The Speakeasier with Emma Dabiri: When was race & ethnicity invented?

This week on The Speakeasier we’re joined by author, academic and broadcaster, Emma Dabiri. Through years of research and interrogation of narratives around race and class, Emma has positioned herself as an essential point of reference on the subject, which is why we were so excited to bring her into our conversation.

In the episode, Emma gives us possibly one of the most condensed but fascinating history lessons we’ve ever had. Drawing on ideas from her debut book ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ (2019) and her most recent release ‘What White People Can Do Next’ (2021), her incredible research delves into our history and how we look at racism. Rather than creating constructive conversations, she believes a lot of the narrative around race actually adds to division. For example, we’re reminded that ‘race’ itself is merely a fictional construct, invented in 1661 through a set of slave laws in colonial Barbados. Understanding where this construct originates helps us to visualise a world without it.

In fact, Emma says there is no truth in racial categories, and that in order to really change we need to unpack the idea of 'whiteness'. She suggests that instead of focusing on anti-racism as an action, the spotlight should be placed on liberation.

Towards the end of the episode, we ask Emma what changes she would like to see in order for us to create liberation, closing a fascinating conversation which is sure to spark many, many more.

Pick up a copy of Emma's new book now, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


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