|Novelist Dana Spiotta in her home, photographed by Erik Madigan Heck for the New York Times.|
This is not easy, extracting the lessons that it is not about me and my feelings from the experiences of being questioned about race in this nation.
It is clear, however, that being in a position where one is questioned does demand continued, personal interrogration of historic givens, contemporary events and particularly, then, of self,
All these inquiries demand returning to the foundation construct of our nation, the fantasy of white supremacy, deliberately fabricated out of original warp and woof of our national triumphalist economic history, the artificial division between black and white, made to create a permanent slave society. Today it seems that this evil itself, with the consequences to the only members of our body politic whose ancestors were brought here by force, has been transmitted permanently into our national culture and politics. How can that ever be changed?
When asked, "What do you, a white person, think about reparations?" Does one respond, "Yes" -- meaning, that some sort of reparations are the only way to even begin redeeming our national sin -- and stop there?
Or does one ask how such reparations could begin. Would this mean defining which U.S. citizens are or are not of African American descent? Who gets to decide? Would there have to be registries as is done with the Native American tribes of today? And what will that mean, how will that play out, having a national, racial registry in a nation so vehemently white supremacist? Back in the 19th century there were even trials that went on for months, attempting to determine whether an individual was or was not African American. As invasive as at a slave sale, every physical attribute of the person in question was discussed and questioned, by the legal representatives of both sides: the side that agreed the person was white and the side that insisted s/he was black.
So many ways of looking at others' experiences, which are not one's own, as it isn't about me, who is not African American. This in itself may be the crown of white privilege -- that I can say, "It isn't about me."
Which inevitably leads to the extraordinarily dreary white supremacist political theater we experience in sense around, as bad as anything that went on leading up to secession. This in turn will lead to rants, and as one is ranting to the choir, pointless.
So it's been better these dismal winter weeks of Black History Month to have stayed away from the internet for a while, other than the most private and small Elsewhere, conversing about home improvement, the weather, health, gardening, birds, and birthday parties.