehand, knowing what I did about his opinions on India (amongst other places and people), and I had heard the odd quote from Amery in passing, however, reading Madhusree Mukerjee's book was eye-opening and the extent of which the Bengali famine could have been avoided, is both heart breaking and infuriating. Even more so within the context of the British cultural show of admiration for a man who deserves nothing but condemnation for being a racist, imperialist piece of scum.

It is a tough a read. It took me over a month, stopping and starting when it got too heavy and the statistics tired me down. I guess that is the nature of a book like this. The book is filled with sources and footnotes; however, I have to be honest and say I have not checked these sources so can't confirm their reliability. However, the fact that are so many provided, from so many different sources, certainly seems a good thing; maybe one day I will get around to looking at the primary sources. The author, who is Indian herself, also talks to survivors of the famine and relatives, which adds a more personal touch to a very dense book.

The books main focus is on the Bengali famine of 1943, where according to most sources, roughly 3 million people died. Mukerjee analyses the British response regarding food shortages at the time - many of the issues leading to which were caused by prior British policies and also the general disdain members of the British government felt for South Asians which lead to a lack of action. However, the book also looks at this within the wider context of World War Two and at British policy in India on a broader scale, including the potential invasion of Japanese ships, British efforts to divide religious persons to try to combat opposition to colonial rule and India’s huge contributions to the war effort.

Between Churchill and his aide, Cherwell, a eugenics fan and supremacist himself, it is clear that their neglect of this issue was not based on either ignorance nor necessity (whatever that actually means…but that’s a whole other blog post) but their racist, colonial attitudes and their personal hatred towards Indian people, particularly Hindus. This tragedy could have been prevented at numerous times by the British government but it was allowed to take place due to ideological reasoning, convenience and a desire to discredit, and weaken those who opposed British rule. Of course, this attitude wasn’t exclusive to India, it is part of Churchill’s wider attitude towards colonised peoples, the working-class and anyone who was non-white.

As I say, this is a tough read and it isn't a pleasant read either. However, in my opinion this is an important book about a subject that is often overlooked or defended as a necessary tragedy. I would recommend this book to anyone who is British or has an interest in learning more about the horrors of British imperialism; this book is about a man who is often idolised by politicians and media and a lot of discourse is left behind in favour of the old troupe 'he fought the Nazi's so he must be great'. I can’t imagine anyone reading this review is a fan of Churchill anyway, but for a more in-depth analysis of his role in the famine of 1943 this is book is great addition. ■

NorthernJam is an Anarchist and Feminist from reet up North. Passionate about cross stitching, reading and the downfall of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

Churchill's Secret War. Published by Tranquebar Press 2010 . Written by Madhusree Mukerjee.

I stumbled upon this book when looking for more books by people of colour to read. The book is a collection of 21 short stories by black, Asian and minority ethic writers (BAME), mainly first and second-generation immigrants, who have grown up in the UK and details the difficulties they have experienced, and the racism and prejudice they have faced here. Nikesh Shukla has collected a series of stories ranging from somewhat humorous anecdotes to a more sombre approach to the subject matter, so there’s a pretty broad mix of styles included.

A lot of the stories focus on the idea of a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ immigrant and this idea that immigrants, or basically, those who are non-white, have certain expectations pushed upon them by society that white people just don’t have to contend with. There is the idea that people of colour must ‘prove’ themselves in order to be accepted into ‘British culture’ – something which is problematic in itself and is steeped in a history of violence, colonialism and xenophobia; many of the writers focus on the feeling of being unwanted by the country they were born in, despite the huge contributions migrants have made here.

It also looks at just how ingrained institutional racism is in our everyday society. As white person from Sunderland, a rather homogenous city up in the North East of the England, I have to be honest and say it is something that isn’t always on my radar, and is something I need to be more mindful of, including in my own interactions. This book was a rather stark reminder of just how ingrained this is in our society and the horrendous consequences it has on people’s everyday lives.

There isn’t a single focus in this book, there are discussions on being mixed race, what it means to be black, the idea of the Asian ‘model minority’, however within the diversity and breadth of discussion there is commonality in the way all these authors have been treat in this country. Stand out essays for me were ‘A Guide To Being Black’, ‘Airports and Auditions’, ‘The Ungrateful Country’ and ‘Beyond Good Immigrants’.

I think it is important to mention that the writers in this book all know the author ■ (as she points out in the preface) and that they are all considered to be relatively successful people within current society, which therefore means the demographic being represented is somewhat limited. We still don’t get to hear the voices of those who are facing poverty, unemployment and unable to access the basic services they need. There are some working-class voices in the book, although these seem to be fewer in number.

Considering the UK’s horrific past of colonialism, our continuing onslaught of imperialism around the globe and our ongoing battle against racism, this book is a great starting point to try to understand and empathise what those around us routinely suffer through and how we attempt overcome these issues. It’s 2019, and we’ve got a long way to go yet. I recommend this book to everyone really, but especially white people, it’s extremely relevant and will probably leave you feeling a mixture of despair, shame and rage. ■

Northern Jam is an Anarchist and feminist from reet up North. Passionate about cross stitching, reading and the downfall of the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
The Good Immigrant. Published by Unbound 2016 . Edited by Nikesh Shukla