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"I think about race and racism every day of my life."
June 10, 2014 1:21 PM   Subscribe

The Racism Beat - Cord Jefferson writes about the repetitive mental strain of being a writer on racism.
posted by Conspire (14 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
After the previous thread and this one, I wonder: How big a lever, and how many hands pushing on it, to budge a vast and shameful history, to tilt the present, even a little more, towards justice? And how many will refuse to acknowledge that there is work to be done, let alone its terrible scale?
posted by kewb at 1:27 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


And how many will refuse to acknowledge that there is work to be done, let alone its terrible scale?

That is an interesting and simple question that has a very complicated answer. I think there is confirmation bias where people who see one side of an issue are blind to any refuting evidence and it cuts both ways.

I see people who think because there has been progress that now everything is just peaches and the work is done. It's as if there are those who refuse to acknowledge that their efforts did not bring as much change as they set out to make, but life is a work in progress on an individual level and on a larger social and generational one.

On the other hand, there is faction that just sees what needs to be done and then dismiss what has been actually accomplished, which is a hurtful slap in the face for those who fought and fought hard to end the "-isms." All you have to do is watch a film or television program from even ten years ago and you literally cringe at what passed for open-mindedness back then.

To me, it is always upsetting when I see someone discriminate against another person based on age, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, wealth, etc. because it is ugly and unnecessary whether I hear someone talking at a party or read the newspaper. It is present in this day and age.

As someone who writes fiction and does a lot of period stories, I have to read old newspapers and records, and I know how far the world as come along in some ways -- but in other ways, we have taken huge leaps backwards in time in terms of discriminating against others. So it is our constant struggle...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 1:50 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


This, so much:
writing anything would be to listlessly participate in the carousel ride: an inciting incident, 1,000 angry thinkpieces, 1,000 tweeted links, and back to where we started, until next time.
This is my primary and essentially only real complaint about Metafilter. We need a subsite where we aggregate the learning we surely are doing. Instead, it's just the same arguments and discussions, again and again.
posted by cashman at 2:12 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


an inciting incident, 1,000 angry thinkpieces, 1,000 tweeted links, and back to where we started, until next time

This is a point I've been thinking about a lot, even separate from the overall gist of the essay.* Today there's so much written about nearly everything you can imagine that I have to assume there are more people out there writing than reading. Is there enough of an audience to take it in? (And does it matter? Perhaps the act of exorcising your feelings on a given event is its own reward.) But to someone who wants to be generally informed and engage with the events of the day, this overload of everything-about-everything, this press-release-avalanche-torrent, is numbing and unsustainable in its own way too. How do we consume media and media-criticism and news and news-criticism before we've done nothing but completely miss the forest for the already-fallen trees?


*(Which is indeed an excellent rumination--how exhausting it must be to feel the onus of responding to Awful Blip #98475029!)
posted by psoas at 2:17 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


dammit, cashman
posted by psoas at 2:17 PM on June 10 [2 favorites]


Instead, it's just the same arguments and discussions, again and again.

That's.. the internet. I've never seen any site that was truly progressive like that..
posted by mediocre at 2:25 PM on June 10


He said that before, when he was leaving Gawker (the best place he's ever worked, which makes me shake my head.)
"I’m also pretty eager to not feel an internal pull to write about all the racist shit that happens in America constantly. Thinking and writing about a new black person being murdered by a racist or arrested by a bad cop every other week can start to wear on your psyche."
And in 2012:
"I do often feel pulled to discuss the racial element because it fascinates me. "
There's a Bernice Bobs Her Hair element to his theme by which I mean, maybe he wouldn't have so much to write about if he decided to choose something else.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:27 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


It is a shame, though, when some of the best writers and thinkers about race are getting strung out by people expecting them to write thought pieces about The Newest Incident week in and week out. They're doing important work, and their voices are worth paying attention to. And maybe in an earlier era, they'd write substantial books or longer, carefully considered pieces. But we're in this era, the one where you're nothing if you don't have a truncated and digestable opinion, now, today, to be reblogged and retweeted by people who barely even read past the headline.
posted by naju at 2:55 PM on June 10 [4 favorites]


Instead, it's just the same arguments and discussions, again and again

If you're going to start a discussion via FFP, shouldn't it be good manners to write a conclusion at the end of the discussion?
posted by jjderooy at 3:28 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


This piece really hit home for me, especially on the same day that my twitterstream/FBsphere is also serving up another Shakesville piece on the way women writing about feminist topics online get sexist abuse. I know he's not writing about that part of writing about race online, but if you combine the weariness of writing about the same thing and coming to the same conclusion with getting the same nasty backlash, it's got to be exponentially wearying.
posted by immlass at 5:28 PM on June 10


I really appreciated this point.
Still, wouldn’t it be wonderful if writers and creatives on the periphery were welcomed in from anonymity, not thanks to their accounts of woe, but simply because they have things to share—tales of love, joy, happiness, and basic humanity—that have nothing to do with their race and also everything to do with their race. I’m ready for people in positions of power at magazines and newspapers and movie studios to recalibrate their understanding of what it means to talk about race in the first place. If America would like to express that it truly values and appreciates the voices of its minorities, it will listen to all their stories, not just the ones reacting to its shortcomings and brutality.
posted by salvia at 7:55 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


I really loved the reminder that "writing about racial minorities" should not automatically mean "writing about racism." There can be a weird intellectual bias that the only acceptable stories about racial minorities or women are those about the struggles we face, rather than about our successes (even though "white man succeeds" is a ubiquitous trope).
posted by jaguar at 9:01 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


This is my primary and essentially only real complaint about Metafilter. We need a subsite where we aggregate the learning we surely are doing. Instead, it's just the same arguments and discussions, again and again.

It might seem that way in the span of four years, but check out the comment section of this 2004 FPP, The 'Acting White Myth'. A majority of commenters were genuinely incredulous of the article's argument. That the social and economic ailments affecting blacks were the result of black children associating all that was good and virtuous to "acting white" was an article of faith.
posted by deathmaven at 9:10 AM on June 11


This Video Seems Silly, But It Makes A Good Point
posted by homunculus at 9:20 PM on June 13


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