Junot Díaz's Keynote Speech at Facing Race 2012 [Excerpt]

Uploaded by racialjustice on 29.11.2012

Rinku Sen: Please give a huge, warm, Facing Race welcome to Junot Diaz. Great to meet
you. Junot: Thank you.
Rinku Sen: Thank you. Junot: Thank you. Hi! Hi guys, I didn’t
um, I lost a printout, I left it on the train up, somebody’s like reading that, you know,
they’re like “I doubt it,” They’re gonna be like, “He hates white people!”
You know? So motherfuckers will tweet about it too. So, guys thank you so much for having
me, very kind of you, I know you guys have been working incredibly hard sharing with
each other, all sorts of crazy stuff has been happening today and I really appreciate being
invited, I really appreciate you all coming out and we got a yell, yeah, I wonder if have
to hold the mic, it’s probably better. Yeah? The collar? I think I will just hold this
shit, ok, yeah I just wanted to thank the organizers for having me, I wanted to thank
all of you who are here, thank you for your time, yeah, again I really think that there
is doubtful that I could add anything to your combined knowledge, you know, seriously a
bunch of young dedicated activists know more shit about what’s going on in this country
than I think anyone else. Yeah? But, you know, we have to try make this work out. Yeah? We
will see what we can do. So guys this is like the worst thing, we’ll
ask a couple questions just too sort of see if I can get less fucking nervous, yeah, well
because I have got to read something, you know, they give you this much time and they
say that you have to do a keynote speech, you have to like write something down and
you don’t, I never sound very smart or interesting when I have to read, so I feel like super
bad about it, you know, so I’m going to try and read, like, the first half and see
how much I can endure it and then just, sort of, wing it and just, kind of just what would
be a paraphrase the rest of it, and you improvise, thank you sir, and you will see how quickly
we challenge my wonderful introductions, characterization of me as being eloquent. Yeah?
Alright, so there are a bunch of people from New Jersey, is that true? Oh man, ok, that’s
great. Of all immigrants are you guys here? That’s real, that’s really good, yeah.
Last night I did this reading in Brooklyn, and I keep forgetting, I keep forgetting how
many Brooklyn people there are. Yeah, I did this reading in Brooklyn, I asked the audience,
I was like: “Yo, how many African diasporic people there are?” and a whole bunch of,
but a whole bunch of folks who were clearly of African descent, oh thanks, who were clearly…
Cool, oh that’s great, thank you. Who were clearly of African descent they were just,
kind of, like I don’t get the category. I was like, “If you have got black in your
fucking ass raise your hand.” You know? Ok, how about any Dominicans, any at all?
Yeah, that’s great. Alright guys, you know it’s going to be a kind of a weird evening,
so let’s try to make the best of this. Listen, just before we begin, because I really feel
like once you start reading that’s when the coma hits. Yeah? For real, and there’s
no way, I mean, I am not that slick that I can improvise for 40 fucking minutes. So I
actually have to read this shit. Did anybody want to ask one question before we begin?
Audience: Are you single? Junot: Listen to that, come on, you don’t
want to fuck with crazy artist man, for real, it’s like a recipe for, just, calamity.
No, but let’s hear from one, just, because I feel like it would be nice to just have
a little exchange before I, sort of, get on the roller-coaster from hell.
Audience: Are you single? Junot: Come on, guys you are so funny. You
guys are so funny man. We progresses are the gossipy-est folks on the fucking earth dude.
Like I said earlier, even if I was single you should, you wouldn’t want to fuck around
with artists, man. I mean it, I have two sisters and my only advice is, I always tell my sisters,
I am like, “Describe who you want, who do you want as a couple?” my sisters would
be like, “A,B, C, D…” and I am like, “Get the non-artistic version, they make
them.” Come on, give me a question you guys, about anything.
Audience: What are you writing? Junot: Nah. They ask what I was writing, boy
I just, let’s have something that links to the topic a little.
Junot: Say again! What was the question? Junot: I didn’t hear your question.
Junot: What was my process, like, in identifying my own systems of oppression? That’s actually
a wonderful question and perversely difficult. I was like hoping for an opening meatball.
You know? For real. Well you get what you ask for.
Yeah, no, I think what’s sort of interesting about that is, again, how many of us are aware
of some of the strange and agonizing systems that both, sort of, invite us to tyrannize
other people and that help to tyrannize us, and I think for me belonging to a family of
5, of 5 of us, young immigrant kids, kids of African descent, from a poor family, from
a Caribbean family, what was, I think kind of the first step in this process was noticing
how clearly and how nakedly privilege got distributed in my family across racial and
gender lines. Which is to say my family was like a really fucking weird experiment in
pigmentation politics, yeah, where the, sort of, that bizarre fiction of eliding light
with lovely, really was practice superbly well in my family. And so that, the lighter
siblings of us 5 were always like, “Oh you guys are so beautiful, you guys are so nice,
you guys are so amazing.” And they received even less punishment than the rest of us,
who were considered more racialized, yeah, and then of course this gets complicated the
way gender was also in the, or my family because we were split between brothers and sisters.
And for me I think one of the first steps in this idea was both how I noticed this system
very early on but also how greedily I attempted to profit from it. Because it’s one thing
to point out when somebody is trying to put a foot in your ass but usually most of us,
while that happening, we are trying to put a foot in someone else’s ass. And I noticed
that it wasn’t just that I was on the receiving end of this, sort of, stuff but I was also
really, kind of, gleefully practicing it. And I know, I know the consequences of that,
in my family 5 kids, each of us a year apart, really, kind of, tearing each other up along
those lines, a lot of the pain and the damage, a lot of the treachery, a lot of the cruelty,
a lot of… Yeah, a lot of the cruelty, this followed us into our teenage days and it became
not only a source of tension but when we got older a way that began to talk to each other.
You know? And listen guys, when you are that close in
age and that close in family, if you grew up like we did, where you were stacking 3
kids to a bedroom, it forms part of your conversation, it’s hard to run from that, thou people
can. And I think the, kind of, ways that I hurt my little sister, the kind of ways I
betrayed her, the kind of ways that I, sort of, projected a lot of racial and, sort of,
heteronormative and masculine shit on her, and the way that really hurt her, and the
way that it, kind of, deformed her childhood and then, sort of, both of us growing up with
the consequences of that, her more forcefully and palpably but me more as someone who spent
a lot of time victimizing her, I think those are the roots of when I think about working
and becoming clear that one has to do a lot internal work, you know, to get anywhere in
this world, especially one who is really interested in, sort of, racial justice in any form. I
think usually most of the ground breaking occurs in side of you, so I think of that
when I think of it, I don’t know that probably wasn’t very useful, yeah, but… Yeah, it’s
tough. Ok, nothing else? Is it like incredibly difficult? Let’s hear it?
Junot: Just scream. Oh, here it comes. Audience: How do you turn it on? Hello?
Junot: Yes ma’am. Audience: So I am really struck by that level
of self-reflection, and I am also really struck by your book, the latest one, I am writing
a dissertation so I don’t usually read fiction and I actually took time to read your book,
and I am thinking, I am thinking about the last short story, the cheaters guide to love,
and I have one question. In the light of what you just shared, are you that guy?
Junot: Wow, yeah I know, I mean, I think that’s a, I think that’s a very fair question.
You know, part of it is that you create narratives both to help you explore shit and also as
a way of evading stuff. I think we often have to be really, really honest about that, at
least most of the practitioners I know, most of the writers I know they are doing both
things. Yeah? I think that there’s, my protagonist in
my three books, it’s a guy name Yunior, he shares a lot of parallels with me, but
we are also very different in fundamental ways. Yeah? So if you are saying did I grow
up super misogynistic? That’s a fucking yes, yeah. Did I grow up in a culture that
rewarded us for all sorts of, like, anti-woman, homophobic, kind of, like, sort of viewing
poor people, which was ourselves, as some sort of malignancy? Hell yeah. And I think
that that’s for me what was really at stake at writing someone like Yunior, is it like
I felt he comes out of the same, kind of, world I come out of, even thou we are very
different and attempting to create a, kind of a, attempting to create a, I don’t know
how to describe it, but a way forward through the complexities of these issues, to try,
sort of, see if I could come up with something at an artistic level that will allow me to
understand and perhaps open up an conversation with other people about how these complexities
interact with ourselves and our families and our communities and how they feed into and
are powered by all sorts of strange and very, very forceful tyrannies. You know? So, I mean,
yeah, but Yunior is also really different than me, he is far more isolated, he is, like,
way smarter than I am, yeah. But I guess you are saying is, like, the question would probably
be, “Are you like a cheating mother fucker?” I always think that that’s probably the
real question. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I mean, guys I am 44, man. There comes
a time when you got to start looking into those wounds, if you don’t start looking
into your wounds, and I think one of the things that myself and a lot of the guys that I grew
up with, there was a couple of things that were going on. Like if you grew up in our
neighborhood the idea was you weren’t supposed to show any vulnerability, the one place that
you were permitted to show vulnerability was in a women’s bed. Which, you know, lead
to all sorts of behavior, The other thing was that a lot of the guys I grew up with,
there had been a lot of sexual abuse, there had been a lot of incest, I mean, you know,
a lot of the guys had gotten raped, usually by family members and a lot of the, kind of,
compulsive fucking around, I think, was powered in part, not only by masculine privilege in
a culture that doesn’t punish guys if they fuck around, but was also powered by these,
kind of deep traumas. I mean one of the reactions of being raped
or being, you know, sexually assaulted is hyper sexualization. And you think about the
way masculine culture works that encourages hyper sexualization, it’s no accident that
a lot of guys who had been sexually attacked, who had been raped, you know, who are incest
survivors would, sort of, deploy that as a way of compensating, as a way of dealing,
as a way of, sort of, trying to contain the pain. So, I guess, for me that also was one
of the big things, you know. A lot of the cheating that went on in my friends
groups, we victimized so many people because of it, you know, and I think that simultaneous
to any traumas that we experienced the truth is we also victimized a ton of people. You
know? You have got to be able to hold both simultaneous, you can’t be like, “Oh boo-hoo-hoo
me.” Because you know it sucks, but a lot of us who had been victimized spread that
misery out really far man. So, you know, it’s funny because I have
written three books and in each book Yunior comes to revealing that he was raped but never
comes out and says it. And it’s, sort of, like the way boys, the difficulty boys have
in integrating that into their identity, especially a guy like Yunior who doesn’t want to abandon,
sort of, this kind of classic masculinity that has given him so much privilege. You
know? You come close and close but you don’t… I am thinking maybe by the next book I will
be able to have him deal with it. I think we are ready to go. Do you have something
small madam? Junot: Wow, that is a really tough question.
What are you thinking exactly when you are asking that, what’s on your mind?
Audience: Oh, ok. So, basically if people fuck around within a movement then how do
you then keep the movement going, when you have these fissures within the movement? That’s
my question. Junot: Yeah.
Audience: Fissures within the movement. Junot: Well, you know, part of the problem
we, what we call the movements, right, part of the problem that we call of the movements
is that we are still fully powering up a lot of privileges that, the shit we are fighting
against, yeah? So let me tell you there is nobody more fucked up about cuteness then
most progressive people I know. God forbid somebody is conventionally attractive among
progressive groups. It’s true; we are super fucked up about it. If somebody is like light
skin, and super cute, and super this, and super that, we are no different from all the
people we are trying to take down and I think part of what ends up happening is that we
are really, kind of, blended. Yeah, we want a lot of good stuff, we want a lot change
but we are also representing, carry a lot of, sort of, fucking pathologies that help
fuck us all up. And we protect our privileges. If you are that cute mother fucker in the
group, you are never attacking the privilege of cuteness. No you are not. You are never
like, “Oh, no, no, don’t give me that attention. No, no, no, don’t pass me the
mic. No, no, no don’t put me in charge of shit. Don’t stay up late all night talking
to me.” Get the fuck out of here, yo. And we have seen this again, and again, and
again, and again, I mean what links most progressive people very, very, just insanely to the most
rabid right wing lunatic is how gleefully we exercise our privileges. And we, the funny
thing about our privileges is that we all have blind spot around our privileges, shaped
exactly like us. Most of us will identify privileges that we don’t; we know we can
live without. So when it come time to talk about our privileges we will throw shit down
like its ace, and that shit is a three. You’re like… And, you know, I understand that,
I understand that. You grow up and you live a life where you feel like you haven’t had
shit the last thing that you want to give up is the one thing or the couple things that
you have really have held on to. You know? And I am telling you guys we’re never going
to fucking get anywhere, if you want to hear my apocalyptic proclamation which I would
never repeat, I know you mother fuckers will tweet about, you know, we are never going
to get anywhere as long as our economies of attraction continue to resemble, more or less,
the economies of attraction of white supremacy and…
Shit, I have been an activist for a long time, I used to have, like, my line up was but straight,
you know, I had mad hair when I started, and finding people who practice de-colonial love
is as hard inside of a vast movement as it is outside. You know? The actual standard
of de-colonial love, how little discussed, a little understood, and yet in many ways
is the great test of who we are and of our praxis, and of our communal praxis. So, you
know, we’ll see. Alright, you all clap, but you... You all clap but when it comes
time to dance you all will be pushing on the cute mother fuckers. You will, that’s fucking
true. Alright, here comes the, here comes the big,
for real here comes the big bore, there are like 45 minutes so you have to do this, you
will forgive me. Yeah? Because you will never hear me speak like this again, and I fucking
promise you, this was an excruciating experience preparing a speech. Alright? No big deal though.
Alright, here we go. Like I said I am just going to do first part and then I am going
to free style the second part. The first part is basically, I am just going to sketch out,
sketch out the cage or the abyss that I think we are in. Because after all, when one person
comes up here and talks about this issues this is a highly subjective map and my map
is no more authoritative than any of yours. In fact we are going to need all these damn
maps to get anywhere if we are going to get out of this place. And so the more that we
have the access to the better. Mine is just one map from one artist who’s reflected
some on that. So by way, sort of, transparency, you know, it’s what it is, it’s got all
my flaws and it’s got all the limitations of an individual who does not have a fucking
lightning bolt on his forehead, who aint a fucking chosen mother fucker, so that’s
that. Here we go. Racially speaking, racially speaking we are
at a crossroads in our country, as we witness in this month’s election people of color
have, for the first time in the history of the United States, attained, a strategic plurality
that when coordinated allow us to decisively, allowed us to decidedly alter the outcome
of the presidential campaign in Obama’s favor. No matter how you feel about electoral
politics, and I for one am not a great fan, the fact that people of colored communities
did what they did in the face of insanely driven, obscurely mendacious, fantastically
resourced white male opposition was not only unprecedented, frankly, it shocked the shit
out of nearly everyone. In fact, in fact, in fact Obama’s triumphant
re-election to a second term has almost had to take a back seat to the uproar caused by
this new, and for some dismaying, electoral reality. The cross-race, cross-cultural, etcetera
coalition that many organizers always predicting, actually materialized on a pretty large scale
on November 6th. That was the election date, right? Cool. On November 6. Latinos now make
up, at least, 10 percent of the electorate. In 1992 we were only two percent. Latinos,
among other voters, proved decisive, in a number of key races, and even the vote suppression
masters in the Republican Party admit Latinos are now a force to be reckoned with at the
polls. Asian-Americans are the fastest growing electoral block and they voted overwhelmingly
for Obama and rate second only to African-Americans who, despite legions of naysayers, maintained
their elevated voting numbers from 2008. A racial trifecta with combined with women,
and youth, and gays threw the Republican victory plans straight down the poop shoot.
Romney, Romney wasn’t the only one without a victory speech, our various communities
didn’t really have one either, thou perhaps we should have had. The pundits have blogged
their fingers off and shouted themselves hoarse expounding on the significance of this new
voting block, how would bespeaks the tremendous demographic changes that have been sweeping
the country over the last two decades and what these changes auger for future of US
electoral politics and specifically what they ogre for the future of Republican Party, which
has made political racism one of its essential organizing principals. Because who can deny
that the people of color, gays, youth voted as much for Obama as they voted against a
Republican establishment that spent the last four years acting more like a less monotonously
dressed offshoot of the KKK than a mainstream political party. So emphatic, so emphatic
was the vote against the Republican Parties white male, angry white male machine that
some writers are already sounding the death knell for white male power and writing obituaries
for the, kind of, xenophobic, racist, homophobic, misogynistic politics that the Republican
Party has long used to motivate its white voting block.
Like some of us I consider these eulogies premature, if history has taught us anything
it is never to underestimate the recuperative powers of coloniality. And who knows if this
extraordinary coalition will hold in the future, will survive the divide and conquer trichnology
of our political foes. If the coalition, if the, who knows if the coalition will hold,
splinter, collapse or mutate. But no matter what tomorrow may bring, whether this vote
will prove to be decisive turning point in our two party, non-democracy or just another
false mountaintop, for those of us committed to racial justice the 2012 elections provided
a rare up swell of hope, of euphoria and, yes, of utopian possibility. For one brief
shining moment we caught a glimpse of a future coalition of people of color, gays, youth,
progressive whites and women that might not only for ever alter, I leave groups out I
am sorry, that forever alter the rules of our sclerotic electoral politics, but might
one future day bring out a true, bring about a true democratic revolution.
If I can appropriate Rims Ma who himself was talking about Muhammad Ali, I am going to
miss quote this, “I believe that the fascination that emanated from this election had more
to do with our watching the emergence of a human type that we basically do not know at
all, which for now is intonated only in its first traits but to which the future probably
belongs.” Yes, for all of the flaws of our electoral politics and of President Obama,
let’s be honest, no amount of voting will ever bring about the love, justice, we need
to save this planet, this election did offer a tantalizing preview of what might be, and
how a people of color, etcetera, etcetera a collective, might be awakening that is willing
to directly confront white supremacy and through long committed struggle put an end to this
monsterous crime. If 2008 election, if the 2008 election was about the mes… Messianic,
thank you, the messianic promise of one mixed-race man, 2012 was about the democratic revolutionary
promise of our multi-raced nation. Still election result and demographic shifts
notwithstanding the challenges facing those of us who are committed to racial justice
are daunting. And I mean like super fucking daunting. You know? Despite the achievements
of the civil rights movements, despite its 5 plus decades of activism, despite hundreds
of thousands, maybe even million, of people like us doing everything we can to combat
racial injustice racism remains a pernicious feature of American society. White supremacy,
the technical term for our hierarchical racial system saturates nearly every aspect of our
social order. no one is exempt from its perverse influence, like Tolkien’s one ring it rules
us all. And despite what many lame asses have argued, racism has not in fact vanished or
been fatally compromised, it is only mutated, become more stealthy, but no less powerful.
Not only racism has managed to survive in the post-civil rights era and many areas its
power has grown stronger. Like the dark lord Sauron from the Lord of the Rings, like the
dark lord Sauron from the Lord of the Rings, racism or white supremacy is a tenacious monstrosity,
who’s shadow afflicts entirety of our civilization. It is the great enemy, it is that lidless
eye which finds us all, which binds us all, which rules us all and never, ever sleeps.
Far from disappearing, the racial inequality produced by white supremacy in the US alone
should give any reasonable person serious doubt. The statistics are unrelentingly grim
and stand as a sharp rebuff for those who would deny racisms continued power. No matter
how you slice it, blacks and dark-skinned racial minorities lag well behind whites in
every area of social life. Black Americans are 3 times more likely to be poor than whites,
earn 40 percent less than whites, suffer unemployment at nearly double the rates of whites, black
and Latino and First Nation people are less likely to graduate from high school to attain
a college degree. And even when they do attend integrated schools, black and Latinos and
other groups receive worse educations and are more likely to be suspended and punished
for infractions than their white piers. Black and Latinos, etcetera live in more segregated,
more polluted communities, are less likely to own homes, have access to quality health
care, pay more for goods like cars and houses than whites, face persistent discrimination
in housing and in medical treatment, are the victims of far more violent crime. For example
in 2005 African-Americans made up 49 percent of all homicide victims in United States,
annually, roughly 8000 African-Americans are murdered each year, by comparision the entire
death toll of our two current war stands at 7000.
First Nations criminal victimization is twice the national norm, not surprisingly the communities
in question suffer higher rates of psychological distress than whites, 20 percent more alone
in the African-American community, and have less access to mental health care. These groups
are also systematically targeted by our highly racialized criminal justice system which disproportionally
arrests, prosecutes, incarcerates and executes black, Latinos, and others. People of color
are not only arrested at higher rates, they are sentenced, they receive longer sentences
than whites for the same crimes. Despite studies that show that people of all races use illegal
drugs at remarkably similar rates, one out of 14 black men was incarcerated for drug
crimes here compared to one out of the 106 white men.
Races practices and differential treatments along race lines are found in nearly everywhere
one cares to look. Even the US military, long viewed a bastion of racial equality, was the
subject of a recent study reports, of a recent study that reports that minority service members
are more than twice as likely as whites after accounting for the crime, circumstances, and
the victims race to be sentence to death in military court. Worst yet in the 50 years
since civil right, white supremacy’s hold on the global imaginary has only tightened.
Whiteness as an ideal has become a global, has become the global default and as a short
hand for beauty, superiority, purity, advancement, civilization has incredible social force.
Darkness by extension is linked to the inferior, the ugly, the primitive, the criminal, the
malignant, the alien, danger, disorder. Throughout our world, skin lightness impacts perception
of a person’s beauty, affects marital prospects, job prospects, social status and earning potential.
While racist ideology is valorizing whiteness and demonizing darkness have been in circulation
for hundreds of years, new mass media and communication technologies have come together
to create a whiteness industrial complex that helps to amplify the old colonial message
that white is right and light is beautiful in the process granting whiteness in an unprecedented
global currency. In our world whiteness has become one of the dark lords great rings of
power, as much a legion of the imagination as it is a technology and one does not need
to be Fanon to recognize the profound damage that this sinister system inflicts on the
psyche of people of color worldwide. How it alienates us from ourselves, how it dehumanizes
us, how it makes us loathe ourselves and privilege the people who oppress us over those who share
in our oppressions. How it makes us doubt the humanity of people of color and our own
humanities. How living in the system makes one, how living in a system that make one
abject causes fractures on a psyche. How living under the tyranny of whiteness burns the skin,
deforms the eye, racks the body, and breaks the mind. If the agonized self-loathing of
communities of color was ever able to express itself honestly that shriek would, I suspect,
tear this fucking planet in half. And whiteness’s power, its hold on us already
toxic, appears only to be increasing. At the simplest level the images we are exposed to
are whiter, the movies we watch are whiter, the TV shows we watch we DVR, the plays we
attend are whiter, the magazines we DVD the comic books we collect, the books we read
have also grown whiter. Consider the people of color populations have expanded explosively
in the last 3 decades both inside the US and out, and yet our representations on screens,
on pages, in the culturescape have not kept up. Many of our most popular shows and franchises
are made entirely up of white characters played by white actors and this tendency has been
so naturalized that there are many people who don’t even notice how insane this is.
Whiteness has not only gained, whiteness has not only been gaining in market share it also
appears to be circulating in higher doses as newer commodified articulations of whiteness
interact powerfully with both old colonial racist ideologies and the latest technologies
of the body to produce all sorts of extreme and novel symptoms.
For example the last decade has seen a sharp increase in what is being called ethnic plastic
surgery. Basically people of color cutting themselves up to look fucking white. Plastic
surgeons from Sao Paolo to Damascus are reporting an increasing demands for these racialized
procedures. Anglo features, whether its eye surgery in Korea or rhinoplasty in Lagos are
the hottest commodity in town. And for those without the resources to buy surgery there
are cheaper methods to obtain racial capital. In case you ain’t noticed, the use of skin
lightning products primarily by women threw out the global south is booming. Thou, as
Sammy Sosa has showed men are not immune from the siren call of bleaching. In fact statistics
confirm that the use of skin whiteners has become a transnational phenomenon, with cosmetic
corporations predicting unparalleled growth in the coming years. Whether we are talking
about India, Nigeria, Brazil, the Dominican Republic or Roxbury, skin bleaching in order
to obtain racial capital is all the rage. Many of these products are highly toxic, containing
active ingredients that are illegal in many nations or legal chemicals in illegal doses.
The shocker, I quote, “Wealthy nations like the United States, Japan, and many European
countries that create many of the global images of white beauty are also home to the cosmetic
companies that produce some of the top selling skin bleaching creams.” William Gibson posited
that in this age, that in his age Japan was the global imagination’s default setting
for the future. I would argue that whiteness is now the global imaginations default setting
for the future. And what about the “black is beautiful” Biko-inspired movements that
once protect us, protected us against the most brutal shocks of white supremacy. These
are certainly still around, check out the important grassroots work that Miss Risos
had been doing in the Dominican Republic for example, but for the most part our communities
have been thrown into disarray by the implacable white assault on our psychic space and as
if this shit doesn’t present us with challenges enough our work is made all the more Herculean
by the fact we live in a country where there was no sustained conversation on the problem
of white supremacy, even in the communities most ravaged by white supremacy what we gotten
in lieu of conversation is mostly silence, a terrible corrosive silence, and of late
one other maddening thing: a delusional discourse from the right that insists that racism is
no longer a force in our society. Despite the fact that racism’s ravages our
easily quantifiable, our everywhere visible, the holders of this bourgeios contend that
we are living in a country that is shed its racial past, a country where there is no real
racism, that is basically post-race. A kind of magical thinking that is perversely resistant
to logic or facts “post-racism” was widely trumpeted in the media after Obamas re-election,
after Obamas election. It did not matter that Obama endured a constant barrage of racist
assaults during his campaign and afterwards during his, and first administration. The
sincere fiction of post-racism gained serious traction among both whites and communities
of color. At best post-racism is a negative hallucination, at worst a malicious attempt
to minimalize and obfuscate the operations of white supremacy and to prevent any substantive
conversation on racial issues. This post racism nonsense explains in part why these days nothing
and no one is racist. A photo likening a black woman to a monkey is not racist. A predominantly
white political organization calling a black president a witch doctor is not a sign of
racial animus. A state representative in Arizona falsely claims that 80 percent of violent
crimes in his state directly involve illegal immigrants he is not racist either. Legislation
has been passed in states like Arizona and Alabama which, more or less, criminalize the
lives of undocumented immigrants and threaten the civil liberties of all Latinos, and by
extension all Americans. That’s not about the race either.
In a post-race country like were nothing and no one is racist, where people are more likely
to believe in UFO’s than in institutional bias which does back flips to obfuscate the
operations of white hegemonic power and therefore ensure its continuance, anyone attempting
to expose white supremacy or battle it is in for some serious uphill. You will be attacked,
you will be censured, usually by your own community, people will say that you are obsessed
with race and that even mentioning white people in the context of white supremacy is itself
racist. These days the average person doesn’t even
have to be taught not to bring up white supremacy. Here in our country as in Mordor everybody
knows not to say the dark lord’s name. Ok, so we will stop here. Yeah?
And… So, the rest of it I will just, kind of, freestyle, yeah, it won’t be as coherent,
even that wasn’t that coherent. Listen, part of that whole thing was to give, sort
of, for me what I viewed were the principal chains around me. Yeah? It’s kind of a drawing,
like, a map of your cell. You know? Drawing a map of your cell. And what I was thinking
afterwards, sort of, was describing what I felt was the, kind of, chains around me and
then, kind of, talking about giving all of these challenges, giving the, sort of, daunting
strength of what we call racism, which is technically called white supremacy, what are
some of the strategies and practices that we can engage in to successfully battle this
monstrosity. You know? Now, first things first, what everybody is
doing here, which is a do our organizational work. To do our activism; every damn kind
of activism that opposes the status quo will feed back into this fight. The idea that there’s
one correct strategy for our liberation, I hope to god, has died a terrible death already.
Or that there is an order, or even more pernicious that there is an order of battle, that we
need to take care of X before we need to take care of Y. Hopefully that’s another one
of our, kind of, pernicious myths that is also been put away. There is no telling which
practices will, for the future, prove libratory. And so therefore it is, I think, of upmost
importance for us to proliferate strategies and for us to pursue various and often contradictory
strategies because we never know what the future will need. Yeah?
And the problem with us is we keep thinking that in the present we can have a say in what
the future will need. So we are always cutting down on each other’s strategies. But the
truth of it is you no more know what the future wants than I do. And so it might not be a
bad idea to increase the number of tools that we build, that we will pass into the future
rather than decreasing them. Yeah? So, one, basically, the thing that you are
all doing, two, as I was sort of, kind of, punning into meaning before, we do live in
a, we kind of are living in middle earth you guys. Haven’t you felt the incredible force
field in this society that holds peoples tongues that permit them, that restrain them from
talking honestly about racism? Do you know how many of my students can’t even say the
word white? You all will talk about African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian-Americans all day long
but at soon as it comes time to say white people’s voices drop. You ain’t have seen
that? Come on man, people come up with crazy terms you have never seen before, they would
be like: “And that Caucasoid...” You can always tell you could always tell
where the supreme power rests in the society because of the reluctance people have in naming
that power. Part of what privilege requires, guys privilege cannot operate without silence.
It cannot operate without silence, and this tremendous silence around whiteness, if you
are foolish enough to post a blog on your Facebook that mentions whiteness the amount
of attacks that you will get, because privilege defends itself viciously, to maintain the
silence that is required for its operation. So, given this I would argue that the other
thing that we need to do is coming off of James Scott’s idea of “anarchist calisthenics,”
we need to practice racial anarchist calisthenics. What he, what Scott meant by anarchist callisthenic
is that this society has ton of little rules that we all practice without thinking. And
he argues that we need to practice breaking little rules consistently because one day
this society is going to ask you to prosecute a horrifying rule, that I think we will long
live to regret, and the muscles of resistance needs to be exercised, they need to be prepared
for the time we need to make that big, big, big, big stand.
And so racial anarchist calisthenics, I would say, begins with all of us getting that tongue
muscle back in to place and saying Saurons name. I challenge people; I challenge people
every time you say African-American, Asian-American, whatever the group count it and say white
just as much, and say white just as much. We don’t do it you guys, we don’t do it,
we don’t do it. And yet if we were ever going to confront in a real way white supremacy,
which is not only linked to white folks you guys. White supremacy is the racial order
in all of us, but if we are not able to discuss whiteness as a category, as a critical way
of looking at the world and even simply as just the racial group, we are in some serious
trouble. The reality is even if we took every white
person on Earth and put them on a space ship and sent them to outer space white supremacy
wouldn’t miss a beat. All us light skin mother fuckers, listen, all us light skin
mother fuckers and honorary whites would step right the fuck up and animal house this mother
fucker, we would animal house this shit. Absolutely animal house it. Yeah?
So, racial calisthenics, I think, is a neat, good way to, kind of, keep strong you guys.
And I think the rules around, the rules around the prohibition of approaching whiteness are
very, very key and need to be broken as often as possible. Yeah?
Three, I think that we need to start cultivating what I would call the Marti mind, after Jose
Marti. What do I mean by the Marti mind? I have observed that one of the things that
has happened in this stage of capitalism is that all of us have a possessive, commodified
investment in our identities. Which is to say that if you are like me, a Dominican,
you think of Dominican-ness as a commodified possessive investment, as something that you
need to hold, that you need to reserve, that you need to protect, that you need to hoard,
to keep other people from getting at it. You don’t see it as a way to connect with other
groups, you see it as a way to stand apart from other groups, as a way to highlight difference,
yeah, and distance. Alright? What I would argue is that this possessive
commodified investment in our identity matrix is has sealed us off to the possibility of
more dynamic and profound collectivities. Now, listen, it’s fascinating when I think
how much we have shrunk, I think about Saint Thomas right now, I think about the Dominican
Republic right now, I think about Jamaica right now, and I think about Jose Marti in
1895 you guys. In 1895, when we think of those people as backwards, we think of those people
nowhere near enlightened. In 1895 Dominicans, people from Saint Thomas, people from Haiti,
people from Jamaica this is the way they thought of their identity, they thought of their identity
in such an open and generous way that it was absolutely no problem that Jose Marti would
lead an army from Florida to Saint Thomas to collect troops, materials, and money and
then from Saint Thomas would go to the Dominican Republic to collect troops, material and money,
then he would go to Haiti, collect troops, materials and money, then he would go to Jamaica,
collect troops, material and money. And in each of these countries, these Cubans were
not only welcomed, they were seen as part of these identity groups’ own struggle.
Could you imagine, right now, Saint Thomas ten thousand Cubans showing up and people
being like, “Yeah, you are welcome”? Could you imagine the Dominican Republic 10 thousands
outsiders, could you imagine Haiti, could you imagine Jamaica? All our identities have
been shrank, have been closed off in this age of capitalism in ways we are not accounted
for, that we have not accounted for. We need to break this possessive commodified investment
in our identities, we need to stop looking at other people, for example we always think
of it this way, how we view other groups, other like, let’s just take it across racial
terms, other racial groups than us as competitors. Yeah?
We are like, “I am from African descent.” I am like, “I know my people are good, but
I am not sure about those Latinos. They seem to hate themselves too much.” Really? I
thought that was the shit that bound us together, the shit that bound us together is not the
fucking Dominicans have self-hatred, but that that is a common feature of our oppression.
You will see Latinos being like: “You know, we are good but I am not sure about those
Asian-Americans. They want to be white.” Really? Last time I checked aspirational whiteness
was a common feature of all of our oppressions. And I think that at the heart of this possessive
commodified investment in our identities is this thing that is identified as an ideal
of subjectivity called “ergo conquiro,” which is basically the conquistadors mind.
Ergo conquiro is at the heart of modernity, modernity is everything we are, whether you
are in India, Himalayas or in New Jersey. Modernity is what feeds into the postmodern,
the postmodern builds itself out of the blocks of modernity.
Listen, at the heart of all we are, no matter who we are or where we reside, is this thing
that has been identified as “ergo conquiro”. Which is the conquerors mind. And the Conquistadors
mind is simply like this, that I am human, but I am not sure all of these other color
folks are. “Ergo conquiro” is an absolute, permanent feature of the way that we think,
not only about ourselves, we think about each other, but how our groups are thought about
in the larger society. “Ergo conquiro” explains the whole constant suspicion about
Obama not being an American. American in this context is coded for human being. “Ergo
conquiro” explains why Dominicans in 1937 looked a Haitians and said, “I don’t think
you are human, we are going to massacre you.” And in a milder deform we practiced it amongst
ourselves as progressive people, constantly running fucking authenticity checks on each
other saying, “I don’t really think you are authentic enough.”
It is the core of white supremacy at its operating system level is “ergo conquiro” and we
need to address this reflex, we need to stop seeing each other the way Conquistadors see
us. Because even if we break through this self-hate maze, that has you hating your own
group, you will end up preserving or conserving the love only for your own group. If you don’t
love every fucking group, as much as you love your own group, we are fucked. You need to
have the Jose, you need to cultivate the Marti mind. The Marti mind is simply that as much
love as I have for my own group I have for every other group. To take possessive investment
in each other’s struggles, where whatever is happening with the gay community is happening
to us, whatever is happening with the Asian community, that’s us. Instead of possessive
commodified investment in our identities we need to take possessives investments in our
other communities struggle. Absolutely essential. Now, four, and I will leave you with this,
perhaps the most difficult… Is there any fucking water? Oh, here it is. Sorry bro.
Now each of these I have said, these are strategies to pursue while we are waiting for the glorious
revolution that it’s going to free us all. This is what you are doing, you are up in
your cell, called fucking America, and you are getting stoked for when the time comes
to break the fuck out. This is shit, you’re, this is shit you should be doing all the time.
Yeah? Number 4 and the last one, the last of the
little, you know, your little cell exercises, all right, the last is one is we need to be
like the third world feminist writers of the 80’s. We need to be like the Audrey Lorde,
we need to be like Audre Lorde, we need to be like Cherrie Moraga, you know, we need
to be like Gloria Anzaldua, we need to be like Octavia Butler. Guys we have to follow
the lead of a group of pioneers who’s innovation, and who’s strategies around white supremacy
have been eclipsed in this, kind of, really weird rear guard action of a masculinized,
like, hip-hop, progressiveness. We need to focus very clear-minded on these
women, poor women of color, queer women of color, and the strategies that they created
for our own liberations. And what these women posited, what these women posited and this
is, I think, one of the most important jail cell exercises that you can do, what these
women posited is that the power that holds us, which I am using my short hand for white
supremacy, the power that holds us is a many-headed hydra and that strangely enough even if you
chop all the heads of the hydra, if you raise all of the structures of this system of oppression
it will remain alive in each of us, because each of us without knowing, nurses one of
the hydras heads, and that you cannot chop off head of the hydra without turning inward.
And what these women argued is that we need to take a journey where we confront, not only
the injuries that this oppressive, that these oppressive systems have inflicted on us but
the ways that we have practiced this oppression on ourselves and other people and the damage
we have done other people. It is the most necessary, difficult and courage’s journey
any progressive person may take. It is about entering yourself, realizing that you are
fundamentally comprised of the oppressions you seek to resist. And taking responsibility
for that, facing that, understanding how that has shaped how you feel and more importantly
how you love. Because really what we are talking about here
is love, that’s all worth talking about when it comes down to it. Is that this is
the system that has created an economy, as Arundhati Roy has pointed out in the God of
Small Things, the love laws that say some people are deserving of love and some people
are not. And we carry these love laws in our selves. The only way to liberate ourselves
from these love laws, to love ourselves freely, and love our image in other people freely
is by cutting off the head of that hydra, by destroying the love laws inside of us that
we cling to, that make up our identities, by pursuing de-colonial love, love that these
women, think about the difficulty for these women to pursue de-colonial love.
If you are straight dude you can escape your hatred of males by dating a women, if you
are a Latino, or a black person, you can escape your hatred of blackness by dating outside
of your group. Yeah? Guys, these women of color, queer, poor, were trying to love the
most difficult thing for them to love, almost identical mirror images, they were trying
to love women in a world that told them women are not deserving of love. They were trying
to love gay women in a world that told them that they are not worthy of love, themselves
or this other person. Poor, raced, gay women, and these women writers that I have described
have gone further in illuminating the path that we need to take for our liberation than
anyone has. And it is one of the greatest shames how we have forgotten, how we have
let that work fall to the wayside, how we have pursued the illusionary lure of masculinity
and its certain, kind of, its kind of spectacular praxises, when the map to the freedom from
ourselves had been given to us before we even got in the damn cell.
And so I think that I will leave it here, with only one other thing, all of this stuff
sounds incredibly hard, maybe. All of this stuff sounds like it’s out of control, like
all of this stuff sounds like, “God damn it, that’s a whole fucking lot.” You know?
I mean, Jesus, that a whole fucking lot. You know, how do you power yourself? Well listen,
what could be more beautiful than to be a member of the most important project in human
history, which is the re-humanization of womankind. There is no more glorious enterprise than
the one we are involved in. This is a great honor. Yes we are going to be tired, yes we
are going to be scared, yes we are going to make mistakes, yes we are going to be flawed,
yes we are going to be human, but all the things that we have suffered today, all the
things that we have suffered yesterday, all the things that we have suffered tomorrow,
all the loses, all the sacrifices, the future will never forget us, we will never be forgotten,
we will never be forgotten, we will never be forgotten and that is why this struggle
is absolutely beautiful and necessary. Thank you. Thank you.
Rinku Sen: Keep that, thank you, interview. Junot: Right on time.
Rinku: Exactly. Junot: See, right on time you guys.
Rinku: Yes. Junot: Military family.
Rinku: Whatever the time is its always the right time. So that was pretty amazing right?
Yeah. This Facing Race delivered to you all the way. So I am going to ask you couple of
questions, you are going to answer, we are going to go 20 minutes, then you are going
to sign the books. Junot: Thank you. Are we going to take questions
from the audience? Rinku: You took some questions from the audience.
Junot: You guys don’t have 2 more? Well we take a few.
Rinku: You don’t want to deal with my questions? Junot: No I do, I just feel like I don’t
want to keep the silence that long, we will do your questions than we will take three
from the audience, then we will go. Rinku: Alright.
Audience: [inaudible] with that woman up there with you, right now?
Junot: Madam? Audience: I am just curious.
Junot: Am I..? Rinku: What?
Audience: Submitting to the leadership of that woman that’s leading you right now.
Rinku: She says you should do what I say. Junot: Yes, yeah, no…
Rinku: [inaudible] what I said [inaudible] Junot: Yeah, but I think a discussion is OK.
Interviewer: It’s all good, we will work it out.
Junot: A discussion is OK you guys. Rinku: Let’s keep going because we have
20 minutes. Alright, here’s my first question. So in This Is How You Lose Her your protagonist,
Yunior, he cheats on his fiancé with an epic 50 women in 6 years, I think that’s pretty
epic, how did you come up with the number 50? Why isn’t it 17 or 66 or, what was it
about the number 50 that did it for you? Junot: Five is my favorite number, for real,
five is my favorite number. Rinku: Why?
Junot: It just always is. Rinku: Really?
Junot: Can you, do you know why your favorite color is your favorite color? Yeah, just is.
But I think what’s interesting is that, you know, yeah, I mean, next question…
Rinku: Alright. We have a lot of aspiring writers and artists here, I wondered if you
could talk a little bit about the state of race in a literary world as you see it, in
the art world, and do you have any advice for people who are trying to navigate that
world, for the people of color who are trying to navigate it and for the white people who
are trying to help and support? Junot: VONA!
Junot: VONA, yes ma’am. How many VONA people are here? VONA, the voices of our nations
is a workshop that I helped found for as a programmatic alternative for writers of color.
Just put voices, workshops, Google it. But the question, I think, I think that the situation
about being an artist is a same situation as, sort of, being a, you know, all the, sort
of, same forces and the same challenges apply, whether you are student or an artist, whether
you are an worker and artist, whether you are just living in your neighborhood and an
artist I think that the lot of challenges and structures are still in place. I do think,
for example 99 percent or more of the art that we as community of colors need is missing,
which is a kind of a long way of saying, “Guys, we are dying for your art.” Like we need
the writers, the poets, the sculptors, the dancers, we need you guys so badly. I almost
wish that I could take all the young artists and get them to take that really demanding,
tyrannical critic, that they are having in their head, and realize that your community
is dying to meet you, it’s going to welcome you with such open arms, your work would come
so much faster if you realized that people, really, are going to make excuses for your
work and you don’t have to drive yourself as crazy as you drive yourself.
Rinku: Right, so we will take some questions from the audience which means we are going
to need mic’s in the audience. So I will ask a couple more because you are being really
nice and concise and that will give us a moment to get some mics out into the audience. Yeah?
OK, great. So, I have to tell you I don’t actually think that leftists and the racial
justice folks are the gossipiest people on earth but I do think we are, I think we are
the horniest and people here just need to get laid. So I wonder what your advice is
about, you wrote a book about How You Lose Her, how do you keep her?
Junot: Well… Rinku: How do you get her and how do you keep
her? Junot: I mean guys I’m, I guess the context
has to be very clear, you know, you should always, kind of, put your shit in a context,
guys, you know, I am like an old retired slut. So I think that, you know, part of what, if
we are talking about love, we are talking about like hetero stuff, you know, if you
are like a person of color who only dates people of color, like me, I mean, again, I
think of some of the stuff that people were saying out there is, kind of, key, you know,
like looking into yourself in really critical ways which is not exactly what people are
invited to do. You know? And, you know, a lot of us, I don’t,
actually is not a lot of us, but I mean I myself I think we structure relationships
in ways that are guaranteed to fail. Have you noticed how, I mean, most of my friends
have asymmetrical relationships, you know, like asymmetrical relationships were, there
always is going to be asymmetry in relationships, but these are profound inequalities and I
think it’s hard to make things work if one person is hording a lot of power, you know,
and usually, you know, a lot of us feel scared in relationships and we feel worried, and
so we don’t precede in the relationship unless we are, like, fully powered up and
the other person is completely naked and I got a tank. So, I that might help too.
Rinku: Leave the tank at home. Junot: Leave the tank at home and try to,
I don’t mean this in terms you might think, I don’t mean this in terms of money, etcetera,
try to date an equal, you know, someone who challenges you. Now, why you would listen
to fucking dating advices from me? Rinku: Clearly, right, obviously. We would
must be really, really desperate. Alright, lets…
Junot: Oh no, you guys don’t look desperate. Rinku: That’s true.
Junot: My MIT students, man. Come check that shit out.
Interviewer: Alright, let me just take a look out in the world. There’s a question right
here, lets take that one. There’s your mic. Junot: There’s your mic.
Audience: So I would like to know what survival advice you have for people of color teaching
in educational institutions like MIT, about race and racism to majority white students?
Junot: Right, that’s an interesting question. You know, part of what made my experience
of being, for example let’s say first being a college student, part of what made my experience
of being a college student so difficult was the, kind of, bachata that you dance. Where
you are simultaneously dealing with a ton of fucked up shit, where like, I mean I can
still remember my college days where I would come in, I had a full time job delivering
pool tables yo, like, guys I did not have a fucking work study at the library. You know
what I am saying? I worked full times delivering fucking pool tables to pay my way through
Rutgers and I would come in the classes with all my gear, in summers I worked in a steel
mill, I would come in classes with all my fucking gear and there would be these kinds
who just come back from winter brake all tanned and they would sit there in the classroom
and be like, “There’s no such thing as racism.” You know?
And part of a difficulty, part of difficulty of whether you’re a student or a professor,
part of a difficulty of our position is that we are simultaneously dealing with a lot of
bullshit and also super privileged. And for me one of the most, one of the most useful
survival strategies was to focus a lot on how you are privileged, and I had a big struggle
forgiving my community for reacting to my new privilege in really weird ways. Because
listen if you grew up in my neighborhood people who went away to college or who got money
always came back and were assholes. So why wouldn’t a community historically react
to someone who had gone in college like they were going to be assholes. But for many of
us who went on college we used that as an excuse to turn away from our community. They
are like, “Oh, they don’t understand me, they are always picking on me, they are always
talking about…” Well… Most of us who get privileged are big dicks, yo. And so it’s
OK that they beat us up a little bit, and I felt for me what was a big survival strategy
was focusing on how I was privileged, and reconciling my privilege with my community,
so that it wouldn’t create a survival risking rift between us. Because people who got you
to this place are going to be the people you are going to need in this space, but often
our privilege rises up and blocks us and keeps us from connecting with them. And we get mad,
we take it personally, we are not, like, compassionate and forgive ourselves for having the privilege
and forgive other people for being mad at us having it. And that helped me a big way.
Rinku: OK, let’s see… There’s one right over there, can we get the mic this way and
then we will come back there. OK? Yep… Audience: So that question just resonated
with me, and I felt compelled to speak even though I’m really nervous right now. So,
I am a Latina at, and also black, at a predominantly white institution, which you visited last
year, Middlebury College, yeah, and so as you probably know the struggle for people
like myself is real. Junot: Yeah.
Audience: And I was just wondering if you have any advice, if you could speak to the
ways in which the hegemonic discourse at schools, like Middlebury and other small liberal institutions,
that are overwhelmingly white, I think that students color, US born students of color
are 8 percent of our population, and we are actively excluded from curriculum, from the
standards of beauty. I can’t even go to a party at my school and feel welcome. So
I am just wondering if, from a student’s perspective, you could speak to that.
Junot: Right, no, I mean, listen, that place is really difficult, I know a little bit better
than I lead on, yeah, that place and other spaces like that are difficult, I think part
of it has to do with how much I that density of white supremacy a non-antagonistic or an
antagonistic contradiction. Some of us can survive that, kind of, density, and, kind
of, hold the door open for later people so it becomes not, it’s not antagonistic, we
can survive it. Others get in that space and they are like: “I am transferring to Rutgers.”
Anybody from Rutgers? You know Rutgers, Rutgers you can date a new person of color each semester
and they will never fucking meet. So, for real, fucking real.
So the battle, the frontline battle is no joke, because I am an immigrant, we haven’t
talked about that much, I am an immigrant and the stuff I put up with as a front line
member would have shattered my little brother, who is borne in the States. And yet my throwing
myself on the grenade of America prevented my little brother from being as hurt. Yet
I wonder sometimes if it is worth sacrificing our young people to help these marginal institutes
maintain the illusion of inclusion, when the risk to your mental health is so large. I
mean, guys listen, I had no choice when I was in New Jersey and even the fucking Puerto
Rican kids did not know what Dominicans were. I had no choice, all the black kids were like,
“Speak Spanish I will fucking kill you.” They were like, “I will kill you.” And
they called me a Spanish nigger. You know? So, I, part of me just thinks it’s such
a weird dance, I think that you have to look in yourself, I myself have a very simple rule,
and I am not saying that anyone should follow this rule, I call it “The Zombie Rule”
If when the zombies come you don’t got a big enough group to make a survival run back
to New York… Bueno! Bueno! I would, if you don’t, for me I am fucking terrified of
zombies, so I am like, I would have to fucking transfer but my sister would fucking make
it back from… Where is it, New Hampshire?
Audience: Vermont. Junot: Vermont. My sister would make it back
from a Vermont with a machete and her fucking Fendi bag and be like, “What’s up?”
Rinku: Ok, we have time for exactly one more and I, yeah, because he already got the mic,
there you go. Audience: Hello, my name is Geronimo and I
am from the south Bronx, queer identified, poor person, of color. I just want to say
that your writing has been identity-affirming, life-sustaining in so many ways that I can’t
just say thank you enough. But then, like, I also, hearing you talk about, like, introspection,
like, I also want to talk about this, this is pervading theme and this conference just,
like, talking about Obama and, you know, like in this way, like glorifying him and, like,
there’s like this talk, like, about accountability and I am like, it’s not even accountability
it’s like we need to denounce, like, I mean Bush was detaining people and we call him
a criminal, war criminal, like Obama is bombing people, he is a constitutional scholar and
is, has this shadow wars in Afghanistan, and Yemen, and we are still, like, lauding, for
Latinos also, but he has deported more people than any other president in the history of
the United States and we are still talking about him as if, like, he is a second coming
and like, I mean it’s important to, like, recognize, like, the ways in which, like,
communities of colors and com… Like just people of difference period came together
to get him elected but, like, we need to denounce him, we need to be consistent and we need
to be principled, and, you know, because, I don’t see that here and it’s a little
upsetting, so I mean, maybe, you can comment on that because you, I did hear you say that
like electoral politics, you know, you are not big fan of them, but like, and then I
hear you, sort of, also tow the line and sort of applaud Obama, and I just…
Junot: Really? I actually said nothing about Obama; I only talked about communities that
voted for him. You should be very careful with your distinctions, all of us. I don’t
want you to tweet that shit. I got in too many fights with my friends because my friends
are like, kind of, blind Obama supporters so I have been in too many fights that if
suddenly somebody is like, “He is a blind Obama supporter,” my boys will be waiting
with bats at home. So, yeah, I actually said anything about whether he is good or not,
so, but I got your question. So look, I guess, listen, part of the thing,
again, comes with our abilities to tolerate other peoples contradictions. We always seem
to draw the line at other people’s contradictions but never at ours. In other words the contradictions
that most bother us are never ours. Now I myself am no Obama fan guy, I myself, I tell
you people my boys and gals have come across the table at me because I am saying the same
thing this young man said, I am like, “If this dude was Republican we would all being
scalping him.” You know? I am not impressed you guys, I am not fucking impressed at all.
But even if I am not impressed I try not to be too orthodox, because part of what we have
a problem with, which the right doesn’t have a problem with, is the right can tolerate,
you don’t think this because they don’t tolerate our diversity but they can tolerate
their diversity. We have a lot of problems tolerating our diversity. And my thing is
that you got to be able to hold your opinion to say it well, but to remember that it’s
not universalizing and that I myself am not a huge fan of Obama and my boys and my gals
are, and yet we have to work together, we got to tolerate each other’s contradictions.
I am going to tolerate their support for somebody, who I think has, like, done more damage to
Latino community, and they are going tolerate a bunch of my own messed up contradictions.
Because, again, if we are the ones drawing this litmus tests we always win and other
people always lose. If we have got to create a litmus test, the litmus test should begin
with, “How am I going to be the loser in this formula?” I think all honesty, all
truth and all political activity must most ruthlessly implicate us first.
So I hear you a thousand percent and I think it’s good to make these, kind of, you know,
to say what we feel about Obama. And I think people have got to tolerate my fucking just
rage at his lame-assness the way I am going to tolerate peoples contradictions about him.
And I think the idea is that we shouldn’t try to, like, lord it over each other, because
it becomes manipulation if we say that whatever my terms are are going to be the terms of
the debate. We always must remember that all of us have contradictions and if what we are
saying is at any given moment our contradictions are the ones that are off the table we never
get anywhere. So can we have Obama be bashed and have him be supported, and it not turn
into a death struggle between opposite sides? Like can we hold in our heads simultaneity
as a value? That I can simultaneously be opposed to Obama but respect your pro-Obamaness. Because
that’s the problem I was talking about earlier, this connects to “ergo conquiro”, that
we create a whole set of rules, that if someone passes beyond these rules they are not worthy
of our compassion. And I guess my friends have compassion for me because I don’t like
Obama’s bullshit politics and I have compassion for them because they do, and we can meet
across compassion, we can meet across compassion, and we can try to keep both of these strategies
and all of these strategies in place. But they are not going to be in place, they are
going to be a struggle for hierarchy if there is no compassion. If I am like, “This is
my position, I am positional, this is me and I am going to battle against your position.”
Ok, we aren’t going to get anywhere. So simultaneity guys, that’s all I have to
say. Thank you. You have been super kind you, guys.
Rinku: Thank you. Keep, let’s keep that applause going, Junot Diaz. I will see you
all at the party, Melinda is coming up to make some announcements.