Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Half-Woke

I have been quiet here this month because current events have, for once, rendered me speechless. The late unpleasantness in Charlottesville, and Washington's response to it, made abundantly clear what I had previously tried to ignore: the president, vice president, and attorney general of the United States, and upwards of 30 million other Americans, are Nazi sympathizers. Probably another 30-plus million Americans are okay with this. We have yet to stage our own national Kristallnacht, but the men who want to smash the store windows, burn the churches and synagogues, and raise the gallows are out and marching. Our garden-variety white supremacists have done this before, of course, but never with such clear support from the national government.

There isn't much I can physically do about the American fascists' coming-out party. I'm too decrepit and socially anxious to counter-march. I can try to atone for my own complicity with white supremacy, which though minor is real enough.

Fifteen years ago I accepted a professional writing award (the only one I ever expect to receive) named, it turns out, for a Confederate apologist, segregationist, and racist historian of some former repute. I have long avoided confronting the ugliness of the connection, but now I have decided to stop running from it. I have not publicly repudiated or returned the award - the society which so honored me is not intrinsically racist - but I have taken the certificate down from the wall, removed references to the prize from my resume, and donated the award money (a sum equal to it) to the NAACP, the UNCF, and the Equal Justice Initiative. I have also begun reading Ibram Kendi's Stamped from the Beginning, a history of racist ideas not previously on my reading list. When I complete that particular journey through social ugliness I plan to post a link to my review on this blog.

I won't pretend to be "woke" to the ubiquity of violence, white supremacism, and para-militarism in the United States. I can at least start the process of educating myself, and make myself less a part of the problem than I otherwise would remain.


(Update, September 8: my review is up at Goodreads; link above.)

5 comments:

Gorges Smythe said...

Congratulations. You've convinced me that you are a total, complete idiot.

Dave Nichols said...

Thank you, Gorges! I'll consider the source and take it as praise.

J Lay said...

I'd always be up for an exploratory trip with you to the gun range, should your concerns turns so martial as my own. Decrepits like us can still pull a trigger, should that "Alt Left" Boogieman materialize and recruit us.

Okay, making things go bang is just fun. And cathartic. [I've been lobbying for a Gallagher Day where they let us put out watermelons instead of paper targets, but so far no dice.]

Anonymous said...

Well said! Nice to see that you took the reputable path in distancing yourself from the award.

Dave Nichols said...

Thank you!