A body is neutral, objective, a fact—no more meant to be interpreted than a rock or a car. Different bodies shouldn’t mean different things, and yet. Other people have different interpretations of my husband’s body: its intent, threat, capabilities, worth.
One might argue that blackface performances of the thirties and forties (and earlier) are so far in the past and such a product of their time as to be beyond judgment, but I’d disagree. I’d rather assessments of artists be made with knowledge of their warts and all.
In our hands, his life
amounted to vacant housing
taped off, his blood on blacktop
too dark to identify.
The public nature of the hate is critical to its Americanizing function. Shouting hate slogans, hateful slurs, is our form of communist denunciation and coerced betrayals of loved ones — only, instead of marking Party membership, by offering up traitors to a cause, capitalists, enemies of state — we signal we are part of the majority by verbalizing hate, demonization, exclusion.
“It took me ten years to figure out how to write funny the way I could talk funny. Doing improv or standup or making people laugh at a party or an open-mic night—that kind of humor came naturally to me, but writing funny was so hard. I struggled with that balance between seriousness and silliness—I didn’t want to write myself into a corner, where I could only be silly or lighthearted. I felt like there had to be a way to have a legitimate mind and still make readers laugh, to say earnestly true things, and not just ironically true things.”