Book Review & Race Talks: The Clapback by Elijah Lawal

28 June 2020


Hello Readers & Friends,

As a result of the BLM movement I decided to make the move to read one educational race book per month, and The Clapback is my first for June. Hopefully this means the race conversation (at least on my channels!) will be consistent and keep on happening, rather than just a blip as a result of a trend.

I gave this book four stars - I struggle reading non-fiction and this one in particular is heavy on the stats and number shares, which is obviously necessary to reinforce it's points but I found I could only read a chapter at a time before my brain was ready to burst! This is obviously personal though, if you're used to reading educational text you'll probably breeze through this.

The Clapback: Your Guide to Calling out Racist Stereotypes does exactly what it says on the tin. Each chapter focuses on a different topic and stereotype, and it dissects the origin of the stereotype, modern-day instances and explains why it's so harmful to help you combat someone you hear using it.

I will admit as a half-white woman it was uncomfortable to read some parts, but that's a good thing, as it shows how much I was learning. We're not meant to be comfortable hearing about all the things our ancestors did against black people, and when we're learning about how false and harmful things we ignorantly believed to be true are, it's normal to feel guilt at just how stupid we've been! It's all a part of the learning process, and as we learn we can better ourselves and fight better for our allies.

The last chapter notes a difference between racism and racists. You can be a part of racism without being a racist, whether it's singing along to rap songs that use slurs or falling for repeatedly-used stereotypes without questioning them, and I'm very much a guilty party when it comes to these things. It was very eye-opening for me, but rather than dwell on past mistakes it's important to look forward and use what I've learnt to speak up and out against any other prejudice that I may see happening.

Particularly when I was at university, my friendship group was made up of a lot of black people and jokes were made that I can now see were unacceptable, though we didn't realise at the time. To be clear as well, even the black people were making some of these jokes, in the same way that I joke about my 'asian eyes'. During that time at university, I dated a Caribbean boy for a few years and I always remember when we went on holiday and he laughed and told me 'black people can't swim, I'll just sink!' At the time, I hadn't heard this stereotype before, but this book explained the origin of that myth - which I don't think he even knew! It was just something he had heard and repeated - and this is exactly what the book teaches us not to do.

I think this book does a brilliant job of using humour to keep such a horrible topic light, Elijah is a funny and relatable guy and it hurts to read about some of the racism he himself has experienced.
This book covers everything, and I think it's a great jumping-off point for anybody looking to educate themselves on microaggressions and systemic racism.
The chapters are: Identity, Sport, Police, Sex, Food, Work, Targets, Drugs, Dance, Dating, Immigration, Language.

It's also very important to mention that this book is written by a British author! So while many Brits sit around and say 'it doesn't affect me, it's all happening in America,' whilst he does use American examples, most of his studies are British, and pertain to the UK in particular, so it really hits home.

I'll very quickly touch on most of these and what I took from them:

Identity hit me the hardest, as a mixed-race person myself. It really made me question who I am, why I so often make jokes about my race, and how comfortable I feel in myself. As a result of this, I bought a ton of Japanese books to learn more about my culture. It was a very philosophical chapter, I really enjoyed it a lot.

Sport discusses the stereotype that black people run faster, and can't swim. It goes into the sciences behind these two topics, and the origin of the stereotypes, as well was why they are so harmful. It explains why 'positive stereotypes' such as black people are faster, or better dancers, are also harmful when we might not think they are.

Police is a hard-hitting chapter which obviously dissects police states, police brutality and the murder of many black people as a result.

Sex looks at the stereotype that black men are well endowed, and the festishisation of black men. It also looks at negative sexual portrayals of black women.

Food explains the origin of the stereotypes that black people love fried chicken and watermelon. I think this is probably one of those stereotypes everybody perceives as harmless and uses for the basis of jokes (we've all seen the Water-melowne! Vine video), but the story behind them is actually horrible and illustrates how harmful it is when these stereotypes become normalised.

Work looks at the treatment of black people in the workplace, and institutional struggles.

Targets of course is dissecting the idea that black people are unfairly targeted and why - this overlaps with police a lot, naturally.

Drugs again overlaps with police, but it looks at why black people are associated with drugs, stereotypes to do with Rastafarians etc, and dispels them all using credible UK statistics.

Dance examines the 'positive stereotype' that black people are great at dancing. Whilst looking at this, it shares a lot of positive cultural traditions which was really nice to learn about.

Dating is all about interracial dating, why many black people feel they should not date outside of their race, and the struggles they face when in an interracial relationship.

Immigration was also super interesting for me, as both of my parents are immigrants. It looks at the stereotypes associated with being an immigrant, why these are so harmful, and why politics is working against us right now. (As if we didn't already know, *coughTrumpcough*).

Language looks at the use of the word n*gger, it's origin, and why it's not okay for white people to use it, even if we're singing along to Kanye West Goldigga. I found this chapter really was a great lead-on to the conclusion as it reinforces everything we have learnt in the book so far. This chapter is when the concept that you can take part in racism without being a racist is explained, which was uncomfortable, but necessary to hear. It's always hard to think that you have unknowingly contributed to racism in your life, but now that I've learnt so much from this book it is easier to stop this cycle and begin being better at being actively anti-racist.

Overall, I found this a great first book to start my educational journey and I can't wait to start the next one.
My next read for July will be Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. Feel free to read it alongside me and we can discuss at the end of July!

Love,
C x


**Despite being a Hodder book, this review is 100% unbiased and I paid for this book with my own money, I did not receive it through my job and all views are my own and not affiliated with Hodder in any way.

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