I hope “literary activism” isn’t calling out Eminem. I hope it isn’t making sure only Mexicans use the image of Frida Kahlo in their work or calling out African-Americans as colonialist for pointing out Clarice Lispector was white. I hope it isn’t white women publically calling out white men for misogynist language in their work &/or patriarchal behavior & then asking those same white men to put them in touch with their contacts at this or that university or this or that press in private. I’d really hate it if it was white women talking with white men about how they no longer need white men to have successful careers & having those conversations published in popular magazines coming out of New York with a (it’s fair to say) mostly white readership. I hope it isn’t women &/or men of color doing this either. I hope it isn’t about publishing. I hope it isn’t about jobs. I hope it isn’t going to end in another niche market. I hope it doesn’t see capitalism as neutral & racism as simply about the attitudes of capitalists & others living under capitalism. I hope it isn’t about transparency. I hope it isn’t under the impression that in the United States there’s some united POC front. I hope it isn’t essays on anti-blackness one week & women arguing that black men going about their days unbothered is “the history of the world” the next because this week’s about feminism. I hope it isn’t closed off to people not interested in careers in literature or even in the institution of literature. I hope it isn’t above militant action against businesses owned by white people who have appropriated other cultures & exploited poor (often black, brown & undocumented) people. I hope it isn’t above militant action. I hope it isn’t any more convenient than starting a social center. I hope it isn’t anything less than getting Kenneth Goldsmith to STFU (for at least a minute) & donate his speaker’s fee to Mike Brown’s family, after he cynically exploited the death of their son for his shock jock buffoonery. I hope it isn’t anything less than booing Vanessa Place off the stage when she won’t stop saying the n word or not giving her a stage at all. I hope it isn’t relying on people’s sense of “decency,” their “sympathy” or “guilt” to get work done. I hope it isn’t under the illusion that people (mostly but not only white people) are currently taking “literary activism” seriously for any other reason than the threat of insurgency in places like Ferguson & Baltimore: Not acknowledging, not centering that threat as THE reason for “literary activism’s” recent successes is anti-black & if in the end, “literary activism” results in the publication of more POC poets (mostly not black) or in anything less than the improvement of conditions for black people in places like Ferguson & Baltimore then “literary activism” will have benefitted from anti-blackness & that’s a problem. So I hope it’s not literature.

[this essay appears originally in Macaroni Necklace]

 

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