Just Be Normal

Thanks to The Poisonwood Bible, I have developed a greater benevolence towards the idea of cultural appropriation. Instead of reading the brilliant works of literature by post-colonial writers – Chinua Achebe, V.S. Naipaul, Nirad Chaudhuri, and so many more – Kingsolver surfs the wave of an issue she does not understand and does it in an embarrassingly heavy-handed way. There is a whole universe of nuanced, intelligent, profound takes by people who are actually postcolonial subjects themselves. They don’t deserve to have their complicated and mostly very painful history cheapened by some clueless white lady who wants to make an easy buck by painting them as primitive, pathetic creatures.

It gets to the point where the novel informs us that the only really black people are those who are very left-wing. The black people who hold different beliefs are actually whites with black faces. What that means is anybody’s guess but it is quite distasteful to appoint yourself an unsolicited arbiter of who is or isn’t black.

This is not to say that no white person should write about Africa. Kingsolver’s problem isn’t her race. It’s her racism. It’s the philosophy of “all whites are rats and deserve to die because that’s justice while all blacks are victims except for the blacks who aren’t really blacks and are white rats at heart.” I imagine some American 60 years from now writing a novel about the Russian war against Ukraine and painting Ukrainians like Kingsolver paints Africans, and I want to wail.

In Demon Copperhead, which I insist is a masterpiece, the only false note is a depiction of a black character. Kingsolver is clearly one of those middle-class white Americans who are extremely uncomfortable around black people and try to conceal it by doing weird, embarrassing things. At one of the obligatory discussions of anti-racism I attended, a scholar from Africa said, pointing to a stack of woke manuals, “I don’t need all this. I just want people to be normal around me.”

One thought on “Just Be Normal

  1. “I don’t need all this. I just want people to be normal around me.”
    But that’s exactly what the anti-racists in shining armour do not want to be. They don’t want to be normal, ‘coz “we’re special, we’re on the right side of history and you’d better just shut up, you racist bastard, or else!”. That’s their take: when you’re really privileged – as the vast majority of self-titled and self-entitled so-called “anti-racist” virtue signallers are – what better way of dissembling and camouflaging your privilege by calling out everybody else and accusing THEM of being privileged? It’s the oldest trick in the world.
    When the US army reached Southern Italy at the end of WW2, all the fascists quickly got rid of their fascist paraphernalia and started calling themselves anti-fascists. And it worked!

    Liked by 1 person

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