The Coates piece, written by Guss Valk, was among others in a series of reviews on books on race and racism in the U.S. Between The World and Me is a poignant compilation of anecdotes and heartfelt words from Coates to his 14-year-old son about race and how to navigate through American society in a Black male body.
Sure, the book has received some controversy for Coates’ views and transparency, but the way the NRC decided to illustrate their take on the work was quite telling of race relations in not only the Netherlands, but also the harmful disconnect in telling and understanding the story of racism in America.
Valk explained that he had no knowledge of the headlines or images used by editors, and was “sorry to learn that people had been offended.”
Michel Krielaars, editor of the book supplement for NRC, said the piece was removed from online so that Non-Dutch speakers would not be offended when they saw the headline on Twitter, but the article and illustrations still remain on the site’s online reader.
In emails, Krielaars addressed the headline’s origin with The Washington Post:
“The article by our Washington correspondent Guus Valk in the weekly Book Supplement of NRC Handelsblad was a review of three books about race relations in the United States: Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, and Mat Johnson’s Loving Day. It dealt with the persistence of racism and the continuing inequality in the US. The tone of the article is pessimistic, and the illustrations, as well as the headline, were meant to reflect that. There is no racist remark to be read in the review, because that is not our cup of tea.”
The headline is a [fictional] quote made by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas [in The Sellout]. Mr. Valk describes this sequence in his review because it says a lot about the race discussion in the US.
The drawings are a literal illustrations of ‘stereotype’ and ‘white’ aggression, the above mentioned books are dealing with. They are ugly, unkind, and offensive – and they are meant to be, because they cover the content of the reviewed books. Of course, they were not intended to offend. Actually, it is rather stupid to think so.
The images associated with Blackness are unmatched in comparison to those supposed to depict White Americans in a negative way. In the illustrations, the Black American is in complete blackface holding the U.S. flag, while the White figure in the picture is holding a gun.
On the topic of this depiction, Krielaars told The Washington Post:
“Yes, it was a conscious decision to depict the situation with the use of stereotypical blackface portraits. Like I said: the illustrations are offensive, because the racial situation in the US, as described in the reviewed books, is offensive. Note that ‘whiteness’ in these illustrations is depicted as someone with a gun. I wouldn’t call it irony: it’s cynicism. And it was meant to be cynical.”
Krielaars insists the NRC did not intend to offend any readers, but his statements seem to contradict. When taking in the true meaning of images and terms with such a deep-seated pain for Black people, one cannot ignore the wrong in the editorial decision made to include them.
Holland has a history of race issues and also a lack of Black representation. Krielaars admitted there are no Black employees at the NRC.
In addition to the majority of the country being White, the racist representation is still part of the culture, as many people fight to keep the right to dress in blackface as Zwarte Pete (Black Pete) for a national holiday every year – despite attempts from anti-racism organizations to bring the practice to an end.
Coates’ message was lost and trimmed down to the dehumanizing images and language used to analyze the story he told. When the editors decided to tell the story this way, perhaps they thought it was an accurate portrayal of the bind of Black people in America and a way to show their Dutch readers how horrible our race relations are. Despite the direction of their efforts, it was unfortunate to, yet again, witness insensitivity from miles away and to see Black bodies falsely portrayed.
SOURCES: The Washington Post | PHOTO CREDIT : Getty | VIDEO SOURCE: NDN
Photographic Proof Not Much Has Changed In Ferguson Since Michael Brown's Death
1. 2014: Michael Brown's lifeless body was left in the streets of Ferguson for more than four hours after he was killed by Officer Darren Wilson on August 9.Source:Getty 1 of 14
2. 2015: Tyrone Harris, 18, was shot in Ferguson Sunday night by police for allegedly attacking them with a firearm. He remains in critical condition and is facing four charges of first-degree assault on law enforcement, five counts of armed criminal action, and one count of discharging a firearm at a motor vehicle.Source:Getty 2 of 14
3. 2014: Unrest in Ferguson plagued the city after police officers clashed with protesters.Source:Getty 3 of 14
4. 2015: Police stand to maintain the crowd after shots rang out on the anniversary of Mike Brown's death.Source:Getty 4 of 14
5. 2014: An unarmed protester was approached by police during protests in Ferguson. The image became one of the most memorable of the city's uprising.Source:Getty 5 of 14
6. 2015: A woman stands before police with her hands up in the air.Source:Getty 6 of 14
7. 2014: After the shooting of Mike Brown and the death of Eric Garner, unrest continued to rise in Ferguson. After it was determined that Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the fatal shooting of the teen, protesters took to the streets.Source:Getty 7 of 14
8. 2015: Since the death of Brown, over 100 men, women, and children of color have been killed by police. Worldwide protests have continued advocating for better training for police officers.Source:Getty 8 of 14
9. 2014: A woman hit with pepper spray is doused with milk. Ferguson police issued curfews for protesters after incidents of arson and looting occurred during peaceful protests in the city.Source:Getty 9 of 14
10. 2015: A year later, protesters say they too were hit with tear gas while protesting in the streets.Source:Getty 10 of 14
11. 2014: The National Guard was called into Ferguson to "control" protests.Source:Getty 11 of 14
12. 2015: A teen is caught in the crossfire during a shooting that took place in Ferguson on the anniversary of Mike Brown's death.Source:Getty 12 of 14
13. 2014: Army tanks filled the streets of Ferguson after protests turned violent in the city.Source:Getty 13 of 14
14. 2015: St. Louis police with army gear arrive in Ferguson Sunday night.Source:Getty 14 of 14
Hurtful Headline: Dutch Newspaper Uses N-Word In Ta-Nehisi Coates Book Review was originally published on newsone.com