jamaal may on vs: part 218 Apr 2018
what does it mean to be producing work in an era where people can see you before they read you?
this insight is right up there with ceasar mcdowell’s point about that fact that we’re living in a world with more demographic complexity than we’ve ever experienced as a species (mostly because global capital and literal humans are able to move about the planet more freely than ever before).
but back to may. i had never thought about this but it’s sort of nuts. he talked about a situation where someone completely misread the meaning of one of his poems. and the only way someone could misread his poem that hard is they actually knew his racial identity. and in previous eras of life, that information would have been mostly opaque to readers outside of the same physical context as the writer. if the reader had just read the work, without knowledge of what race or body type may was, there is no possible way to read the poem in the way that they did.
so the question: what does it mean to produce work in a era where people can see you before they get to know your work?
i’m feeling torn about this. i totally look people up before looking into their stuff. in fact, i actually put in place a policy this year that (because of news overwhelm) i was only going to read newsy articles by women of color. the exception is if a friend whose opinion i value sends me something. that totally puts a lens on what i’m reading and not reading. intentionally so.
so a pro i think is that it becomes much easier to direct your attention to who you want to be reading when thinking about histories of oppression and bias. i can chose to read only black or brown women if i want to.
a con is that i can’t hide. no one can hide. so if you were going to read something really excellent by a black writer but you’ve chosen to only read white writers, you never will. and thus the social construct gains ever more strength.
words / writing / post-processing
368w / 11min / 4min