this ability to touch or be touched is the simple ability to love

I think mainstream feminism rejected Andrea Dworkin because she told the truth about race, not sex.

This morning I came across this article in Slate: “Confronting White Womanhood at the Women’s Convention”.

The Facebook invite for a Women’s March had barely made it onto the internet last November before the conversation turned to race. It was the day after 53 percent of white women voted for Trump, and the name of the march was a casual rip-off of both a 1997 march for black women and a 1995 march for black men. People of color wanted to know why a bunch of white organizers were selling their protest with the intellectual property of black people. White people wanted to know why everyone couldn’t just put their differences aside and unite against Donald Trump.

In short order, three veteran organizers of color stepped in to help take the march from a hastily-created Facebook page to the largest global protest the world had ever seen, with a progressive platform that demanded, among other things, the demilitarization of American law-enforcement bodies and the end of mass incarceration. Some black activists still boycotted the march for its apparent roots in white feminist thought. Some white women boycotted the march, too, because they didn’t think issues of race and racism belonged next to issues like equal pay and reproductive rights.

The clash in perspectives had little to do with the Women’s March itself. But the march served as an illuminating microcosm of progressive American society in general, and the feminist movement in particular, which has only just begun to account for how the white supremacy of its past still affects its present. For white feminists unacquainted with contemporary discussions of intersectionality, it was an abrupt introduction to the topic.

Actually, can we forget about “contemporary discussions of intersectionality” and go back to what Andrea Dworkin said 30 fucking years ago?

“If the world wasn’t so full of dead folks,” the preacher tells them, with a passion that tries to make sense of this death added to all the others, “maybe those of us that’s trying to live wouldn’t have to suffer so bad.” Being “dead folks,” in Baldwin’s world, is nothing so simple as being white. Being dead is being ignorant, refusing to know the truth, especially about oneself. Remaining ignorant of oneself through a life of inevitable experience is hard; it requires that one refuse to know anything about the world around one, especially who is dying there and why and when and how. White people especially do not want to know, and do not have to know to survive; but if they want to know, they have to find out; and to find out, they have to be willing to pay the price of knowing, which is the pain and responsibility of self-knowledge.

Black people are unable to refuse to know, because their chances for survival depend on knowing every incidental sign of white will and white power; but knowing without power of one’s own to put one’s knowledge to use in the world with some dignity and honor is a curse, not a blessing, a burden of consciousness without any means of action adequate to enable one to bear it.

Self-destruction is a great and morbid bitterness in which one destroys what one knows by destroying oneself; and the preacher, hating this self-destruction, finds an ethic that repudiates it: “The world’s already bitter enough, we got to try to be better than the world.” Being “better than the world,” for the oppressed, is the nearly impossible prerequisite for compassion, the only means of staying whole as human beings; what the powerless must somehow manage to become, to remain, while carrying a knowledge of cruelty and indifference that kills with a momentum of its own.

Truth is harder to bear than ignorance, and so ignorance is valued more–also because the status quo depends on it; but love depends on self-knowledge, and self-knowledge depends on being able to bear the truth. For Baldwin, in his fiction and in his essays, being human means that one pays for everything one knows and for everything that one refuses to know, that

you have to, in order to live, finally , make so many difficult and dangerous choices that the one thing you’re really trying to save is what you lose. And what you’re trying to save is your ability to touch another human being or be touched by that person.

This ability to touch and be touched is at stake always, in every choice toward or away from knowing anything at all about the world or oneself; and this ability to touch or be touched is the simple ability to love, so hard to save because hope is hard to save, especially when it must coexist with knowledge:

Yet hope–the hope that we, human beings, can be better than we are–dies hard; perhaps one can no longer live if one allows the hope to die. But it is also hard to see what one sees. One sees that most human beings are wretched, and, in one way or another, become wicked: because they are wretched.

Inside an unjust, embittering social universe where there are moral possibilities, however imperiled, of self-esteem and empathy, fucking is the universal event, the point of connection, where love is possible if self-knowledge is real; it is also the place where the price paid, both for ignorance and truth, is devastating, and no lie lessens or covers up the devastation…

…Yves’s fear, and Eric’s too, is not neurotic or psychological, nor is it personal, rooted in family history. It is a fear based on the recognition of life’s impermanence; fear of being known, being seen and known in all one’s awful trouble and shabby dignity, having a witness to what one is and why, then to lose that astonishing grace. Life does not tolerate stasis; and there is no way of protecting love. In fucking, the deepest emotions one has about life as a whole are expressed, even with a stranger, however random or impersonal the encounter. Rage, hatred, bitterness, joy, tenderness, even mercy, all have their home in this passion, in this act; and to accept truly another person within those bounds requires that one must live with, if not conquer, the fear of being abandoned, thrown back alone…

That is possibly the most beautiful thing ever written about life. People refuse to do those things, so the sex is terrible and Donald Trump is president.

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