‘Those in Whiteness’s Thrall’
Whiteness is…more of a genre than anything else.
In an essay at Salon, White bro reading: Yes, I’m reading men and women equally — but they’re still mostly white, Anderson is getting at a difficult thing.
Much as, in my writing, I often bristle at the constraints of genre, I also find myself objecting to, and pushing against, the way whiteness delimits me, and those around me. But troubling literary genres is one thing. Troubling whiteness is another. A person is practically consigned to whiteness at birth: it becomes, like it or not, his métier.
As sincerely as many of us may want to see more diversity in our books culture and industry, can we find that same drive in ourselves?
- It’s one thing to say that we need more racial range on publishing house staffs. No contest.
- It’s another thing to consider what we’re reading. When no one is looking.
How often do you read outside your own place in the socio-economic landscape? What if we and others don’t read beyond the comfort zone of our own “whiteness at birth,” per Anderson. This works not both ways but all ways: do you read outside your own blackness or maleness or femaleness, or your Asian heritage or your Hispanic background or your Polynesian family tree?
Can we accomplish authentic diversity in the business of publishing if our private literary lives aren’t diverse?
Here are some of Erik Anderson’s best lines:
I can work harder, in part through my reading, at valuing the lives and voices of people of color.
I can track and confront those places where my whiteness (and yours) rears its head, where it silences and marginalizes others.
We know he’s right. And we also know he’s asking a lot of himself. And of us.