The late British author Joanna Russ wrote a truly excellent book called “How to Suppress Women’s Writing,” which is the slam-dunk answer to those who say “If female authors are equal to men, why didn’t they write more Great Books?” (Ditto music, art, or any other form of expression.) Russ goes through the eleven-stage process that prevents women from writing and, if they manage to get published, minimizes their accomplishments.
An identical book could be written called “How to Suppress Black People’s Writing” or, well, insert your ethnic group or subcategory here. This hit me like a two-by-four — as I confessed earlier, very much belatedly — while I was reading Stamped From the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi. He organizes his chronicle of racist thought in America around the lives of five people: Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. DuBois and Angela Davis.
One thing I never knew: How long and distinguished the careers of DuBois and Davis were. I’d always thought of DuBois as a figure of the distant past, specifically the late 19th Century and the first couple decades of the 20th. But as I learned from reading Kendi’s book, DuBois was a respected figure and a widely published author through nearly two-thirds of the 20th Century. He died on August 27, 1963, on the eve of the March on Washington.
(Many of you, I’m sure, are thinking “No shit, Sherlock.” But as I wrote previously, I am a reasonably well-educated and well-read person who tries to explore important issues and think clearly about them, and yet my knowledge is embarrassingly limited. I suspect I am representative of many well-intentioned wypipo.)Continue reading