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''Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging'' is a 2018 book by the journalist
Afua Hirsch Afua Hirsch (born 1981) is a Norwegian-born British writer, broadcaster and former barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation. Th ...

Afua Hirsch
. The book is part-memoir and discusses black history, culture and politics in the context of Britain, Senegal and Ghana. It received mixed critical reception.


Synopsis

Hirsch grew up in
Wimbledon, London Wimbledon is a district and town of southwest London, England, southwest of the centre of London at Charing Cross; it is the main commercial centre of the London Borough of Merton. Wimbledon had a population of 68,187 in 2011 which includes t ...
with a white English father and Ghanaian mother who had emigrated to Britain. She describes them as working hard to provide her with a middle-class upbringing. She was privately educated. Her classmates and the characters she saw in fiction were predominantly white. Hirsch writes that though people around her claimed to not notice race, she was treated differently because of her race, such as with security guards at shops giving her more scrutiny, and taught that "being black is bad". Hirsch attended the
University of Oxford The University of Oxford is a collegiate university, collegiate research university in Oxford, England. There is evidence of teaching as early as 1096, making it the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the List of oldest universit ...
, where she felt alien because of her race. As a young adult, she worked in Senegal. She became a
barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer A lawyer or attorney is a person who practices law, as an advocate, attorney at law, barrister A barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdiction (area), jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialis ...

barrister
and then a journalist. Hirsch talks about the
Black Lives Matter Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a decentralized political Politics (from , ) is the set of activities that are associated with Decision-making, making decisions in Social group, groups, or other forms of Power (social and political), power ...

Black Lives Matter
movement and criticizes the frequency with which black men are killed by law enforcement. Hirsch objects to the United Kingdom policy of "
stop and search The powers of the police The police are a Law enforcement organization, constituted body of Law enforcement officer, persons empowered by a State (polity), state, with the aim to law enforcement, enforce the law, to ensure the safety, health ...
", finding it overly harassing to black men. She recounts incidents from her journalism career relating to race, such as meeting with far-right
English Defence League The English Defence League (EDL) is a Far-right politics, far-right, Islamophobic organisation in the United Kingdom. A social movement and Advocacy group, pressure group that employs street demonstrations as its main tactic, the EDL presents ...
members and attending a club in which white men watched as their white partners had sex with black men. The book also describes the
history of slavery in Britain Slavery in Great Britain existed prior to the Roman Britain, Roman occupation and until the 12th century, when chattel slavery disappeared, at least for a time, following the Norman conquest of England, Norman Conquest. Former indigenous slaves m ...
and its colonisation of Ghana.


Reception

According to ''
The Bookseller ''The Bookseller'' is a United Kingdom, British magazine reporting news on the publishing industry. Philip Jones is editor-in-chief of the weekly print edition of the magazine and the website. The magazine is home to the Bookseller/Diagram Prize ...
'', the book had sold 36,000 copies by October 2020. Martina Evans in ''
The Irish Times ''The Irish Times'' is an Irish daily broadsheet newspaper and online digital publication. It launched on 29 March 1859. The editor is Paul O'Neill. The deputy editor is Deirdre Veldon. It is published every day except Sundays. Though formed as ...
'' wrote that the book "teems with fascinating and uplifting as well as tragic stories". Evans praised its "dense, eye-opening" chapter on British and Ghanaian history and "writing that really shines" in its description of both countries.
Bernardine Evaristo Bernardine Anne Mobolaji Evaristo, (born 28 May 1959), is a British author and academic. Her eighth book, the novel, ''Girl, Woman, Other ''Girl, Woman, Other'' is the eighth novel written by Bernardine Evaristo, published in 2019 by Hamish Ha ...
in ''
The Times Literary Supplement ''The Times Literary Supplement'' (''TLS'') is a weekly literary review published in London by News UK News Corp UK & Ireland Limited (trading as News UK, formerly News International and NI Group), is a British newspaper publisher, and a ...
'' wrote that ''Brit(ish)'' is "a free-flowing book of ideas, experiences and analysis that reach far beyond the personal. The past and present are in conversation with each other as Hirsch interrogates the roots of racism and dismantles myths." Colin Grant's review in ''
The Guardian ''The Guardian'' is a British daily newspaper. It was founded in 1821 as ''The Manchester Guardian'', and changed its name in 1959. Along with its sister papers ''The Observer ''The Observer'' is a British newspaper published on Sun ...

The Guardian
'' concluded: "The power of her writing matches that of other important black writers".
Nikesh Shukla Nikesh Shukla (born 8 July 1980) is a British people, British author and screenwriter. His writing focuses on race, racism, identity, and immigration. He is the editor of the 2016 collection of essays ''The Good Immigrant'', which features contr ...
in ''
The Observer ''The Observer'' is a British newspaper published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum A political spectrum is a system to characterize and classify different in relation to one another. These positions sit upon one ...

The Observer
'' praised the book as "warm, informative and occasionally heart-wrenching". Shukla believed it was "a countrywide conversation-starter" and "a deeply personal look at who she always knew she was, but didn’t feel ready to say yet".
David Goodhart David Goodhart (born 12 September 1956) is a British journalist, commentator and author. He is the founder and a former editor "Quarters of the news editor", one of a group of four photos in the 1900 The Seattle Daily Times—Editorial Depar ...
in the ''
London Evening Standard The ''Evening Standard'', formerly ''The Standard'' (1827–1904), also known as the ''London Evening Standard'', is a local free daily newspaper Free newspapers are distributed Gratis versus libre, free of charge, often in central place ...
'' wrote that there was an "interesting book struggling to get out" but argued that "Hirsch's fluid definition of racism encourages victim status among minorities". Goodhart criticized a near-lack of "acknowledgement of progress" and that Hirsch "offers no answers except that white people need to check their privilege more", but found that there is "plenty to agree with in her critique of the evasions and embarrassments over race in Britain".
Kwasi Kwarteng Kwasi Alfred Addo Kwarteng (born 26 May 1975) is a British Conservative Party Conservative Party may refer to: Europe Current *Croatian Conservative Party, *Conservative Party (Czech Republic) *Conservative People's Party (Denmark) *Conservat ...

Kwasi Kwarteng
in ''
The Sunday Times ''The Sunday Times'' is a British newspaper whose circulation makes it the largest in the quality press Quality press is a category of British newspapers in national circulation distinguished by their seriousness. The category used to be call ...
'' summarized that "despite the persuasive arguments, Hirsch overplays the idea that Britain is a racist, dystopian nightmare."


References

{{reflist 2018 non-fiction books British memoirs Non-fiction books about racism Racism in the United Kingdom