Monday, November 07, 2022

"New York was full of stimulation: it was a more anarchic city then.... 
I had to get away from Indiana, and the only way I could do that was to go to school in New York.” 

Darryl Pinckney

He is appalled by the rise of sensitivity readers and trigger warnings; identity politics, he believes, is forcing people into culs-de-sac from which it may be extremely difficult ever to back out. “I find myself in lots of books,” he says. “They don’t have to be by a gay, black man of a certain age for that to happen. What makes James Baldwin riveting is not that he’s black and gay; it’s that he’s a genius. I’m not for censorship of any kind. If a book offends you, don’t buy it.”

Publishers have, he believes, been infected by something that began on university campuses; in the grip of theory, both have been weakened as places for experimentation. “It’s a sort of suppression. I don’t want to be the guy who’s saying: when I was young, things were better. But I do find this real sharp repudiation [of ideas and of people] in the name of progress to be a form of cowardice.

“There’s no way a student should be in charge of the classroom. I don’t believe in safe environments. I don’t believe in triggers – and anyway, you’re supposed to be triggered. I do believe in respect, and calling people what they want to be called. But I don’t believe in a freedom that comes at the price of someone else’s; in saying ‘it’s my turn to be master now’. I don’t like to reach for analogies like the Cultural Revolution. But we live in a time where there is such hostility towards expertise. It’s a form of policing thought… this atmosphere of correction.”

 Pinckney reviews Thomas Chatterton Williams

Race transcendence is still a crank’s racket, but it is usually offered in the spirit of a gift to humanity. Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race, this cheerful manifesto of the light-skinned and well placed, carries an atmosphere of gratitude for the acceptance France has promised Williams’s children. He has assured himself that in these times of tattoos, manipulations of the body, gender subversion, transition, transformations of the self, class fantasies, and cultural smugness, not much essentialism remains in definitions of blackness. We are saved already if we but knew it; we are already well, sound, and clear; we have only to recognize it. 

The pitch, from the NYRB 

The link in the Pinckney quote is to an earlier post, that includes a link to Pinckney's review and to another earlier post, on the politics of minority communities. Self-hatred is ubiquitous.

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