Book review: Between the world and me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

It is not often that you read books that make you want to read it again the moment you finish it. But this was one such a book.

Addressed to his 15-year old son, Coates talks about what has made him the man he is. Growing up as a black boy, having to survive on the streets and at school, being told he should be twice as good as anybody else, being loved by parents who feared for his well-being. It is not a world I know. I am not American. But I am brought up with the ideas Coates talks about, with the idea of whiteness.

I cannot claim I fully understand every part of it. But I do share some of the experiences he write about. About visiting Paris, feeling free for the first time. Being amazed that there is a world out there that is so completely different, almost unrelated to him. Where he is an outsider as well, but where he doesn’t have to fear for his life. Even though he does, because that is what ideology has done to him.

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The road ahead is long

On why teaching about one’s role in the history of slavery and colonialism is necessary. And only the first step.

We have such a long way to go, still.
And I’m not even talking about overcoming divisions, ending structural racism, loving one’s neighbour.
Simply acknowledging the past is hard enough.
While in #Charlottesville this weekend racial hate, gun-carrying militias and white supremacy was openly allowed, the Dutch parties are still meeting to try and form a government. A leaked document now says they at least agree about something… that a new proposal regarding the way the Dutch role in slavery and the colonial is taught at schools, is NOT necessary. (Instead, they decided to teach about the national anthem, …) (Source: article 16/08/17 on NOS.nl) Whereas in the past sixty years, the narrative about the Dutch colonial past has not truly changed, and is still based on the oppressor’s perspective. (See this master thesis on this topic, in Dutch, from 2012.) Continue reading “The road ahead is long”

They and Us – Embracing the Paradox

What do Boris Gorys, Giorgio Agamben and Emmanuel Levinas have to say about how we are dealing with the threat of the Other – the immigrant, the religious, the woman? They warn for an oversimplification that leads to populism, and how the best approach involves dealing with paradox.

Many of the contemporary political developments are based on a phenomenon that in continental philosophy is called ‘the problem of the Other‘. Emmanuel Levinas described this somewhat as follows: There is something outside of my own world, something which appears to me and which I can no longer ignore, I have to do something with it. It is other, it is not-I.  Continue reading “They and Us – Embracing the Paradox”

Looking back and forward… at my time in the US

I have extremely mixed feelings about my time in the US. Even though I spent some weeks in China shortly before going to the US, I had no idea what kind of shock I would encounter. A shock culturally, physically and emotionally. 

The United States of America, that country that I thought was so like Europe. That I thought to be the epicenter of everything Western. With the change in powers underway at the moment, the double feelings all come back in full force.
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