Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race

It wasn’t until my second year of university that I started to think about black British history.

I guess August was for non-fiction, or that This Lovely City just put me in the mindset to learn more about black British history. Because of course, of course – in some way you know that the islands aren’t an utopia for black and brown people, but how much of black history is focused on the USA (effectively making it possible for Europeans to dodge any responsibility?)? Turns out – when it comes to my knowledge – a lot.

Don’t write this title off as a history book now (why would you write off any book because it has history, you don’t love history?), because as anything involving people; history is just one part of it. As Eddo-Lodge explains it probably better than I do: intersectionality is a thing, and you can’t discuss a human issue without looking at the place where it intersects.

So, this book is about history, about feminism, about the media and white privilege. It’s about health and education, and every other part of human life. In clearly cut chapters, in clear language, Eddo-Lodge doesn’t only answer the title’s question, but also explains to you why you should take responsibility regarding it.

And just like that, I’ve got my first book for my students to read (from).

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Bloomsbury 2017

Invisible Women

Most of recorded human history is one big data gap.

Good gravy, just when you thought you already knew, things turn out to be so much worse. Next to a sexist gap in pay, safety and health there is a huge one in the thing that drives pretty  much all of society: data.

Why is the default ‘he’? Why is there still a riddle about a doctor whose husband died, and why do too many people involved with design viewing women as ‘men with boobs’? Well, because societies worldwide have made it so, and not enough people in powerful positions protest it. And it turns out to be lethal for women.

Invisible Women isn’t particularly uplifting material: there’s just so many numbers and anecdotes on things that went wrong and are going wrong and men not giving a damn about it. How do we rally for change when the entire history of humanity is against us?

Because in some cases and in some countries things have changed and are changing. And you can never change something you don’t know anything about. And because it might save your life to know.

Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, Caroline Criado Perez, Abrams Press 2019


129 min.

Great fun, a film about child abuse in the catholic church! And it’s based on true facts, yay! It’s a crude introduction to a subject one doesn’t enjoy thinking about, which was precisely the problem in this real life case: too many people shoving it under the carpet.

film poster spotlightEven the Boston Globe, the newspaper that unearths the story and publishes it, isn’t free from blame. The catholic church is a powerful monolith, Boston is a catholic filled city, churches are everywhere. To stick to the theme: Goliath was easily found, but was David even going to show up?

Spotlight isn’t a quick, bright film, it shows how (research) journalism and a newspaper work(/used to work) and how much time such a thing takes. As a retired journalist it was bittersweet to watch, for those that don’t have that connection it might be a look behind the curtains of what so many people already view as history.

I watched it in two parts, you could even watch it in four if your life is so serialised. Either way, it’s a story worth remembering or discovering. Both for the subject and the process.

Spotlight, Anonymous Content 2015

Bad Blood

November 17, 2006

I’m fond of the sentence ‘truth is stranger than fiction’, but this time the truth is so recognisable that the fictional version of it would have been waved away for being too boring. Ignorant people sticking to ignorance because it can possibly make them money? Sounds familiar.

This time there’s health involved though, which makes the schadenfreude slightly less because you know people might suffer more than a hurt ego and an empty savings account. Main villain is a young woman that decides she wants to be the next Steve Jobs, and as soon as possible. This leads to material that never works, a very tense work atmosphere and so much lies and threats towards both supporters and criticisers that you wonder if anyone involved has energy for daily life left.

So while you can laugh about all the dumb rich people that keep throwing more money at this company which is basically just a collection of shams, you’re confronted with the reality that this isn’t new. That companies work like this, that people out there will work harder for fame then for bettering society.

Yes, it’s a wild ride, but not an uplifting one. Just another argument for knowing that it’s truth: no clear cut happy ending in which everyone deserving of it get their comeuppance.

Bad Blood, John Carreyrou, Borzoi


102 min.

After finishing this, I don’t know if I should go change all my passwords, or share them with loved ones. Searching is a search through your digital and online presence, and it shows first of all how easy it is to get to everything you share and secondly all the traces Searching film posteryou leave behind.

The search mentioned is by a father for his teenage daughter, and it’s completely shown through iMessage, FaceTime, live news items etc. At first it feels a bit gimmicky, does one really use FaceTime that often, but quickly it becomes uncomfortably intimate. Not just the father scrolling through his daughter’s videos and texts, but also the endless surge of stimulants; hashtags, texts, chats, videos, messages. Give everyone involved time to think, please.

The movie threw me a few times, using red herrings that only add to the feeling of discomfort. As said above: I don’t want to experience all this, but I don’t know how to prevent it either. Except for some decisions to make, but that would spoil the clue.

Searching, Sony Pictures 2018

Commandant Konijn

De kogel van een MI6 maakt geen grote gaten: 5.56 millimeter in doorsnee, minder dan een pink, maar eenmaal binnen in je lijf verandert hij in een dodelijk klein monster dat door je ingewanden ploegt.

Alles went, ook oorlog. Van alles kan verslavend worden, ook oorlog. Auteur en journalist Michel Maas maakte verschillende mee, en schreef daarover.

Maas zit vooral op de Balkan, maar volgt oorlog, potentiële oorlog, ook naar Thailand. Het dagelijks leven is de juiste bron vinden om op de juiste plek te komen: in het belegerde dorp, naast het mijnenveld, bij de begrafenis van een kind. De journalisten en fotografen worden ook voor van alles uitgenodigd door de lokale bevolking; als zij er zijn geweest, als er over geschreven wordt, dan zal iets veranderen. Als de wereld het nu maar weet, ziet, hoort, dan moet de oorlog snel voorbij zijn.

Wij weten wel beter. Maas schrijft het allemaal op, gebruikt dit ook als een excuus om achter te blijven, niet terug te hoeven naar vrouw en kinderen. Welk verschil het heeft gemaakt? Op het moment suprême  beneemt de NAVO hem zijn high en doel. Hoe te functioneren zonder oorlog?

Dit is een boek voor de (toekomstige) journalist, maar zeker ook voor ieder die meer moet leren over de Balkanoorlog(en) en hoe ongeluk in kolommen wordt verpakt.

Commandant Konijn, Michel Maas, De Bezige Bij 2017

New Grub Street

Toen de Milvains aanschoven voor het ontbijt sloeg de klok van de parochiekerk van Wattleborough acht uur.

Uit 1891 en nog verdomd relevant wat betreft ideeën over literatuur, auteurs, media en helaas ook vrouwen(rechten).

De lezer volgt verschillende auteurs en aspirant-auteurs. De ene lijdt voor de kunsten, de ander gaat waar de uitgeverij vertelt hem te gaan, de derde ziet heel het schrijven en uitgeven als een puzzel dat te overwinnen is met de juiste mensen en juiste onderwerpen kennen. Geld is ook een vast onderdeel van hun denken, altijd weer bezig voor de volgende ponden.

Aan het einde van de negentiende eeuw waren er ook al mensen die juist wel en juist niet met auteurs en schrijfvolk gezien wilden worden. Was het al een raar beroep zonder zekerheid, en moest je je nooit verlagen tot het gewone volk, behalve als je gelezen wilde worden. Vrouwen zijn er als assistenten en lezers, al is er wel een blaadje dat ook wel ‘stukjes’ van ‘meisjes’ kan plaatsen. Maar wacht, misschien zijn al die vrouwen wel een gat in de markt!

Het is komedie met een zuurtje, want hoe kan er nu na meer dan een eeuw nog zo weinig veranderd zijn. Zelfs de mannen trappen nog steeds in dezelfde fouten, en die hadden in 1891 tenminste nog de ruimte om zichzelf te verbeteren.

New Grub Street, George Gissing, Prometheus 2015

The Imperfectionists

Lloyd shoves off the bedcovers and hurries to the front door in white underwear and black socks.

Oh boy, a novel involving journalists, editors and media. At least the title vouches for a neutral, not-myth-making point of view?

It definitely does. There (still) seems to be such a charm attached to the media making branch, while at the same time having entire populations look down on it. The Imperfectionists need neither, cocking up and showing human weaknesses all too often themselves.

The story is about the going-ons of an English-language newspaper in Rome. Editors, correspondents, even a loyal reader — all get a chance to share their point of view.  Over fifty years there’s not only the societal changes, but also ones in the branch that show that decades of years at the same company isn’t a good idea for many people.
It makes things (all too) recognisable, funny, sad, and the reader possibly left with a craving for a visit to Italy.

It’s a light, quick read that might make you think differently about media and journalists, but definitely will make you feel less like a stubborn fool. There’s this crowd, after all.

The Imperfectionists, Tom Rachman, The Dial Press 2010

Jam on the Vine

Ivoe liked to carry on about all she could do.

Female history, black history and history of the (newspaper) media, and all that coming from a black female author? It’s like a filled out bingo card of potential amazingness.

I’ve mentioned before how I try to read more of the unfamiliar point of view, and this book makes me glad I did. You learn so much, but most of all that the white (male) author doesn’t have a monopoly on a good story on any subject.

Ivoe  is a nineteenth century born black woman who wants more than the cotton fields or house work. She’s got the brain to back it up, but brain isn’t enough to open doors with. Even with the necessary education, she can’t land the so much desired job of journalist. Instead of giving up, she starts her own newspaper.

What makes this story is how every step is harder (than the white male’s one) than necessary. This can’t be used by black people, that can’t be done for black people, and definitely don’t get involved with the law, if you don’t want to lose at least eight years of your life. It’s so bizarre how all of this happened not all too long ago, but even more how so many of these ideas are still alive and active. Jam on the Vine is a rousing, educating story that probably will never get the attention is deserves. Because of the author, because of the subject. The only huge difference between now and then is that there’s no segregated public transport.

Jam on the Vine, Lashonda Katrice Barnett, Grove Press 2015

Murdoch’s World

The man at the center of the maelstrom sat across the parents of a dead girl, his head cradled in his hands.

Yet again, truth is stranger, more confusing, and more terrifying than fiction.

Rupert Murdoch may not be a name someone unrelated to the world of media can recognise. Fox News, News of the World (hacking scandal), Wall Street Journal may be mainstream names enough to give an inkling about to where the man’s tentacles reach. This book tells about News Corp, but mostly the man in charge: Rupert Murdoch.

It is impressive, how he took over the (media) world, buying and influencing and pushing in any way he wanted to and could. Politicians, law and other authorities have experienced what working with and against him could result in, and thousands of people can thank him for a job.

But (isn’t there always a but): Murdoch thinks he’s above and beyond the law. Uses his power and channels to affect societies, and that’s when a very dystopian look of things shows. The one media that is a fortress, acting like it has The Truth and attacking those that are not with them.

It’s a detective times horror story times family drama, which left me very curious about what will happen when this empire falls. And not just because of the deserved reckoning for a lot of people involved.

Murdoch’s World: The last of the old media empires, David Folkenflik, PublicAffairs 2013