I’d seen this book all over Bookstagram and a few of my friends had also read and recommended it to me so it was definitely on my “to buy next” list. I was, therefore, delighted when my boyfriend bought me Natives for Christmas! He knew I wanted to read more about the history of race in the UK so he asked a few friends about what they would suggest and this was their first choice.
The best thing about Natives, in my opinion, is how Akala beautifully mixes a traditional memoir with various essays on political and social history in the UK. As the reader you are guided back and forth between anecdotes and discussions on major historical events and social studies. All of this is done seamlessly and makes it so much more memorable and easy to discuss with others.
Akala tackles subjects such as black on black crime and systemic racism within education, amongst many others. His patient tone and expert use of research combined with his own experiences as a POC helps you unpack these topics. Before reading you probably knew that the term “black on black crime” was itself perpetuating racism, but you probably couldn’t eloquently explain why. After reading Natives you know that statistically the majority of violent crime in the UK is white on white, but because we are conditioned to see the world through a lens that filters out whiteness as a race, white on white violence never becomes about race. We should not need these things explained to us, but nevertheless Akala painstakingly lays out all of the information for us so that the facts are inescapable.
Having heard Akala speak publicly it is clear to see that he is not only passionate about this subject, but that he also knows it inside out. When confronted with intentionally antagonising questions, *cough cough* Piers Morgan, Akala is gracious, but powerful, he knows what he is talking about and breaks it down so that it is impossible to not understand, it then just becomes a case of if the listener is open minded or not. All of this knowledge and passion is clearly evident in Akala’s writing and consequently I have now converted back to note taking whilst reading non-fiction books, as there is so much to learn from this book I needed to process it properly.
Conclusion: This book is an exceptional tool for educating yourself on the topic of race and its history within the UK and I am incredibly grateful for it, we shouldn’t need it, but unfortunately we do. We shouldn’t need POC to still be educating us on why and how we live in a systemically racist country, but after the release of the UK Government’s Race Report last week it’s clear that we are still woefully denying our contribution to the continued prejudices in our own country and communities. Therefore, I would urge you to pick up this book and absorb it. There are lots of great references to historical events, ones that your parents will remember, making it easier to chat to then about race, and plenty of statistical evidence that our country does not favour those that are not white, stats you can bring up next time someone says they don’t think white privileged exists. Please read.
What books have opened your eyes to the issue of racism? I’d love to hear your recommendations!