Who's your problematic fave?
Mine is Ray Bradbury. with Walt Whitman coming in at a close second.
I recently had a discussion about how it's easy to glide past an artist's bad take when that take seems like it doesn't truly affect me. (spoiler: it does, actually. *gestures at current political world*)
It's easy to righteously, smugly even, point out Bradbury's racism. Look how I'm learning to see it! And while that's worthy and valuable, it's only the first step. (Hint: more hands make less work)
Getting his voice out of my writing and his effects on my brain from childhood feels impossible. No joke. There is a level of hero-worship I have for Bradbury. Perhaps it's similar to how other people feel about R Kelly or Lovecraft or Notch or any of those many creators who keep sticking their foot in it?
When I consider what to DO about my relationship to Bradbury's work, a loud voice booms in my head, "Why do you have to do anything? He's dead. He's famous. It's not like your abandonment of his work will make any kind of difference to people in 2019. How can you even avoid his work? You are a writer LITERALLY because of what you read as a kid."
And that leads to grief.
It's easy for me to drop Lovecraft into the ocean. I've barely read any of his work. The stories I hear about him disgust me. He's egregious and way over *there* on the racism spectrum.
But, am I really an ally if *I* decide whether someone is "racist enough" to warrant walking away from their work. If their work wasn't my thing anyway, then I'm not really taking action. I'm just floating in my bubble of comfort and privilege.
This reminds me of the guy I cared for who'd already lost several toes to diabetes and was back in the hospital with more complications. He said to me, "It would be easy if the pie reached out and punched me."
It would be easy if he felt an immediate threat. If the relationship were hostile, violent, and threatening.
Well, guess what.
The essay I linked above highlights an option, a way to address the person who can't hear you, but whom you still need to call out and confront because his ideas are hostile, violent, and threatening to people today. Right now.
I won't go into some of the reasons we might be avoiding this work, but I will put this roundtable discussion here as one guidepost. As I find more, I'll bring them here to share.
There are rules. There must be mindfulness. You need to be sure you aren't grabbing that microphone from someone who needs it more.
But, for me, I need to find a way to argue with a dead white man who felt like better family than any I had, but was really not such a hero after all.