Monday, April 06, 2009

Literature and race

Been thinking about literature and race today. I noted on the Greenlight Bookstore blog that Nelson George writes in the Times today about the changing racial demographics of Fort Greene, and how that changes the artistic scene -- in his view, for the worse, though I'm not sure I agree. Tonight at McNally Jackson we're hosting a panel discussion about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., with some amazing experts in the field, and good writers, too. I'd like to have today's National Poetry Month Twitter entry reflect something about that, but I can't think of anything appropriate except for maybe Langston Hughes, and the old folk song about Martin and John.

What can literature do against racism? Or is it more useful in forming racial identities? What do I, a white person, have to do with literature by black writers? Am I meant to appreciate it apart from the writers' identities, or is it meant to allow me to identify with someone other than myself? Can I share in the Lent-like suffering in observance of King's death, or does it not belong to me as well?

These are old, old questions, of course, and I don't have clever answers today. Just what I'm pondering amongst the petty tasks of a busy morning.