I was just talking with a friend about Alexandre Dumas, and it made me wish I had a couple hundred thousand to drop on advertising. Because I would go around major markets and buy billboards. Nothing fancy. Just black serif text on white. Possibly with a high-contrast black and white image.
It would be called the Great Writers Of The Western World Series.
And they would say things like:
Alexandre Dumas was also a brother.
Edna St. Vincent Millay also liked girls. And boys. Sometimes at the same time.
Christofer Marlowe was also a queer atheist.
Ursula K. Le Guin is also a woman.
Kurt Vonnegut also suffered from clinical depression.
Octavia Butler was also a black woman.
...add your own, really.
The point being, I am tired of obliterative majority culture and its bully kid sister, exceptionalism.
Alexandre Dumas was not a great black writer. He was a great writer. He was black. These are two complementary identities, and they should both be honored in equal measure. His greatness is not independent of his blackness--I do not mean to suggest that--but what I meant to say quite plainly is that Alexandre Dumas does not somehow fit into a smaller wading pool of greatness because he was black.
Maya Angelou does not fit into a smaller wading pool of greatness than Robert Frost because she is a black woman and he was a white man. They are fish in the same pond, and if you aren't measuring her as at least his equal, you need your ears checked. She's not pretty good, for a girl.
But more than that, I want to put these billboards up across from junior high schools. Because I imagine how nice it would have been to be thirteen, and me, and look up and see a billboard that said something like Virginia Woolf also got beat up in school.
And maybe I would have understood then that I didn't have to be a straight, white man to be a great artist. And not a second-stringer in the pretty good for a girl wading pool.