junot díaz: on generative definitions of community and radical hope

another takeaway point from junot díaz’s interview on on being is about community, agency, and radical hope. the full section is included below the part that grabbed my attention was these few lines:

How do you constitute your community? I’m not so arrogant that I only constitute my community in a very narrow, selective way. When I constitute my community, I think in a generative way, where I include the people who come before me, and I include the possibility of the people who will come after me.

That opens up a lot more room and a lot more space. If your community is no further than your injury, then it doesn’t seem like any agency is possible. But if your community extends more generously, more capaciously — well, certainly there’s a lot of grounds for hope there, just by the way you framed your history, your reality. Framing is as important as anything.

my perception of what he meant by “injury” part is what i see as the worst sides of identity politics. i believe all politics are identity politics but the productive side of i.p. is when people can understand how their interests are related to their identities. that can go sour when people only think about their own specific identities narrowly and then only vote on those narrow interests as they relate to policy.

what i hear explicitly, in terms of hope, from junot here is that what’s possible when you see your community as multi-generational, a lot more opens up. when you imagine the scale of your impact being over the course of a century and not just your own lifetime, that changes things. it makes it much more possible to have real, radical hope.

something that i hear implicitly (though i could be wrong about this) is that there is another type of generative community. i think fatimah asghar’s poem, if they should come for us, beautifully highlights that way that the definition of your community can expand. and in the episode of vs that she’s interviewed on, she says something along the lines of “i want to be continually expanding the group of folks that i can claim as ‘my people.’”

i think about this in many ways as it relates to the movement work of today. if my people were only queer, black cis men, that would be real narrow. i wouldn’t be interested in advocating for people other than myself. and that seems whack when you take into account the disproportionate impacts of oppression over time on even more marginalized communities.

anyways, i’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as it relates to the great voids that are toxic masculinity and whiteness. and i’m wondering, along with some other folks, about what a generative definition of community might mean for action. if i believe that whiteness is void and created blackness, what does that mean for who i’m working towards liberation for? in some sense, freire would see this as obvious, but, surprisingly few people understand what i mean when i bring this up… i say often that there is no such thing as white people; it’s literally a made up idea. sure, it has been institutionalized, but it can be unmade, replaced, and the institutions (over time and with lots of work) can be unmade and replaced with new ones. that’s work i’m interested in doing. i’m not interested in staying in fake boxes. obviously the road to unmaking the boxes will require use of the boxes, but only as means to end, not as ends in and of themselves.


words / writing / post-processing
479w / 16min / 11min