“People are not born white, they become white.” This realisation dawned on the former French footballer, World Cup winner and anti-racism activist Lilian Thuram while he was engaged in talks with the white French organisers of a proposed exhibition on racism. As he recounts in the introduction to his new book, White Thinking, Thuram told those around the table that, instead of focusing on the victims of racism, the exhibition “should instead focus on those who profit from this discrimination, often unconsciously and unintentionally”.
He was referring, of course, to white people. However, the idea that an exhibition on racism should focus on the problematic nature of whiteness was almost incomprehensible to them.
It was this failed dialogue around the nature of racism that prompted Thuram to write White Thinking, of which I am one of the English translators, alongside Aedín Ní Loingsigh and Cristina Johnston.
Overturning white thinking
Thuram’s first book, My Black Stars: From Lucy to Barack Obama, published in 2010, sought to challenge the white version of history and culture that he had learned in school in France by telling some of the black stories denied him in his childhood.
Now, in White Thinking, he has come to the realisation that this white story and the white thinking that underpins it need to be overturned.
The book was first published…