[Libs-Or] American Dirt

Nicholas Schiller infoliberty at gmail.com
Fri Feb 7 11:42:17 PST 2020

Tony, at risk of prolonging this discussion, I can't accept any thanks. As
I re-read the posts in all of these threads, a few things become clear to
me. First, by addressing you with more respect and politeness than you
addressed Latina and other critics, I am participating in the
microaggression of treating the perspective of a white man with established
professional standing with more respect and politeness than the Latina
perspectives being unprofessionally and rudely criticized. I have *reasons*
for doing this: e.g., wanting to respect the list-serve audience and make
the conversation useful, but I erred and tacitly approved of criticizing
the tone of an argument and not its content.

Secondly, this seems obvious to me, but I can't "keep a discussion a
discussion" when the thread originally was far too impolite to be called a
discussion. The thread begins with a slur towards those who don't share its
assumptions calling them "Social Justice Warriors". SJW is often used as a
way to ignore the intellectual content of a position and instead criticize
the tone or the stridency with which the position is communication. It's
also used as a misogynist way to ignore the intellectual content of an
argument and thus dismiss it as only emotion or the act of an unthinking
mob. It is demonstrable and obvious that the reviewers and critics, even
ones who chose to expose their anger, based their critique in reasons and
justifications. Calling negative reviews "attacks", calling critics "social
justice warriors", and calling the popularity of these views a "mob" are
all rhetorical techniques that dismiss the intellectual content of their
arguments while drawing attention to their tone, their gender, and their
ethnicity. I don't think any of these rhetorical techniques have a place in
a list-serve conversation. At best they are microaggressions, at worst they
are straight-forward tactics of white-supremacy. Finally, by ignoring the
words written in the negative reviews and complaints and instead
mis-attributing their motivations to simple racial antagonism, the thread
began as more of a scolding than a discussion.

So, if by responding in a restrained and civil manner I have cooperated in
further marginalizing the voices of these Latina critics and their allies,
then I have erred greatly. To be fair, I believe the voice, tone, and
stridency of Myriam Gurba's critical review you shared is appropriate for
it's context (a blog--or historiography for the masses.) These are things
that are worth getting angry about. From what I have read, both here and in
other places, the core of the problem is found in ignoring, marginalizing,
or stealing the words and thoughts of Latina thinkers and replacing them
with the voices of people empowered by the status quo. There's a real risk
that I could do that here, so I want to take care to explicitly avoid doing
that. My tone does not make my arguments any better.

This list-serve may not be the best place to continue the conversation, but
as a middle-aged cishet white man with tenure, I can expect my words to be
given more credence than they deserve based on their merits. I want to make
sure I'm not furthering the harm already done by ignoring the intellectual
content of Flatiron's critics and focusing instead on the tone and how they
are expressed. Maybe on a list-serve the righteous anger is expressed as
sub-text, but it is real and deserves to be noticed and respected.

The core problem here appears to be ignoring one set of perspectives and
replacing them with another, more comfortable set. I don't want my echoing
of the Latina opinions I have read to replace their original (and superior)

On Thu, Feb 6, 2020 at 5:17 PM Tony Greiner <tony_greiner at hotmail.com>

> I want to thank Nicholas Schiller for keeping the discussion as a
> discussion, instead of participating in attacks on me personally. But I
> want to add one more bit in response to his latest post. To quote him: "There
> appears to be no reason to label negative reviews of the book as "attacks."
> People are allowed to have negative opinions about author's work. There
> does not appear to by any valid justification to support the claims that a
> white author is being silenced. (at least none that have been offered in
> this list-serve thread)."
> It was my mistake not to share links to some of those attacks on Cummins
> personally, and statements that white people should not write about any
> other race.  Here is one, an essay by Myriam Gurba that demonstrates both
> of those things, and in a particularily nasty way.
> Pendeja, You Ain't no Steinbeck: My Bronca with Fake-Ass Social Justice
> Literature.
> <https://tropicsofmeta.com/2019/12/12/pendeja-you-aint-steinbeck-my-bronca-with-fake-ass-social-justice-literature/>
> Since much of the online discussion of the "American Dirt" controversy has
> degenerated into name-callling and ficticious biographies of my life, I'm
> not going to participate publically anymore.  I have a pretty thick skin,
> but I think I have made my point, and doubt that many people other than the
> participants are reading these anymore.
> **tony_greiner at hotmail.com**
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