Things that Make White People Uncomfortableby Michael Bennett and Dave Zirin ’98. The straightforward, hopeful, angry, activist voice throughout this work is Michael Bennett’s. This NFL player was smart to partner with Dave, who knows his craft, to mold a wide-ranging coherent analysis of what racism in America is and the role athletes can play in setting the agenda for progress. Among the many issues examined are the danger of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) which is too often the price players play for their moments of glory; player activism, which was not invented by Kaepernick (we are reminded of raised fists at past Olympics and of the brave stand of Muhammad Ali); escalating attempts to prevent players from using their celebrity to draw attention to crucial issues; and lack of upward mobility. Though black players do make huge salaries, they have not yet made it into the upper echelons of management or to team ownership (a term which carries us back to origins of racism in our country). I admit I glaze over when he talks about football – tight end? cornerback? Greek to me. But you don’t have to be a fan to understand that a guy who acquires wealth in a dangerous sport is a hero when he uses his influence to provide vegetables to kids in food deserts. Throughout the book, it is clear that his family is central. Michael’s brother Martellus (also an NFL star) wrote an introduction where he makes the point that as a kid he and Michael didn’t have comics full of black superheroes to look up to. Athletes were their superheroes. Elsewhere in this site I have an essay on demolishing the centrality of whiteness through stories. I am very grateful that Michael Bennett told his story.
May 6, 2019
Not That Kind of a Girl, A young woman tells you what she has “learned” by Lena Dunham, attended lower school. I really enjoyed Lena Dunham’s series Girls, and was intrigued to hear that she had attended Friends. So, she’s “not that kind of girl.” In my day that was what we said to put off unwanted amorous advances. What could it mean after the sexual revolution? In Lena’s case I can’t imagine, but I’m not sure she’s any kind of a girl; to me, her original voice is sui generis . At first I thought she had taken on the pose of a fausse naïve, who faked the surprise of a newborn as she faced all of life’s little adventures. After reading this book, I see her more as a curious and troubled spirit who is generous enough to put into words her experiences, stripped of any prepackaged filmy overlay. What I though was a pose is the real thing. She tells her story more thematically than chronologically (love and sex, body, friends, work), but it all leads to a sweeping feminist vision: “And the goal is big: radical self-acceptance for woman everywhere, political change so total it shakes the ground, justice and joy for those who have been used and tossed aside. And the goal is small: utter and unbridled selfhood.” As my daughter would say, “You go, girl!”