Tomorrow I’ll reply to Marta’s question to me, but for today, I wanted to post up some of the highlights of the responses to Marta’s essay from Monday.
Kimberly Smith brought to us her recollections of earlier engagements in the struggle:
“I too remember those times and how dangerous it felt to be white and engage in discussions of race and racism when there were people of color in the room.
“I remember we white people sort of trying to be the most down anti-racists, which often meant sharply criticizing our white peers who were also trying to do anti-racist and feminist work. It was sort of like we were always trying to shut each other up, so as not to be embarrassed by how deeply we’d been affected by our privilege, or prove, I guess, that we were somehow magically beyond all that ourselves.”
Adam Jernigan enters the conversation from the standpoint of character development, discussing his own response to some of the characters that Coates critiques in the Atlantic:
“That is a great character with his own desire on his own terms. I’ve got no understanding of a black gangster in California who kills three people before 8am, or even of such righteous epiphanies, but I do have an understanding of upheaval, of doubt, of an all-consuming desire to change something about myself with the hope that it’ll be for the better. That’s why Jules is a great character.
“Pulp Fiction’s two hours long and The Wire is five seasons, so Omar’s a bit more complicated and my word-count here is already making me feel very presumptuous. So I’ll just say that what makes Omar a great character is not his shotgun.”
Laura Knight Moretz shares her experiences being warned away:
“Do I get to be other than the New England raised WASP girl that I clearly was? Can I inhabit other consciousnesses? Can I escape, and can I inhabit another’s experience? Why, yes, I think I can, with empathy. But I have also been told that I should not do this in overt and subtle ways.”
Laura’s experiences are not unique; I’m sure that more than a few readers of this blog can recount similar ones. A lot of damage has been done in the cultural turf wars, which gets at my issue with the Coates piece, which simultaneously encourages writers approaching other cultures while at the same time offering the smackdown for getting it wrong
To read the full texts of these comments, click back to yesterday’s post and click on comments at the bottom of the page.