by Anna Deavere Smith published in The Atlantic
Read original on The Atlantic's website
Deavere Smith recounts her own story of going off ...Show description
Posted 769 days ago
It was wonderful to read Deavere Smith's experience 50 years later. I think it's invaluable for young people like myself, who see the civil rights movement as another lifetime, to constatly hear the voice of people who loved through it. This helps us contextualize the modern day. As Deavere Smith puts it:
Many believe that the moment we live in is unprecedented. I don't know about that.
Almost everything these days is unprecedented: scientific advances, politics, etc. Believing in this simply means we don't understand the flow of history, or we choose to ignore it and the voices that tell us about a not-too-distant past.
I was most moved by the change she saw in what is now being labelled as "cancel culture":
If a dean were to talk like that to a group of Black students now—heck, if a school custodian were to talk like that to a group of Black students now—they wouldn’t even get to the “pay to have you here” part. They’d be fired by the time they said “undesirable behavior.” Someone would put it on social media, and that would be that.
This is the unending work of people standing up to bias and unethical people who used their authority to perpetuate the system of racism. There are those who recoil from it now because they resent what "cancel culture" represents. But these people live in a world of dubious ethics and long for the day where their unearned authority gave them a place in society that was unjust.