As I have previously mentioned, I am taking a Caribbean Studies class this semester (which, note to Anthropology department, is really an Africana Studies class and not an Anthropology one, and should be listed as such, just fyi.). And as I have mentioned before, it's full of people who are a huge annoying pain in the ass.
Something happened during a discussion in that class the other day that was quite reminiscent of certain events in the blogosphere as of late, namely this and this. Specifically, yet another incident of No, White Person, it is Not All About You.
We were discussing the book A Small Place by Antiguan writer Jamaica Kincaid. Pretty awesome book, actually. If you haven't read it, it's a really scathing takedown of the tourist industry in Antigua, of white tourists in Antigua, and of the Antiguan government's corruption and impotence in the face of the tourism industry. (And incidentally, if you have a Netflix account, you can hear most the book in the narration of the film Life and Debt, just click "Watch Now." Go on, I'll wait.)
In any case, the overall tone of the book is one of sardonic, fuck-off anger. And our professor asked us if we thought that was a valid literary technique, if the author was really angry at us, or if she was just, "venting," or what have you. A white male student who sits down the row from me popped his hand up and replied that he didn't think the anger was a valid technique, and that it really put him off the whole message of the book. He said that if the goal of activists for racial equality is to achieve "reconciliation," then this wasn't the way to do that because he didn't see a place for himself with someone who was so mad about something he couldn't do anything about.
Which is an argument that probably sounds familiar to some people.
And besides, when he travels to the Caribbean, he doesn't stay in all-inclusive resorts, but slums it the way the real, native people of the Caribbean do! He's not the assholes the author talks about, he hates those people! Doesn't he get credit for that?
Here's what I wanted to say to this young, white, male, dreadlocked college student. I wanted to say that no, the goal isn't reconciliation. The goal is the end to the oppression and suffering of people of color. I hope reconciliation can happen as part of that, and I think that would be a natural byproduct, but no. That's not the ultimate goal.
While the book A Small Place was written with people like you as its intended demographic, it was not written for you or for your benefit. It was written for the benefit of the people of Antigua. It is not meant to make you feel better about exoticizing the "slumminess" of other cultures so you can feel authentic about your dreadlocks. It's not all about you, dude! Black people don't need you or anything from you, really.
You do not have something to give us that we lack.
I wanted to say these things, but instead bit my tongue until blood came out my nose, because I didn't want a repeat of the incident that started off the semester. And I feel like a right stupid fool for not saying anything. I'm as angry as Jamaica Kincaid.
After class, the only other black female student in the class came up to me and said, "Can you fucking believe that guy? I almost went off on him! It's not all about you, dude!"
Heh. My thoughts exactly.