All posts filed under: Identity

Romance, Race, and Retribution

I “This is a crisis of epic proportions,” wrote an alarmed Romance Writers of America (RWA) board member on Christmas Eve as the scenery started to collapse.1 Longstanding tensions within the trade organization had detonated the previous day when novelist Alyssa Cole revealed that RWA’s board of directors had suspended her friend Courtney Milan. The decision provoked a hurricane of condemnation from the membership, mass resignations from the board, and a spectacularly vicious frenzy of internecine bloodletting online. Milan’s suspension has been widely reported as the latest indignity suffered by a woman of color in an ongoing battle between RWA’s old guard and minority authors struggling against marginalization. In this version of events, Milan had exposed and confronted the scourge of racism within RWA and been crucified for it. For a few days, the 40-year old organization looked like it might tear itself to pieces, until what remained of the board agreed to commission an independent review of the events that led to Milan’s suspension. RWA retained multinational law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP …

The Misleading Racial Achievement Gap Statistic

Montgomery County, Maryland, is one of the most racially diverse counties in the United States. Four different ethnic groups—white, black, Hispanic, and Asian—all comprise at least 15 percent of the population of the county, not to mention a vast mixed-race population as well.  It is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation by average household income. It also has a high “racial achievement gap.” The Stanford Educational Opportunity metric pegs the black/white achievement gap score at 3.09, and the black-Hispanic/white-Asian gap even higher, which means that the average white or Asian eighth-grader in Montgomery County scores more than three grade-levels higher on standardized performance exams than the average black or Hispanic student. Apparently, by the standards of the Montgomery County Public School (MCPS) system, the racial achievement gap is nothing short of an educational crisis or profligate systemic failure. Current MCPS superintendent Jack R. Smith wrote in the Washington Post, “For 50 years, the achievement gap in Montgomery County has grown in the shadows while many of our county’s schools and students garnered well-deserved …

Christopher Hitchens, Anti-Identitarian

The Hitchens Prize is an annual award sponsored by the Dennis & Victoria Ross Foundation, named for the late polemicist and essayist Christopher Hitchens and presented to “an author or journalist whose work reflects a commitment to free expression and inquiry.” George Packer was this year’s recipient, and his acceptance speech examined a strange pathology of our time: “Writers are now expected to identify with a community and to write as its representatives.” While the community “might be a political faction, an ethnicity or a sexuality, a literary clique,” the effect is always the same: to enforce certain dogmas; to loudly declare your virtuous affiliations; to suppress independent thought. Hitchens, like Packer, was a great admirer of George Orwell (the former wrote a book in 2002 called Why Orwell Matters, while the latter edited two volumes of Orwell essays). In his 1946 essay “The Prevention of Literature,” Orwell observed: “To write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox.” Hitchens thought fearlessly. As Martin Amis put it, he liked “the …