Category: Antiracist Book Club

The Shukla Test

Unlike most entries in the Antiracist Book Club so far, this isn’t a post about my ideas. This is about the Shukla Test.

I found this article by Nikesh Shukla on the great site Media Diversified (“Tackling the Lack of Diversity in the UK Media and the Ubiquity of Whiteness”), which I follow on Twitter. Being a devotee of the Bechdel Test, I had already thought of my own version of the Shukla Test, but TV and fiction writer Nikesh Shukla deserves the credit and signal boost. Here’s the pith of his post, all of which is indispensable reading. Read more

Microaggression in fiction

I know this kick-ass woman who helps run a radical youth organization. On Friday I was telling her that I was rushing through a Toni Morrison novel in order to get to the new Stephen King, and she laughed and said, “Why, though?”

I just love Stephen King. Going right from Tar Baby to Doctor Sleep leaves one with no illusion that he is a great writer, but Doctor Sleep offers the visceral pleasure of storytelling in a way that Tar Baby, for me, did not. (Kyle suggested to me that our own racism might be at the core of why we both feel somewhat distant from Morrison’s characters. I agree, and it’s so sad that white supremacy can estrange us from works of such greatness.) It’s also fun to be reading a book that’s a publishing event, such as those are these days. When King writes about race, however, I cringe. Here’s something a few pages in:

Dick’s mother’s mother—the one with the shining—lived in Clearwater. She was the White Gramma. Not because she was Caucasian, of course, but because she was good. His father’s father lived in Dunbrie, Mississippi . . . For a man of color in that place and time, he was wealthy. He owned a funeral parlor. Dick and his parents visited four times a year, and young Dick Hallorann hated those visits. He was terrified of Andy Hallorann, and called him—only in his own mind, to speak it aloud would have earned him a smack across the chops—the Black Grampa.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought. Read more

Five ways a white author can mess up on race

UPDATE, July 2013: I have “anonymized” this post. Despite my elaborate justifications below, it kept not feeling right to me to put the book’s author on blast. I don’t know his personal journey. Therefore, I’ve redacted the title, author, and some character names.

Today in the Antiracist Book Club, a coming-of-age novel about a gay white kid, “Jamie,” with a black friend, Juice. Read more

White supremacy in paperback

I believe that one element of white supremacy is unthinkingness. Not thoughtlessness, which suggests that a person knows better if they would only stop and think, but a complete absence of thought that comes from never having had to question one’s assumptions about the place of white people in this world.

Increasingly, I’m noticing this phenomenon in my own field of literary fiction. What does “white supremacy” mean in that context? To me, it means an author interspersing characters of color in her book without having examined her own whiteness. (Note: I don’t think I’ve fully examined my whiteness by any means.) Often such an author uses people of color as minor characters to make a point about her white protagonists—how cosmopolitan they are, or how tolerant, or how benevolent. Or the author sets his book in Africa or Japan but is only and overwhelmingly concerned with the white experience of these places. Or she fails to include people of color (or non-middle class people) at all and doesn’t even notice that she hasn’t. Read more