So the whispers and the dry-runs – remember Project Big Picture? – have turned into reports in the nationals. These of course don’t necessarily mean that a European Super League will happen but the bells are ringing pretty loudly.
Folks will tell us on the one hand that it’s just the Free Market expressing itself. Maybe those same people, when we call out and indeed coolly itemise the contemptible greed, irresponsibility and crass unawareness at the heart of this, will then tell us to keep politics out of sport. That’s if they can actually formulate a sentence. ‘Keep politics out of sport’.
We’re in a dark hole and it figures that some ‘businessmen’ might try to sell us shiny things to see… from an aspirational distance.
From our puny seat on our puny island it’s tempting to assume that this is simply entrepreneurism in (and for) the time of Johnson. But it’s a Europe-wide, nay world-wide travesty. It’s depressing to consider that it’s not just a reflection of us. Some twat in Barcelona, Milan, Dubai, or the States is ‘right behind this’, too – you betcha, ‘Xander/Gino/Phil/Philippe.
For Brit-based ‘ordinary supporters’ of Man Utd/City/Liverpool/Chelsea/Tottenham/whoever, what other way is there to process this than by imagining someone on the soullessly-brilliant spectrum realising a Performance Art-level symbol for the Era of the Mendacious Clown and his Trough-snorters? A magnificent, insulting, neon-clad testament to… what? Absolutist grasping? It’s so far beyond the perimeters of our common decencies that it fits snugly next to the cronyism scene: like some poisonous twin in the pram.
This is purely business. No respect, no regard, no love of the thing. Just selling of the thing. C’mon. Forget those who love the thing, just sell the fucking thing BIG, NOWWW!! Boris is still at 43 per cent in the polls. That bloke just took over the BBC. There’s never been a better time!! There are no implications, there’s only the deal. Set up the zoom and let’s get it done!
Let’s hope the fascistic dumbos come unstuck early doors – maybe around the notion that players participating will automatically be barred from international duty. Even the dumbest Prem Legend might register the significance of that. It feels pleasingly terminal as a hypothesis but who is clear just yet about who holds which levers? Not me.
I have no expectation of a good outcome – certainly not from within the elite ranks. Unless Rashford breaks through the inevitable Super Club embargo, I suppose(?) Elsewhere we can only fear the kind of diabolical heartlessness that characterises much of Boardroomland. We’re in a hole, alright.
We get past the further tributes to a relatively unpopular, persistently cantankerous racist, and the anti-racist kneel, then it’s time to play. Wembley is doing that unconvincing, metallic echo-thing as Mike Dean blows. (Seen/heard that a lot lately).
I personally pinged the mute button for most of the conurbation that was/is the typical TV preamble these days and am considering, early doors, the dispatch of Keown to some distant, high-walled suburb. However I did – like the (ahem) loquacious former Arsenal stopper – note the absence of Abraham from the Chelsea squad. You’ve got to believe that Tammy’s an unlucky lad to be behind Werner, on current form and to appear such an outlier from the preferred system to the manager, Tuchel. Mind you Foden’s omission from the City starting line-up might be equally worthy of comment – and more central to events, you suspect.
The other guy drawing chat lately – as well as Abraham, and Keown – has been Sterling. Keown has a predictable nibble, insensitive to the already malicious barrage of spittletastic abuse building on The Lads (our lads) Whatsapp group-chat: for Keown, that is, not Sterling. He notes the City winger’s ‘unconvincing form’.
Chilwell should score. Left foot volley; not too demanding; no crowd baying or defender in his eyeline. Tame – as is the game, on the 20 minute-mark. (Oops. Sounds like a Keownism – there being no 20 minute mark). Somehow this one does feel like a training game… in the Age of the Training Game. City’s famed carousel utterly absent, Chelsea better but quietly unproductive. The game stutters: the crowd silenced.
Fifty-odd minutes. Chelsea deservedly go ahead as Werner breaks clear down the left and finds Ziyech clear nine yards out. City keeper Steffen may have misread his angles but the Chelsea striker was strangely unmolested by a detached defence.
Indeed this relative estrangement seemed characteristic of Guardiola’s men. There were eight changes and whilst on many occasions the dazzling light blues have blown into ridicule our natural inclinations to mither at ‘reckless rotation’, here, at Wembley, City looked like blokes from all over, gathered for a trial. Only briefly in the second period did they gel. Foden had come on for the injured de Bruyne and Gundogan also joined. But even then possession was unevenly retained and lacked the silky nature of the norm. The ludicrous over-hype of the All Four Trophies notion fell, rather weakly, in short.
So – and I scoot forward here briskly, because not that much happened – the battle of the no centre-forwards turned out neither dramatic nor especially beautiful. Chelsea scuttled with some purpose without exciting the box; City had a bad day at the training pitch. The crowd seemed weirdly quiet.
Was it true that Tuchel did a number on The Maestro, or did Guardiola disappear up his own bottie again again? And is the Big Game equivalent of a Proper Cup Game now more likely to be a passionless, relatively contactless short-passing fest that merely (predictably) disappoints in a different way? Are tremendously skilled players like Sterling and Foden and De Bruyne just a little lacking in personality, in character – and so when that entirely human misfire occurs, do they have whatever it takes to burst through? Is everything a system, these days?
I speak as one who could barely respect the Guardiola achievement more. David Silva and De Bruyne and now (please god) Foden have brought the playing of the game of football in these islands to a genuinely exalted state. One that makes manifest the dream that Clough may have had about skill (and therefore passing) being everything. The fluent City are more magical than almost anything we’ve seen: they play at a higher standard. And yet maybe the urgency of a cup competition – the bursting, the charge, the sudden death-ness – can stymie their flow? For all its beauty, the Guardiola Method is about gaming the percentages, through endless recycling and probing. It’s about winning in time more than grabbing a winner NOW.
Chelsea approximate City in some respects. Short passes, good pace, invention. They are building some consistency, too. Tonight they were just a touch better: crucially they denied their opposition midfield phase after phase of possession. Partly by closing down effectively: partly by using the ball well themselves. Oh – and they scored.
Tuchel was bold enough to believe that he didn’t need to change and ‘go direct’. (Of course they might have won 6-0 if Abrahams had played… but this is specious). Without being inspired, his team held their patterns and took their chance. City didn’t. The irresistible, dreamlike groove they’ve been rocking for months just wasn’t there. My guess is that tonight those eight changes mattered.
Afua Hirsch: ‘Brit(ish). On Race, Identity and Belonging’.
Another review of sorts. Because I have time. Because I enjoyed the book. Because in my clunky and inadequate way I want to oppose racism – even though my colour and the baggage I carry makes it likely I will execute that aspiration worryingly badly.
Brit(ish) is a rounded, personal, accomplished book on Afua Hirsch’s struggle – and it is a struggle – to get comfortable with her own identity; the imprint she should make. It’s generous and good. It speaks to ‘the denial of our imperial past & the racism that plagues our present’. (Robbed from back cover, but true enough). But hey – go see what I said. Despite the unflattering pic below! 🤣
So, yeh I liked it. Am something of a fan, in fact, having seen a certain amount of Afua Hirsch on the telly-box, lately. Find the intrigue around her relative affluence (and the obvious and profound need to ‘find herself’) rubbing up against her partner Sam’s “in the hood-ness” engaging in more than one sense. Hirsch is open about the frisson between her and Sam, much of it arising from their different (though partially shared) upbringings. The author is admirably self-aware, around this.
Quite right but hugely important to recognise your own privileges: this Afua does, whilst still going on to make a legitimate and compelling case for the continuing, multi-layered existence – arguably preponderence – of racism(s). She is medium-posh and opportunities have been there but so has crass prejudice. Things are complex, often in a bad way.
On her journey, Hirsch also gets stuff wrong. Senegal and Ghana, though necessary and urgent, even, really don’t work out. Again, very much to her credit, there are bold admissions and absolutely no self-pity, here.
An admission of my own. I don’t immediately know who Philippe Sands is. (Gonna google, any minute). On the back cover he provides the following quote:
‘Wonderful, important, courageous… Warm, funny and wise”.
‘Brit(ish)’ is probably all, or most of that. But I found the word ‘warm’ interesting and wondered briefly if this reflected a certain cosiness… which might be something of a negative(?)
Could be that this book is less directly challenging than the Layla F Saad or Renni Eddo-Lodge works I’ve read recently – reviewed elsewhere. But no. It’s warm in the sense of its generosity, its open-ness, I think. It’s personal without being indulgent: it reveals. So I like it; I rate it and do recommend.
‘Bury My Heart’ is fifty years old: this may strike those who read it upon publication as rather extraordinary and not a little scary. Time passes… and in many ways, nothing changes. Certainly not in terms of the ubiquity of prejudice.
The language of the book may feel dated; both as a work of art and as social history it now feels clunkyish, to me, inevitably so, but the Righteousness Factor (dare I say it?) and the deep, poignant, socio-political heft of this document remain valuable, real, critical. Having been on a kind of accidental pilgrimage through literature on race, the book registers as an honourable, early(ish) contribution to anti-racism and I absolutely recommend it on that premise. That is, more as a powerful holding-to-account of murderous White-American predilections than as a great work of art.
Author Dee Brown was a journalist, printer, librarian, lumberman who went on to write histories. “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” has something of reportage about it but bolts urgently forward towards worthy polemic and indeed ‘life’s work’. This is for The Indians. Their stories are told (by them to some degree) in order to mark their betrayal, their tragedy. There is no pretence towards neutrality – and why would there be? It’s campaigning.
The individual stories – or, more accurately, the stories of individual Chiefs or protagonists – are rich but often harrowing. The whole is somewhere between enraging and saddening: we know the outcomes and we know indigenous peoples and what we now call People Of Colour still suffer diabolical prejudice and oppression. So read the book and weep, or get angry, or think about what it means for us today – what shadows are cast, in this ‘populist’ present.
Those of you who have been following my hopefully endearingly shambolic adventures into YouTube &/or the universe of books will know that I have fallen, of late, into what I might ill-advisedly call a theme: that of race, or racism. I have recently done ‘reviews’ of Reni Eddo-Lodge’s “Why I’m No Longer Talking…” as well as Layla F Saad’s “Me and White Supremacy” and now I’m into David Olusoga’s excellent contribution, “Black and British – A Forgotten History”.
This is not to say that I’m entirely lumping them together as a single subject – that would be offensively crass, right? – but there are unarguably significant crossovers between the three books and therefore it feels reasonable (enough) to gather them in for some reflection. Having said that, I’m only posting the “Black and British” review here; if you want the rest go find my #YouTube channel or delve deeper into earlier posts on this platform.
It was a specific, particularly deep conversation around the ideas of radicalism and liberalism/illiberalism which sparked off this blog, mind, prompting the foolishly urgent need to de-clutter my own head of this, if I may?
I know, I know. I should stop doing this Under-rehearsed Brain-dump Thing; it’s indulgent and inevitably error-prone. But I don’t mind risking embarrassment or worse and frankly it feels more honest to be flailing around with the possibility for self-exposure adding a little edge to the proceedings. And this fear of saying the wrong thing seems especially pertinent, here.
I have a friend who spars with people, more often and more challengingly and with more insight than anybody else I know. He is therefore a tremendously invigorating bloke to be around. Saw him coupla days ago and because we rattled into Deep Meaningful Stuff around socialism/liberalism, campaigning/activism, Eddo-Lodge and What You Can Actually Say, this post – originally just a review of sorts of the Olusoga – is in danger of becoming a rounding-up of wider themes. With the usual apologies for the usual, unattractive stream-of-consciousness, let’s crack on.
David Olusoga I like. Great TV work plus I love his punchy, witty, take-no-shittery on the twitters. Daily if not hourly, he completely dismembers dullish white blokes who think they’re being Pretty Reasonable, Actually. Crucially, he does it with some real wit.
“Black and British – a Forgotten History” is a weighty and accomplished book, of immense scope, covering stories that the author thinks add significantly to our understanding of what it has meant and what it still means to be Black and British. I say this because it strikes me Olusoga makes great choices about what to cover and makes no bones about swerving biggish chunks of what might seem to be essential if that material is covered well or comprehensively elsewhere. So I certainly learned stuff; enlightening, revealing, fascinating, poignant stuff as it were from the fringes. Hence the subtitle “Forgotten History”.
One example: I’m not sure I knew anything about Charles Wooton, and yet you will see (if you bother to click on the video) that the story of his desperate hustle through the streets of Liverpool – so compellingly told – was absolutely central to my experience of and learning through this book. What Olusoga calls Wooton’s ‘lynching’ is both horrifying and a little familiar; the evil of murderous racism on our streets feeling uncomfortably close, to me, in this era of race-fuelled, hate-filled populism.
There is much else to say about this very fine history book but I am content enough that my flawed review grabs a hold of enough of the thing to persuade you to read it, if you haven’t. “Black and British” is simply a 9 out of 10-er; intelligent, readable and with a tremendous historical/social-political scope. Get on it.
But hey, that conversation. In a kitchen in Bristol, appropriately enough, given Olusoga’s connections to, and work within, that fascinating city. I’m with my mate, the Dangerously Brilliant Mind. (Hey if you read this, ****, forgive the intrusion(s): massively respect your intelligence, integrity and… we ‘ave a larf, too, right?)
Don’t remember what sparked off the particular line of enquiry – probably an opening exchange in which we spoke about recent reading – but we soon got into his ‘specialism’ around political/philosophical convictions.
Hilariously, on reflection, this was about 9 am on a Saturday morning, after I’d stayed over with the family. And yes we were socially distancing as far as possible.
**** is a profoundly good, honest, caring man; hard to categorise entirely, politically but certainly not a right-winger. He does, however, have an intellect which is so penetrative and well-armed with reading and with knowledge that it feels austere. (This is not a criticism: it’s an acknowledgement of his fierce brilliance – which I have said, is bloody invigorating).
He has come to identify as a liberal rather than a socialist, in part because he is appalled by narrow, clubby, deliberately intimidating politics from The Left. ****, (who is broadly lefty), thinks there is a kind of evil in the meanness and acute tribalism amongst the Activist Left, whom he would argue, seem to hate what we might call ordinary Labour supporters more than they hate Tories. In fact, maybe they hate everyone who isn’t them?
Of course this is what Tories and Centrists have typically argued so again I put on the record that neither of us fall into those categories. My Bristolian comrade feels it simply ain’t viable to support alongside or with this group – and he does support the majority of ‘Labour Causes’. In short, the illiberal nature of some ‘core lefties’ offends him.
We talk about this and I’m not disagreeing. Then, because we can get into controversial territory and ver-ry frequently do, **** (who is no racist, no right-winger, no mug) expresses concerns about some of Reni Eddo-Lodge’s contributions, in her own field of activism. Is her important work – the books, podcasts, public advocacy – nevertheless in danger of suppressing legitimate debate because by accident or design it may be closing down or narrowing viewpoints towards a kind of puritanical activism? (Should add here that a) my pal has read and listened to Eddo-Lodge and b) that both of us are fair-minded enough and wise enough to appreciate the obvious dangers, re- Middle Aged White Blokes failing to get the ironies currently circling and blowing their klaxons).
We do know that overhelmingly it’s Black Voices that are oppressed. Both of us have and do support anti-racism. And we are not so weak-minded as to be saying all activism is kinda fascistically predicated on nastiness and brutal, exclusive oppositionism; activism is necessary, is wonderful, is essential.
**** is I think merely making the argument for intelligent, humane, broadly inclusive campaigning. He makes a bold, contentious point and I have some concerns about these views but am also clear that I have felt conflicted about whether or not to Say Anything… because I’m a White Bloke!
More ironies, possibly, but I think I am on here and Youtube doing this stuff despite knowing my voice is less important, less relevant to this discussion than a black voice might be – and arguably has less rights(?) – but also because, conversely, it feels wrong to shut up for fear of committing some transgression. White Angst? You bet. But part of my real experience.
I fully understand that the last couple of paragraphs may either seem perverse, or worse; racist. I already regret that I’ve probably conflated leftiness with Black Activism; this does all of us a disservice. Maybe I will go back and edit, or maybe just re-offer the thought that this sense that something ‘illiberal’ and possibly injurious can associate itself with activism – particularly, perhaps, when there is understandably acute anger in the mix.
This has little to do with the review posted below… of a really good book which I heartily commend you all towards. My de-tour has been about how we try to oppose social and political evils – which we must, urgently, together – whilst maintaining as much of our human generosity as we can. But hey, read the books!
I’m not sure I liked him, much, early doors. Certainly *that team* with the brilliant but spiteful terriers Bremner and Giles, plus the pre- (quite reasonably) sanctified ‘clogger’, Hunter, was right up there on the Most Despised list, for most of us. Leeds. Led by the sheepskin-coated cynic, Revie.
Big Jack/Wor Jackie was a Proper Member of that club… and yet his rascaltastically steady giraffe thing endeared himself more to the masses, I think, than most of his colleagues. That and the events of 1966.
Let your mind flash back, if it can. Did not even the gorgeously gifted Eddie Gray have a nasty streak? Was there something bit grating about Madeley’s smoothness? Wasn’t Allan Clarke essentially rancorous and even the unprickly Lorimer a bit – yaknow – lary, somehow? Wasn’t our dislike, despite the inevitable raw jealousy, rooted in something palpable?
Charlton was guilty of being ‘Leeds’, too, then: so we’d roar when he got physical. But I remember him more for a kind of upright doughtiness than any persistent evil. It felt as though Big Jack was always too close to mischief and what we’d now call #bantz than sustained malice, to be a full-on Leeds Bastard – not that he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) ‘look after himself’. He was classic English Number 5 in that he stopped people playing: marked them. Sometimes, yes, physically.
There was something else, too. That brother. The surging saint from Manchester United – the *actual player*. This made him/them or presented the Charltons as a Football Family; a rather special one, yes, after ‘66? Bobby was god-like – that charm, that quiet grace, that fu-ck-ing goal against Portugal!
Jack was bound in there, part of the glorious package but nobody understood him as a great player. He was good: he was a solid, international stopper but he was hardly Rio Ferdinand, never mind Alan Hansen.
Of course Jack was of his era, when the job description didn’t include easing stylishly into midfield, or threading searching passes into the false nine’s feet, or even (arguably) looking comfortable on the ball. Charlton J stopped you: he was a presence and he was ‘strong in the air’.
(Minor diversion. In a shockingly out-of-character burst of research, have looked at the Bleacher Report’s top ten England centre-halves. Interesting. [Here – https://bleacherreport.com/articles/2098444-ranking-englands-10-greatest-world-cup-central-defenders ]. Guess where Jackie is? Number 3. Ahead of Rio Ferdinand and behind John Terry and Bobby Moore. The whole bundle feels a relatively weak line-up to me, with only a few players – and I do mean players – of really high quality. Charlton is one of several who were effective rather excellent or richly, broadly skilled).
But this is sounding rather negative and I don’t want to be that – Wor Jackie doesn’t deserve that. The point I am making about Charlton J is that he was a tower; a resolute, indomitable, reliable English Centre Half of a high order, at a time when football was different. Not worse, or less demanding, but different. He was outstanding, engaging and could plainly be the heartband soul of almost anything.
According to our friends at Wikipedia, Charlton played 628 times for for Leeds, scoring on 70 occasions – a striking contribution for a defender. This in a 21 year career at the club. (Whoa: read that again – twenty; one; years). He also gained 35 England caps between 1965/and 1970, scoring 6 times. So the bloke was a threat, right, at what we used to call set-pieces? (Now set-plays).
These figures – in particular that proud, stoic, loyalty to Leeds – tell much of the story. The numbers, the years, the trophies speak to his utter, committed, authentic footballer-ness. As of course, does the Northumberland accent, the characteristically robust wit, the stature of the man in every sense. And we haven’t yet mentioned his career in management.
Big Jack had to be a Manager. He was always a leader, of sorts, even without the armband. Led by example, knew the game, was charismatic, was tough.
Those, like me, who remember the TV documentary from way back that showed him a) charging about the dressing room with the lads, todger-swingingly starkers and b) urging a youngster to “show me some aggression, son” still hold those memories close, amongstbothers. Absurdly, wonderfully macho stuff.
It utterly figures that this English icon could and did become and Irish legend. (Who else might ever fall into that particular category?!?) Charlton proved yet again that belief and togetherness and a ‘way of playing’ – a euphemism for simple, achievable patterns – can trump higher levels of quality in your opponent. Ireland had some players but they were driven to the World Cup Quarters by ‘Wor Jackie’s’ spirit… and method.
In my understanding of the phrase ‘Wor Jackie’, there is the association or assumption that ‘Wor’ implies, if not actually means, ‘our’. It’s for bellowing in approval at one of ours. Turns out that Charlton J’s powerful contribution, rather than being parochial, went inspiringly international, went beyond Northumberland and Leeds and England, because folks loved and followed and trusted his truth.
John Charlton – full name, what else? – strode manfully through a football life, keeping it simple, keeping it real in the way that only an irreducibly working class man might. He had more ‘chin’ than his brother, was a tad more abrasive, but ultimately shared that same wondrous humility.
It was another age when England won the World Cup: I smile when I think of Jack Charlton facing (say) David Silva, in a different dimension. Manchester City’s serpentine genius might ask a few questions of the Leeds man. One way or another I’m guessing the old warhorse would let it be known that he was a force – and “never mind yer poncy tickertackie”.
Wor Jackie was of his time but what a time he made of it.
Inflammatory title? Maybe. But let’s be honest, there’s no way to swerve the tasty stuff around this. And I don’t want to. If I’ve learnt anything during my recent *re-education period* it’s that umbrage – or worse – is omnipresent. So I’m going to tick all the following boxes, no doubt; racism (whilst trying to be anti-racist); ‘naivety’; provocative barsted-ness; appalling insensitivity. But hey – on.
I’m an oldish white bloke who rages against referees, umpires, privilege and discrimination – sometimes in that order. I’m a brilliant dumbo who reads stuff and occasionally thinks. I happen to be in what I’m gonna call an anti-racist phase, in terms of my literary nosebaggings, having just read “Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race” (Renni Eddo-Lodge) and “Me and White Supremacy”, (Layla F Saad). This has felt timely -timely and genuinely nourishing, in fact – as #BLM and just now Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent have crashed in to the (Brit) national consciousness.
I hope to avoid too many explainers about my own experience or route in, here. In fact, bugger it, because everything is about URGENCIES, I’m going to slap down some slogantastic imperatives before I qualify everything I’ve ever said, done, or meant. Read these and disappear if you’ve a mind to: I’ll elaborate and generally excuse my own, murderous complicity after.
Us white folks need to shut up and listen. (Yup, I do get the irony).
All of us are complicit, because White Supremacist thinking is everywhere.
If you seriously think that All Lives Matter is a perfectly reasonable response to where we’re at, then you are so-o much and so obviously a part of this problem it’s not even funny.
Think about power and race at the same time. Racism is about expressing power: there is therefore some merit in the argument that Black people cannot be racist, because they exert no power, generally, over whites. (This is one of many challenges us white people have to face: we have to do it humbly and with intelligence, not anger).
Hang on. Did I just write Black but white? Yes I did. Have I thought this through? No, ‘course not. I am aware, however that anti-racists (and others) are capitalising the B and respect that. Whilst it feels odd and possibly illogical to leave the w tiddly, I’m leaving it that way, for now. Partly to reflect the need to differentiate the experiences of Black and white and partly to symbolise the need to prioritise attention on the reality of difference, on the fact of those monstrous inequalities that the #BlackLivesMatter movement is protesting.
On #BLM specifically, if you don’t see that the shallow subversion of their central, indisputable messages by clowns and racists on the right and wet-wipes in the media is yet another campaign to maintain White Supremacy then shame on you. Black Lives Matter need to act and are right to act. They have every right to be angry. Take care around your ‘concerns’ about the rule of law, the role of the police and that tendency to wince at Black people raising their voices or their fists. Could be that there really is nothing more urgent than attending to equality. Could be that inaction is acting for an evil status quo.
It’s not good – or not good enough – saying that we/you don’t see colour; that “we’re all equal”. Lazy and untrue. White people are the beneficiaries of shedloads of privilege. So whilst it’s of course theoretically important to signal that you wish to display no prejudice it’s cobblers to infer that there are no differences in power or value. Or that you don’t recognise them. We strive towards equality in power and value but we’re a million miles away. There is colour.
Most white people – yup, even us Good Ones – are conditioned towards utter acceptance of the ‘fact’ that we are raceless, we are normal, we are the centre. That centre is hollow, is crass, is ethically repugnant in its smugness. Worse still, in many ways it is both actively and passively alive with prejudice.
But are there meaningful degrees of racism? Am I, as an occasionally Guardian-reading mid-leftie-who-is-trying, still failing as badly as an outright racist? Who cares? Why is this about me? I should shut up and listen.
Purely coincidentally (well, maybe) I got two books a month or so back – bought for me, by the way. After years, possibly decades of being angry and mute and spleeny and silent and ill-informed over race, I’ve waded through… towards something.
I’m still going to make hideous faux pas(ses) and do my usual thing of getting in such a rage that I can’t articulately confront racism in my presence. I’m certainly going to say things that are so unbelievably stoopid… and worse, I’m going to say things that betray my subconscious ‘baggage’. That fear of black blokes with machetes; that memory of being so drunk I sang along with a racist song. That conversation with my grandpa where he called the Town winger a ‘darkie lad’, with what he hoped was affection, rather than malice.
I – and you, dear, sagacious reader, you good white folks – are going to be wrong when you hope to be right. So we need to take that on the chin and do better.
Here’s a weird one. I loved “Me and White Supremacy”. It’s such a fantastic, accomplished book. It’s also a deliberate, considered, eloquent, almighty challenge, in which you are invited to create a working journal, over a period of a month, as you earn your way through.
I loved it but inevitably I cheated. Possibly because I’m a fifty-something white bloke who doesn’t care enough: hopefully because I was just too excited to spread the thing out that long.
I did do a journal. Tried to answer the ‘Reflective Journal Prompts’ at the end of each chapter. Fuck that was hard, on times. If you take anything away from this mess of mine, let it be that YOU SHOULD READ THAT BOOK. All of it is different-level interesting, as an intellectual exercise – the chapter on White Feminism I found excoriatingly sharp (from my safe distance) – but the whole, confident, revelatory timbre of the thing is a standout achievement, for me.
Immediately prior to reading the Saad, I had read “Why I’m No Longer Talking…” the ‘book that sparked a national conversation’. I did an unwisely unrehearsed review of sorts, here –
(If you think this review is any good, or some of my other #YouTube Influencing 😉 is any good, or of any interest at all, please do subscribe… and comment).
I need to read this book again. Again because I found it Proper Stimulating. It’s maybe got a more confrontational feel to the Saad – maybe. (Not sure that’s either entirely true or a satisfactory description: in short, go see for yourself).
Eddo-Lodge shines a light, digs a rib or two – digs out some cruel history. I fell into giving it a 7 or 8 out of 10, I think, because it feels less complete, less accomplished somehow than “Me and White Supremacy”. (If I was to be stupid enough to repeat that unholy process and reduce Saad’s book to a number, it would be a comfortable 9. I hope this isn’t because I found it a more comfortable read – I don’t think I did). Both these books make a profound contribution to the ‘debate’ – hah! – on racism.
So where am I now? I am in the place where I remind myself this is not about me. This is about gathering all of my/our white wits and forcing change. In ourselves. In policy. In the conversations we have. Probably, ideally, in or from the background. Learn about White Superiority, White Saviourism, Allyship – all that stuff. And be prepared to get called out, or in. Mainly, don’t go hiding from all this. It’s urgent.
Footnote: why did I write this? Was it because I’m a Cricket Bloke who was moved inordinately by the magnificent *outburst* from Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent, on Sky Cricket? We-ell yes and no.
Yes because I am and I was. No because my own, feeble interventionwas on its way in any case. But the contribution of those twofabulous people (met them both briefly but been around them more, in cricket meedya circles) was certainly a catalyst. They are amongst the voices that needed to be heard.
Cricket – which I love heartily – is neck-deep in privilege and sometime quiet, sometimes noisy prejudice. Significantly, the ECB had just recently launched what appears to be a committed review and action plan in response to the surge of feeling around #BlackLivesMatter.That of course might have been ‘just words’ but post the Holding/Rainford-Brent/Hussain moment, the ante is well and truly upped. Inside (and please god outside of cricket) it’s plainly, obviously time.
Hearing ‘Ebbs’and ‘Mikey’ choke up, whilst recounting their experiences was tough, was telling. It made me more determined yet, to be a better ally.
Wow. Is there no limit to the man’s cheek? Even approaching this? Jee-sus.
In my defence, your honour – this. I’m interested/sympathetic/wanting to say something and thinking that despite the obvious dangers – risking looking an arsehole or faaar worse – I want to make a contribution. Mainly because *how I seem* doesn’t matter and talking about racism in a way I hope is supportive and constructive does.
To be clear, I absolutely back what Eddo-Lodge says about our – white folks’ – complicity in the omni-present monster that is structural racism. That’s the headline here: I dare to say some wrong stuff because I honestly want to plant my own, feeble flag next to Reni and the anti-racist activists. (They may not want me, of course, for reasons I’d completely understand).
So a review of sorts. Of a strong book with strong arguments.
Listening back, I realise I failed to mention the particularly juicy stuff in the book about ‘overwhelmingly white feminism’: regret that. But am thinking this omission was probably because I was ver-ry conscious of going on too long – as per. In any case, methinks I open enough worm-cans without going there, too, eh? May well write more, but for now, please do have a listen…
Ok. Am clear on a few things. This idea that (too many) white people have that structural racism either doesn’t really exist or is in some way overblown by The Activists must surely be bloody infuriating for black people. (So no wonder Reni doesn’t want to waste her breath). Am pin-sharp, now, on the necessity to absolutely challenge the f*** out of that. Plus the facts, the history of racism and discrimination across most facets of life, affecting most things – at some level – that people of colour do. Documented. Again. Here. I’m clearer.
Structural racism is everywhere and does matter and Eddo-Lodge’s argument that all of us as a kind of starting point have to accept that and then begin to act, is undeniable. White blokes like me can’t say that the fifty-odd years of conditioning we’re carrying ‘makes it tough’ to break the habit of not noticing. White women can’t shuffle feet and lower eyes and not engage with The Painful Truth.
The Painful Truth is so grotesque and so ferkin obvious that our white squeamishness about protests generally and noisy, challenging ones particularly is an embarrassment, a fraud. We have to get behind the demand for equality. None of us approve of violence but we can’t go drowning out the legitimate voices of protest because we ‘aren’t comfortable’ with angry black faces on the news. My god we’d be angry.
I respect the anger in this book and the powerfully controversial challenge to feminism, which plainly drew plenty of vitriol back towards the author.
Really don’t wish to conflate arguments too much, here but clearly there are parallels between racism and sexism: the writer (I think) was challenging that ‘inertia’ around feminists (also, often) being unable or unwilling to confront, or just kinda stuck with assumptions around a weirdly idealised, white status quo. One where they thought/hoped colour was not being judged, was not an agent, never mind an urgency.
This racism thing has been urgent for hundreds of years: Eddo-Lodge is demanding all of us acknowledge that RIGHT NOW… as a starting-point. Don’t bang on about the universal right to freedom of speech too much until the monster that is racism is confronted.
Much of the media and of course all of the right-wing/nazis want the story to be arse-about-face – about white folks being ‘oppressed’ (hah!) by immigration, by activists, by the unruly subversion of ‘how we go about things’. Bollocks. The overwhelming power has been going in the other direction, more or less viciously, for hundreds of years. This is why there may really be a hierarchy of urgencies; why it might be right to cut to the quick, to the Biggest Most Obvious Injustice – racism.
I may be wrong but I think Eddo-Lodge is saying that there is no decency, no contemplating a broader, healthier, even remotely equitable society without first unseating that white privilege. It should be top of the list. Our collective and individual energy needs to go into anti-racism, now: everything else has the effect of enabling a profoundly racist status quo. For what it’s worth, I’m with her.
*Prelude: hope it’s obvious that the reason I’m doing this YouTube lark is much more to do with making some ‘contribution’ than with weird self-obsession. That and I like the idea of Or’nary Peeps wiv orn’ary tech piping up, even though it’s plain they can’t compete with either The Meedya or with (gnash gnash) Influencers. Feel it’s populist and maybe punky in a good way to say stuff even when you’re a nobody: like me. Us nobodies are sometimes worth a listen.
Life, eh? Funny and serendipitous and yeh – allsorts. You start a YouTube Channel by accident and then you get asked to do stuff.
In this case, from nowhere, my soul-brother Karl, from Canada, pretty much dares me to ‘review’ Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged show of ‘93. No pressure of any sort then, it’s not like it’s one of the most iconic and tribally-treasured events in the history of the muso-universe. And plainly ole Karlos loves it… and I might not.
But as an exercise – wow – what a thing to do? So I do.
Watched the recording on YouTube, two or three times, firstly battling against the ads that would so-o have infuriated Cobain. Read a little. Then crucially and entirely fortuitously, watched the extravagant and I think probably brilliant Cobain/Love/Nirvana documentary “Montage of Heck”, which had mysteriously landed on our TV right at The Moment.
So one might suggest I almost ‘prepared’… but then in a grotesquely ill-advised fit of enthusiasm charged straight down the garden, with a few notes, to ‘record something’ in a single 28 minute take. Madness but typical – and somehow appropriate?
Go watch me do battle with it all: *spoiler alert*, I have no doubt that some of this gig is what we music-journo’s of experience call ‘major’.
Another #lockdown ramble but this time with a (dare I say it?) vaguely feminist theme. Three books collide. I muddle through & find some love, inspiration & a whole lot of things that fall under the *challenging* label. Stupidly, I talk about them, without editing down my flaws: feels more honest.
So if you like Jean Rhys/Viv Albertine/Grace Maxwell & feel the force; or if you kinda get that maybe we need to support 50% of the population a tad better; or if you love The Slits, or Orange Juice, dive right in. There’ll be a welcome.