In this age, academia seems to push a “post-racial” approach to discourse. However, as we all know, the issues of race have yet to even be nearly resolved, thus racism and non-inclusion have evolved to take on a more discreet form within the “post-racial”. In the introduction to Thinking Its Presence, Dorothy Wang expresses that this evolution comes with the adoption of words like ‘preservation,’ ‘literary,’ ‘theoretical,’ and ‘pure.’ As an example, Wang shares the viewpoints of Marjorie Perloff, who uses just this rhetoric.
Immediately, I was upset reading the first part of the introduction including Perloff’s comments. The fact that white academics especially in creative fields like writing or music, fight for protecting the foundations of whatever fields they work in while seeing the works of colored and black creators who do not fit specific molds as disruptive speaks to a grander form of ignorance. Academia seems to simultaneously ignore the contributions of colored and black intellects to the foundations of various fields while also delegitimizing any of their work within the current canon, doubly excluding the voices of these creators.
Reading about this in the field of literature made me think about how this functions in other artistic-academic fields, such as music. I recently got into an argument with a friend over the genre of Jazz. Specifically, we were discussing the fact that traditional jazz, and in turn our institution’s music department, primarily gives the platform to white composers and musicians despite jazz being based in African American tradition. Additionally, derivative forms of jazz such as funk, blues, R&B, and hip-hop, are sneered at and devalued. My friend, a fellow student who also happens to be white, argued that musicians are just trying to preserve traditional jazz as it is a dying art. But the question that immediately came to my mind in response to this was, “who are you preserving it for, though?” when there are so many people not being included in that.
I can’t help but notice that my friends rhetoric, as well as Marjorie Perloff’s rhetoric, sound very similar to that of alt right and outwardly racist people who wish to Make America Great Again and go back to a whiter America. It’s all the same, just coded.