Sunday, August 05, 2018

Don't be a d-ck

Brad DeLong gets it right: (Early) Monday Smackdown: Bard College Has a Quality Control Problem Here: Roger Berkowitz Needs to Learn to Quote Fairly and Accurately

I think that almost every discussion about "cultural appropriation" should be, instead, a discussion about: "don't be a d-ck". Clarifies matters immeasurably.

The brilliant national treasure Roxane Gay is, in my opinion, 100% correct when she writes: "stay in your lane.... The great thing about writing is that you can develop new lanes through research, immersion and effort..." That is not "being a d-ck". But When I read these exchanges (and Jennifer Schuessler's piece), I think Jennifer, Nina, and Burleigh are all being d-cks—especially Roger Berkowitz, who I think is being a major a--hole here, and doing so while claiming to be the heir and channeler of Hannah Arendt. . . .

[I]t is distinctly odd that [Roxanne Gay] is being accused of being too confident about her opinions, and is being held up as some authority over what is and is not legitimate to publish. It is (still) a free country. People can do what they want. People need to understand how their work is going to be read, to be able to handle those readings and the responses they generate, and to think about whether all of that together is moving the ball downfield.


  1. "People need to understand how their work is going to be read."

    That makes sense. I mean, you CAN do certain things, but it's going to tough to find a rational audience if everyone thinks you're a complete d*ck.

    I mean, in some industries. If you're a musician or an artsy movie director, then it probably doesn't matter much.

  2. I agree this time with those who are criticizing the poem author, actually. The poem was tasteless and clearly patronizing. Regarding the claims of cultural appropriation, I will say that I have heard some less-educated whites say "you is", etc., but it doesn't matter because this poem is indefensible at any rate. Its author is somebody who clearly "has theirs" in life and for whatever reason is trying to cash in even more at the expense of the homeless. That kind of thing disgusts me more than just about anything else.

  3. It's important, I think, to argue that even if the criticism were incorrect, it would not be an offense to simply raise it. It's one thing to say, This criticism is wrong; it's a horse of an entirely different color to argue, It is illegitimate to offer criticism.

    For example, I think the Chinese Prom Dress kerfuffle was mistaken; I don't think, however, that raising the criticism was wrong per se. Just because this particular instance does not seem like actual cultural appropriate doesn't mean that cultural appropriation isn't a real thing, or as that as people such as Lionel Shriver argue, criticism of cultural appropriation is categorically wrong.


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