Alex Perez: Writer of the Hour
A writer friend of mine recently sent me a link to an interview with author Alex Perez about his experience at the Iowa Writers Workshop. I LOVE his responses. He rails on White Wokeism, and it deserves it 100%. Here is the link to the Perez piece: https://www.hobartpulp.com/web_features/alex-perez-on-the-iowa-s-writers-workshop-baseball-and-growing-up-cuban-american-in-america
Here is one of my favorite sections: “My take is the only take and the one everyone knows to be true but only admits in private: the literary world only accepts work that aligns with the progressive/woke point of view of rich coastal liberals. This is a mindset that views “whiteness” and America as inherently problematic, if not evil, and this sensibility animates every decision made by publishers/editors/agents. White people bad. Brown people good. America bad. Men bad. White women, I think, bad…unless they don a pussy hat. This explains why nearly every book is about some rich fuck from Brooklyn confronting his white guilt or some poor black girl who’s been fighting “whiteness” and “patriarchy” all her life. All this stuff is ideologically-driven horseshit propagated by some of the most artless people on the planet. We know who they are.”
Yep. Absolutely. Here’s the harsh truth: Wokeism and Art cannot coexist. Pick one. I don’t care how “evil” you think the right is. (And look: I am NO FAN of the right.) The appropriate and efficient and effective answer to conservative authoritarianism is simply NOT Wokeism. Perez’s quote nails something very satisfyingly accurate which, as he says, everyone knows but most won’t admit in public: Wokeism represents cultural fascism. Lefties love to talk about how cancel culture isn’t real and, even if it was, they say, it’s not “censorship” anyway because it’s “not from the government.”
But this is a paper-tiger argument. Sure, it’s technically not censorship to de-platform people you disagree with or who the Woke mob attacks en masse on Twitter and gets canceled…but it IS 100% censorious. Do we want that? A censorious, anti-liberal, anti-Democratic cultural environment? Of course we don’t. (Re cancellation, check out Sam Harris’s newest podcast interview [#300] with Meg Smaker: https://www.samharris.org/podcasts/making-sense-episodes/300-a-tale-of-cancellation.) Fascinating and terrifying.
One of my novels—an autobiographical YA—was rejected by multiple agents, after they read it multiple times and praised it, because I was/am a WSM (White Straight Male) in the Time of Trump. (They used less obvious language but the message was clear.) I DO totally support all non-white serious writers and I say WHY NOT to their work getting out there…as long as it has merit. And much of it clearly does! But if writers (or anyone else in any industry) are given book contracts simply because they’re non-white and fulfil the leftist ideology: That’s textbook racism. That means you don’t measure a writer’s worth by the power of their prose, but rather by the immutable color of their skin. The color of their skin should be irrelevant.
No, I’m not naïve enough to think we can be or should be “colorblind.” Rather I think the opposite: All human beings—black, white, brown, red, Asian, etc—have some racism in them. We all do. Be honest with yourself. You notice differences in skin tone, right? Based on your class background and the way you were raised, and your childhood geographical location, etc etc etc, you automatically make judgments about people you see. That is no big deal. It’s healthy, rational, normal. But. You have to question those underlying assumptions when they arise, because otherwise you risk getting ensnared in cliches and stereotypes which might sometimes describe some portions of some groups some of the time, but have very little to do with actual individuals of any race. We have to, as MLK famously said, judge each other by the content of our character, not the color of our skin. (I would amend that to, Judge first, then criticize that automatic judgment.)
I reject the notion that race is foundational based solely on power; that, because of historical oppression, black people, say, cannot, by definition be racist.
I remember living in a rough part of East Harlem during the first three months of the Covid lockdowns. It got crazy in my area, around 130th and 5th Ave. One day I was writing and heard a man screaming brutally at someone. I stopped what I was doing and walked across my office room to the window. Looking down—I was on a third-floor walkup—I saw a gigantic black man probably 6’2 with bristling muscles the size of my neck wearing a wifebeater and a gold chain necklace screaming his lungs out at a tiny 5’0 Chinese woman walking her baby in a stroller down 5th Avenue. She looked terrified but faced straight ahead, didn’t respond to his yelling, and kept moving as quickly as possible. Several times he said, “Go back to China, bitch! You brought the Virus here!” He pointed and screamed like a madman; spit flew out of his gaping mouth. I just shook my head. James Baldwin—the famous 20th century renowned (and often misquoted) black writer—talked in depth in “Notes of a Native Son” about the strangled, confused history of racial tension between African Americans and Asian-Americans. Black people can be racist. By saying that I give black Americans the dignity they deserve. They can be ignorant and biased and bigoted just like white people and everyone else.
I knew my “fictional memoir,” “Two Years in New York,” covering my months in East Harlem during Covid and being chased and followed and spat on my the locals would never get an agent. I’m white. So I am publishing it now on Substack: michaelmohr.substack.com.) This is 2022. Racism has been redefined so many times at this point that no one really knows what that old, tired word even means. When you look in the dictionary the “definition” is so blatantly ideological and biased it cannot be taken seriously. And that’s the sad truth about America in 2022: The nation as a whole cannot be taken seriously any longer. The cultural “narrative” has become so detached from real life, so unthreaded from non-white minority struggles, so myopic and navel-gazing and ironically all ABOUT white people (yet again) that you just have to laugh, say Fuck It, and DIY.
I for one am more than stoked, though, to read interviews by people like Alex Perez. He has guts. He tells it like it is. Young white Woke women are 98% of literary agents. If they even so much as SMELL non-ideological writing—or God forbid authentic, real, honest, raw writing that actually represents human life—they reject the manuscript so fast it’s like God took a shit on Satan. The media; mainstream institutions; literature; thinking: These are all a thing of the past; passe; so 2015. This is, again, why I joined Substack. For decades I thought I wanted to go the traditional route. But that time is over. It’s time to fight back. It’s time to lift our collective sane voices and say NO to Wokeism. It’s time to believe in Art and Truth and Honesty.
Trump said Make America Great Again (MAGA). The Left seems to say Make America Divided Again (MADA). I say: Make America Sane Again (MASA).
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