Reni narration: Welcome to About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge.

In  the aftermath of any kind of public conversation about racism, a question is born. It happens online and off. It happens between friends, and between strangers. Here’s a couple of examples, from a quick browse of social media.

‘As a white person, what can i do to help race relations?’

‘What can i do as a white evangelical to help my brothers and sisters feel more accepted in a majority white church?’

Now My readers of colour are more concerned with how to cope, rather than what to do. But ‘what can i do’ is something my white readers ask me a lot.

It was a question put to me last year by self confessed posh podcasters Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton, on their wildly popular podcast, the High Low show.

High Low intro

Pandora: It’s now time for our first ever author special with Reni Eddo-Lodge who has now joined us in our studio

Reni: Hello, thanks for having me.

Dolly: I’m going to be one of those awful, earnest white people that you talk about in that final chapter, and ask the question that’s probably been posed to you a million times, which is: whst can we do as white people to help end racism? Because i know something that you say in that final chapter that really struck a chord is you said there’s no point, white people, wallowing in guilt and and self flagellation because that does absolutely nothing in terms of progression. So what would you say? What advice would you give?

Reni: well, I don’t know where you hold influence in your life. I don’t know your friends, i don;t know the extent of your jobs, i don’t know where you can assess where the institutional racism is really taking hold in your sector, what you as individuals can attempt to do to try and change that. I’m in no position to tell you how both of your lives can try and change the problem. I’ve spent many many years thinking about this, and fewer years writing about it, and i think i've done a decent job of assessing the problem. But in terms of where you hold influence in your lives? In order to attempt to overcome the problem, only you can diagnose that.

Reni narration: I know it comes from a good place, but I can’t stand the what can we do question. I think the Queensland Aboriginal activists group put it best: “If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

It’s all about solidarity.

Dolly: I've actually always been really annoyed at myself at how I phrased that question since we did the interview. It was in reference to a brilliant bit near the end of the book when Reni describes how earnest white people ask her that all the time, then gives some examples of how we can use our privilege to make change and call out racism  - but I said it clumsily and seemed demanding/imperious. I learnt from my mistake and obviously it's important to highlight.

Reni narration: I don’t think Dolly should be too hard on herself. I can understand why this question is asked. Taking on a huge global inequality is an intimidating prospect. Even just learning about it can be profoundly discomfiting.  So what can we do? There has to be something more productive than just arguing with people on the internet, or wallowing in guilt.

I asked two people who have decided to DO something what they’ve learnt on their journeys. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that their work centres around one of the most urgent humanitarian failures of our time- the refugee crisis.

Ra’ed Khan’s day job is in the music industry. He’s also the founder an organisation named Road to Freedom.  We chatted over Skype.

Ra’ed: Hello, Oh hi Reni sorry I can hear you now.  How it started I guess was I just went into work like every other day.  It was in September 2015 and I'm just reading like news articles and I just happened to come across this image, it was a very disturbing image, it’s something that’s never taken out of my head, it’s always on my mind and I always think of it when I’m...even on a day to day basis.  It was of a 3-year-old Syrian toddler names Aylan Kurdi and his body was washed up on a beach in Turkey. When I saw it I didn’t think it was even real. I just thought maybe it was something like, you know it was a movie scene. Then I started thinking are they even allowed to show children like, like dead like that in movies and then when I started reading up about it I was like wow this is like real life, like and then immediately I just felt stupid like how can I not know that this is what’s been happening.  I ran out of the office, I rang my sister just and just burst out crying in tears and like what is going on. And then she started educating me further and this sort of things been happening since 2011 and telling me about the Arab Spring and people have been fleeing Syria, Iraq all over trying to get to Europe for safety and I just felt honestly like an idiot, I just felt so stupid I’d been in my music industry bubble and when there’s real stuff actually happening out there in the world and I just asked her like how can we help?  And then she told me that that there was a camp in France called The Jungle which I hate saying but it was referred to as The Jungle when it existed at the time and there were many many people from all over Africa and Asia and middle east who were just living in these dire conditions so we can help them and after she said that I literally started researching and put a GoFundMe link up for a thousand pounds to, to raise to get the aid and then once we hit the target we purchased food items, sat there in my living room for a few days making the food parcels and we head out to the camp and yeah distributed it amongst the refugees.

Just even growing up when you see images like that, like you just think, oh I can never help. And just finding out that there's actually a camp literally next door to us, like in France and like people can go there and give them aid and I was just thinking why not? Like why don't we, instead of just thinking, oh we can't really do anything to help these people, some people are just like that in the world. Why not just actually say I'm just gonna try and do something. And then going there and meeting them and being like oh my God, just seeing them, even just spending a few hours with them and giving them the aid and just seeing that how much it helps, it just, it just fuelled even further, I was like, I'm never going to stop helping them. I don’t want this to be just a one off good deed. So that's when Road to Freedom came about.

Reni narration: I was curious to know how many people Road to Freedom has reached.

Ra’ed: I'm proud to say, not just me, but the whole entire team that we've from, from start for fundraising to actually making parcels to actually...I want to thank everyone because people we have reached it’s  in the thousands, and the countries we’ve visited like include like all of the Greek islands from mainland Greece, Athen[inaudible] to Serbia, Macedonia, Germany and yeah And now we've also started actually getting aid inside conflict zones in Somalia as well as Syria, um, through teaming up with other charities who are on the ground.  It was overwhelming at first and the thing, even now I will always say I wish I did really understand the sort of, the magnitude of was entering at the time. I mean I don’t regret it because although there's been some very disturbing things I've seen, I'm kind of glad that I'm really started to understand this is the reality of the world.

Reni narration: I asked Ra’ed what he’d seen.

Ra’ed: Things like just children with bullet wounds all over their bodies, scars, amputee kids.  Just as, when the borders closed it was even harder because you had to stop the suicides from happening.  Just, we, we met babies who are born on train tracks literally the day before when we, we were actually on the abandoned train tracks on the border of Greece and Macedonia, giving them aid.  The elderly just like so ill, but still traveling through countries and this after a while you take each story back with you, when you get back home and you try to get on with your day to day job and it's it’s very difficult to just adapt back to your first World problems where you just left literally a refugee camp the night before.

Reni narration: I was curious to know if he’d seen racism affect this kind of aid work.

Ra’ed: Yeah, I mean, the connotations of the jungle, yeah it’s ridiculous and I’m I’m not sure even where the term came from, it was from like the the sort of the racists and the locals that were living in Calais or if it was the sort of even the racist politicians in Calais I’m not sure where it came from but I always refused to say it at the time but in terms of even like when I see it in the media people referred to it as that it just really bothers me that they used that word.  So with the camp in Calais it was quite segregated in terms of what countries you’re from.  They would have like their own sort of like sections and with the flag of the country that they’re from in there.  And when we had started going there going towards like the African countries, first they would look at me sort of surprised that like, like why are you here? And I used to look back like why are they giving me a sort of surprised look and then I remember this man speaking to me he’s like thank you for giving us the aid and I looked at him like don’t say thank you at all like why? And he was like oh because many volunteers come over and they, from Europe and like America and they just want to help the Syrians or the Iraqis and it’s like they choose who to give the aid to and that really was very unsettling to hear that.  That they just get overlooked because and I don’t know’s just, it’s just disgusting that people could actually go there and choose and be selective of where the aid goes to and that’ yeah, I mean that was really really, very very tough to see that was going on inside the camps.

Reni narration: Ra’ed is really passionate about respecting the humanity of those who have been displaced and he wants that to be evidenced in the donations given to him for aid.

Ra’ed: A weird donation or a crazy donation we’ve received in terms of like clothing, I mean like from stilettos to like certain toys which I won’t mention on this podcast.  I mean I guess it’s a case some people do see it as a thing where it’s like an opportunity to clean out the cupboard and then put it in a bag and hand over, although i really do appreciate the giving but at the same time it adds up more work for the volunteers as well as I wouldn’t especially when it’s like full of clothes with holes or stains on them I do put out there like please, we want to restore some dignity back to these people, please give them what you would wear yourself.  I mean they were wearing better clothes than us before they fled their homes, they had even better lives than some of us so like let’s not try like take that away from them and by just giving oh it’s still clothes so they can wear it if it’s got holes in them. I don’t like that side of it.

I think this sort of stuff does require long term sort of commitment. I don’t think me going there with like food parcels, although it's like needed at that time and there’s more further like I realised after the first time doing it the long term support is really needed.  Yeah and I’m grateful that the charity’s in a position now that we can provide that. I do disagree that, I mean, it’s great if you can make food parcels but don’t just come to see what it's like for your own sort of like knowledge. It’s it’s just, they’re not animals, it’s not a zoo.  They are humans and they’re fighting for survival, like please respect that and let them as I said before restore some dignity back to them. When they queue up for food they’re very very embarrassed, some don’t even look you in the eye when they take the food parcels off you and they had beautiful lives before.  They were doctors and nurses, they were dentists, they are very educated people so any sort of misconceptions people have about refugees it’s like they’re not true. They’re exactly like you and me, there’s no difference they’re human.

Reni narration: So what does he think that we can do?

Ra’ed: I think a lot of people forget that this is actually happening in Europe. This is like getting like a Ryanair and Easyjet flight out to like Germany, which is like what, an hour and a half flight or to Greece, which of the three hour flight it’s not that difficult and what I what I always would advise anyone else who wants to go out to help people like in fleeing wars is make contact with charities on the ground, work with them they know exactly the situation’s always changing, the needs are always changing, there’s not always the same.  Especially it was very noticeable when the borders were open and then when Europe closed their borders. The situation changed drastically and even the needs. So in the beginning it was immediate aid but now it’s more sort of long term. Like in terms of where they don’t need accommodation they need like medical support, they need legal advice. So it’s even the charities sort of adapted to the needs of the refugees.

I always say do your research like before you even if you if it involves heading out to places do your research before you go .  Make contact with other people that are doing similar things there already or team up with people, there’s strength in numbers always.  Don’t ever think that your voice is not strong enough like I, when I first started I genuinely, when I was crying at my desk after seeing the picture I had no clue that this was going to turn into something that would impact my entire life, my family, my friends life but even I’m going to continue to do this until the day that I die.  I had no clue that even anyone else cared until I put it out there and everyone who came to help has helped and if you really believe in it it will happen and you can make a change.

Reni narration: I first came across Gabby Edlin’s work via the feminist community. Her charity, Bloody Good Period, strikes at the intersection of feminism, migration, race, and injustice.

Gabby:  Bloody Good Period collects periods supplies for asylum seekers and refugees and we distribute them to around 13 drop-in centres in London and Leeds.

Reni: It seems a bit niche, period suppliers. How did this come about?

Gabby: So I think the very reason because it seems niche is why is why I set it up. I was volunteering at an asylum seeker drop in center and it became apparent that they weren't collecting period supplies and I don't think it was through any sort of active discrimination or you know refusal to sort of look after women, but I think it was very much something that we just don't talk about and it just hadn't been considered 00:51 and so when I asked if that was something that we should be collecting, I was told, oh we do, but you know, we give them out in an emergency or we give them out when the women ask for them. Both of those scenarios just appalled me because I thought the first point is what does an emergency look like? Does someone have to bleed on the floor for you to take them seriously and give them a sanitary towel and the second one about it being, you know, women going up and asking for them. A woman might ask for once but she's not going to go every single month and say can I have another, sorry, can I have another pad? And in addition to that, a lot of asylum seekers, because of the trauma, they've been through report having really heavy periods or really irregular periods. So it's obviously something that is on people's minds constantly but isn't being something that's taken care of because I think we see the person who needs help or the sort of aid victim in inverted commas as a default male and I think that is how we've been operating at these drop-in centres. So I see periods suppliers as essential as food.

Reni narration: I asked Gabby why she took up this cause.

Gabby: As a Jewish woman, a lot of our community and ancestry is sort of rooted in asylum and people being moved around from place to place and so it's really important for me and for my friends and family to be making sure that the people who are going through this now get our support because we will have, you know, my grandparents, my great grandparents would have benefited from the support of Britain 02:44 I hope, you know, how much I don't know, but I feel like it's incredibly important. And also I believe in a right to safety and it doesn't even feel like a political belief it just feels like the right thing to do but I guess it is a political belief that I believe that everybody who is seeking asylum needs to be given a fair understanding and a way of living that is fair and considered and not as some sort of punished prisoner.  And so the synagogue that I was helping out with the drop-in centre just felt like the right thing to do. And then obviously my real fundamental belief in gender equality and that there were just these women whose basic human rights were not being taken care of or not being considered maybe not taking care of but not being considered. They weren't receiving any extra money, you know, asylum seekers are on 37 pounds a week and that is it. They're not allowed anything else. There's no recourse to public funds. They're not allowed to work, their volunteering time is even limited. So to spend, you know, if you have a really heavy periods to spend around 10 pounds a month, if not more, probably more 20 pounds a month on pads it's just going to be something that just gets left to the bottom of the pile.

Reni: How did you go about in a practical way, setting up what has now become a Bloody Good Period?

Gabby: all I did, the initial thing was I put a post on facebook, not even a public post. It was literally, it's my friends and family saying I'm collecting pads for um, this asylum seeker drop in can anyone send me them.  I set up an Amazon wish list and they just came flooding in. I expected to get, I mean my, my dad gave me a tenner to buy some. Like I thought that was what it was going to be like. I thought it was going to people like just a one off like, oh yeah, that sounds like a really lovely thing, you know, but it really just took off and like I had thousands of pads in my flat by the end of the month 09:13 and like that was sort of how it just continued. It was just a facebook post and then obviously I think I started to realise it was becoming something and that it could become something that could have an impact. So that's when I started branding it and really sort of thinking about like the core message that I wanted bloody good to have.  It started up pretty rapidly, so it's been going for over a year and then this year we’ll become a charity, properly, which is quite exciting.

Reni: Do you know like the number of women that you've provided period products to since then?

Gabby: I think it's around 2000, but then we also give to men as well. So we do provide toiletries as well, so that's probably another thousand. And then there's children too, so we'll do like children's toothbrushes and stuff. I think all in all we probably give to about 2,500 people a month.

Reni narration: I was interested in knowing how the charity avoids being patronising to the people they serve.

Gabby:  we've been working on our constitution for the charity and we were sort of talking about how do we name the people who receive the products and we were like, well they're not beneficiaries because we don't get to say if they benefit, you know, in some of the drop-ins they're called clients, that’s quite nice and it's also just so much more respectful than, i don’t know like victims or something that I've, other types of things that I've heard before. Victims of period poverty. We just say the people we work with and it is very much where we listen to what they ask us.

It's a very much a case of you tell me what you want. We're going to do our best to get it. And actually the products that we've been receiving and purchasing now are almost completely different from a year ago. You know, even just with sanitary towels alone and people were sending,  well meaningly, really cheap ones because you could get more. But actually the women then started as they felt more comfortable around just started saying that actually these are a bit rubbish. Like Oh, it's getting a rash from this one and you know, taking sort of the more established brands and saying like actually, you know, these are the ones I prefer.

Reni narration: I’ve noticed a kind of paternalistic attitude towards asylum seeking women from those of us with secure migration status. I asked Gabby what she’s had to deal with in that area.

Gabby: So obviously menstrual cups are a really popular product with the community of people who donate. So obviously we…

Reni: Who’s that community?

Gabby:  A feminist community, a middle-class feminist community probably as well. And you know, that is where sort of the Menstrual Cup popularity lies. I use one myself, you know, I'm a fan of it, but it took me a long time to get used to it. And a lot of coaching from friends and family. And there's a sort of cup evangelist vibe with them that people really believe that they are the best thing you could possibly give. And so people started both sending them to me and emailing me quite aggressively saying, why haven't you just done this? Why don't you give these to the women that you work with are so much better for them they’re so much cheaper.  But I mean I just suddenly, you know, agent was trying very hard to be like, OK yeah, we'll try, we'll try and give them to them. But actually we have like one minute with the people at the drop in, you know, it's really quick and I don't think they appreciate me coming over to them and saying, listen, let's talk about this product that we think is better for you. It doesn't matter if it saves the money, if it makes them feel uncomfortable because we're expecting something of them that not all of us would even expect of ourselves. I don't think that's the right way to be. Actually our priority is making sure that they're comfortable and that they're happy with what they've got.  And the worst situation would be for somebody to take home a cup out of feeling like they should and actually either just chucking it out or really struggling with it.

Reni: There's a few things that you need access to, to use a cup I think.

Gabby: Absolutely you need boiling water

Reni: you need privacy, you need clean running water

Gabby: a lockable toilet. You also need a really good relationship with your vagina and not everybody does and a lot of the women that we work with have had sexual trauma. Some of had FGM. It's not really fair for us to expect everybody to have the same sort of easy relationship with their genitals that we might have in a privileged world.

Reni: You need to be living somewhere where you can comfortably boil your menstrual cup in the kitchen.

Gabby:  Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. I mean it’s as simple as that.

Reni:  Even people working lucrative 9 to 5 jobs are sometimes not in the position where they can be like, oh, hi everyone I'm just boiling my cup in the...

Gabby: Yeah

Reni: on the hob or putting it in the dishwasher.

Gabby: Yeah, Exactly. And that you need to be able to have...this is the bath bathroom is mine for an hour. You know, nobody's knocking on that door. Nobody's getting crossed with me you know you need to be like not afraid that if it spills you’re like, your landlord is going to come in and tell you off for being unhygienic because you've got menstrual blood on the floor, you need to be very, very comfortable in all of these situations for it to be an option and I think that it's just really got to be something that people think about before they evangelise about the best thing for what the women are like actually chats the women find out. We say, what is it you like? Oh we want the thick pads. Great. That's what you're having. We're going to get you that. And that sort of all that really matters I think.

Reni narration: Another interesting side to this is that fact that Gabby isn’t black, yet the vast majority of women she works with are.

Gabby: issues with shampoo have definitely come up and that's actually was a really quick and steep learning curve for me because as a white woman I had no clue that two in one shampoos do not work for Afro Hair.

Reni:  So like the shampoo and conditioner all in one?

Gabby: Yeah

Reni:  Right yeah

Gabby: And basically the ones that we could get off Amazon in bulk.

Reni: And this is a problem because the majority of the women who you're giving them products to are not white.

Gabby:  No they're not. Yeah. Mostly I think it's about 70 percent are not white.  You know, it didn't occur to me and I'm, you know, I'm embarrassed to admit that and I didn't even sort of asked my friends about it because I hadn't even thought about the fact that it wasn't, you know, it's actually just sort of a bit of a parallel to the sanitary towels because I just hadn't thought about it.  So one of the women in the...after over a year that we'd been giving out these like pretty average shampoos, said to me, you know, we could do with their shea butter and I was just like, oh you idiot Gabby, like they've been taking it every month because they've been made to feel as asylum seekers that they don't get to ask for the things that they deserve and what's the point in giving someone something that's either just going to get chucked or it's just going to make them feel worse about themselves. So really quickly we started to implement much more demand for afro hair products and we're still sort of, there's nothing like a push back, but it's still, I think shifting people's perceptions of...whereas you might have sent us the pads that you like and the pads that you feel familiar with and that's something that you enjoy sending actually take a bit of time to check what the best products are. I mean people do send us half empty toiletries sometimes and I find that really, really upsetting.

Reni:  Why do you think they’re doing that?

Gabby: Because people are selfish occasionally? I should say, the amount of amazing donations we have is incredible and people are brilliant and I think everybody who already is familiar with bloody good will know that they're not that person that I'm talking about, but yeah, we get half empty toiletries because people think it's a dumping ground.  I think there is still this white saviourism in many of us that thinks that whatever we give they will be grateful for and that is a really toxic way of thinking. You know, it still happens from really well, meaning people who really think the best thing for these women is this stuff that I use. The best thing for these women is this. I think it's better. I would rather they used these products and it just shows an utter lack of respect. You should not have to feel grateful for any of these things and sometimes we do get asked like, you know, what's the response from, you know, the people at your table, at your sanitary table as though it should be like, oh thank God you thought of me and it's not, and if it was ever like that, it would be embarrassing. It needs to be that you pick it up because that's what you do. That's what you do in boots. That's what you're do in Superdrug.  You don't go crying to the till in superdrug saying, thank God you thought of me and I think that is something that we really need to start really trying to crush in this activism sector that especially in sort of aid and in charity, is that you, you're lucky if you’re getting anything at all.

Reni narration: Gabby and Ra’ed might seem like exceptional individuals, but i think what they’ve done is actually very much within all of our reach. they’ve started small scale movements. Setting up something is a part of being something bigger. They’re two ordinary people who incorporate an anti racist perspective into their wider work. Proving you that don't need loads of money and it doesnt need to be your full time job.

Joining an already existing group is a good idea if setting up something from scratch isn’t an option for you. But the joining is easy. Ensuring a group is effective is another task altogether.

I spoke about this to Matthew Bolton, the deputy director of citizens UK.

Matthew: Basically I'm a campaigner and an organiser and a writer and I'm really all about trying to give people the tools so they've got some power to change the things that they feel angry about.

Reni: What’s community organising?

Matthew:  It's a social change method, it's like an approach to trying to make a difference. Barack Obama was probably like the person that made it most famous. He was an organiser before he trained to be a lawyer. But community organising has got a kind of heritage in the States and here.  It’s the method itself kind of comes from a combination of civil rights activist campaigning methods with trade union kind of migrant trade union organising. It's got a heritage which basically about how the people get together and take on decision makers and try and win the things that they want.

Reni narration: You might already be aware of the organisation’s hugely successful living wage campaign. The ask is simple: it calls on employers to pay their staff enough to live on. When the campaign started in 2001, the national minimum wage was just £3.70 an hour. Since then, the campaign has won political support, changed legislation, and seen over 2,800 businesses commit to paying their staff a living wage.

Matthew: we've never made any progress without people who have a lot to lose. Stepping up and speaking out So whether that’s the cleaner in the bank you know who challenges the chairman at the AGM and calls out the injustice of the pay or the cleaner who leaves on the desk of the secretary of state asking for a meeting. You know they're risking their jobs sometimes they’re risking even more than that in terms of their family and rent and house and everything but they do it in the context of a collective so we're not just asking one person to speak out, although the newspaper story is of the one person because that's the heroic story of change. They do that in the context of a campaign that's going to back them up if they, if they get in trouble and has got the backing of like a community alliance that will fight for that issue.

Reni narration: Matthew wrote this little book about community organising, called How to Resist.  There was one section of it that really resonated with me -- and i think a lot of us who who wonder ‘what can I do’ could do with considering it.

Reni: What is the iron rule?

Matthew: The iron rule is the hardest part of the community organising rule book.  It’s the only real thing that is supposed to be a rule because the rest of the method, you know you try and build power and make a difference, it's quite flexible when you apply  it in different ways. But the iron rule basically says never do for others what they can do for themselves. And it's a counterbalance to that kind of do gooding paternalistic approach to trying to solve problems for people, you know. 02:44  And you can see it in so much of the charity sector and the political narrative where it's like oh you know look at these poor people with their needs and their deprived communities and us experts here are going to figure out what intricate tax credit solution will try and make their situation better. Whereas the justice response to that is to say well actually if these people had more power what is it that they could do for themselves and how do you equip them to make the change. And for example the Living Wage Campaign which isn't about some expert somewhere figuring out a better approach to tax credits is about saying people who work hard deserve to earn enough to live and not only that, they can fight for that change themselves. It’s trying to stop that sense of like you know we’re the experts and we're going to do it for you and actually turn it on its head and say How do people have the power and voice to actually make the change they want.

Reni: You called it the justice approach, can you expand on that?

Matthew: I mean I suppose justice as opposed to maybe kind of mercy and charity kind of experts and beneficiaries and clients and customers you know there's so much of that language used, the power imbalance is built into it.  You know that you are the client or the customer or the service user or the beneficiary. And we're somehow the people who are going to help you. We did some work in the Calais, in the jungle camps with the refugee children and everybody wanted to donate things that they thought people would need. And sometimes they weren't even the right things because the baby clothes went out there but there were no babies. People wanting to donate things are going to help in that way but actually you know why were they there with them because they were fleeing from persecution and they desperately wanted to come and find safety here and just kind of giving them another blanket isn't actually going to solve the problem in the long time you know whereas in the case of this Safe Passage campaign it was about, basically we’re taking the government to court right now over their failure to allow people in safety through the Dublin regulation. So there was actually a justice solution for their problem it's just that the people in power weren't allowing it to be used.

Reni: That's a really interesting example because that suggests to me some sort of critical analysis happened to work out what those child refugees couldn't do for themselves rather than responding to their immediate crisis situation.

Matthew: Yeah it wasn't from like a kind of policy research point of view either it was actually from simply asking them what they wanted as opposed to what we think they ought to ,they ought to want.

Reni: And also there's a flip in responsibility there I think, because you know of course my work is very very different and I've never been a child refugee but sometimes I feel in the what can I do question It is a tell me what to do so that I can absolve myself of responsibility from the situation.

Reni narration: Quick disclaimer here -- I think it’s about absolving responsibility AND taking on responsibility.  Asking me is the way to show sympathy, but also a way to deflect your own power to change things.

Matthew: Right. What they want to do and why do they want to do it?  Where’s it coming from? Why are they asking that question? It should really be the beginning of what they then do rather than you telling... I guess that's true yeah, who are you to tell loads of people what they ought to do.  It’s a strange...So what do you say when they ask?

Reni: I say, I always say I don't want to be prescriptive. I don't know you and your life. I don't know where you hold influence. I don't know your resources I don't know your skills. I can't tell you what to do. It's an awkward one I think. But I think if we care enough and we start doing the work around it then we can all feel empowered to do something.

Matthew:  yeah and I think you’re right about the individualisation of it.  It's like what can they...If they're not part of something which is trying to make a difference on the things they care about they should probably join it.  Individuals on their own can't make that much difference. I mean if they end up with a big platform and a lot of people kind of following them and listening to what they say they can but for most people the ability to make change comes from the fact that you're part of some collective, you’ve joined an organisation and I think you're right that there is a growing sense of this kind of individualisation and suspicion of organisations, Either that they are not effective or their motives or something but yeah I mean basically you need to join something.

Reni narration: Join something. Start something. What it might be, I don’t. But I’m drawn, again, to this quote that I mentioned at the beginning of this episode.

“If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time.

But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

An interesting fact: This quote from the Queensland Aboriginal activists group is often attributed to the activist Lilla Watson. But she’s since said that she’s uncomfortable with the way it’s been individualised. It wasn’t just her that came up with this quote. It was a collective process.

I can’t think of a better reason to keep working together.

This is the final episode of About Race with Reni Eddo-Lodge. Thank you for all your listens, downloads, and social media conversation. the support has been incredible.

If a Series two comes to be, the first place you’ll hear about it will be on my social media pages. You can find me on twitter @renireni, my instagram is @renieddolodge, and my website is

You can find full transcripts of every episode, as well as information on all of the books we’ve discussed on

Oh, and the book that I wrote, the one that I’ve mentioning throughout this series, is Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. You can find it in all good bookshops.

Special thanks to those who’ve made the podcast series what it is: Renay Richardson, Rez Marino, Kevin Morosky, Matsidiso and Isis Thompson.

Thank you all for listening.