Here are a couple of recent longer essays, both challenging and insightful, that reward the time it may take to read them even if neither is a quick click-through.
I’ve excerpted a bit from both of these below, but neither piece really lends itself to a simple excerpt-summary. The few paragraphs I’ve copied here are meant to entice you to read the rest, not to serve as Cliff-Note substitutes. The latter piece, by Andrew Solomon, deals forthrightly with the subject of rape, so reader discretion is advised.
Ta-Nehisi Coates: “Fear of a Black President”
By virtue of his background — the son of a black man and a white woman, someone who grew up in multiethnic communities around the world — Obama has enjoyed a distinctive vantage point on race relations in America. Beyond that, he has displayed enviable dexterity at navigating between black and white America, and at finding a language that speaks to a critical mass in both communities. He emerged into national view at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, with a speech heralding a nation uncolored by old prejudices and shameful history. There was no talk of the effects of racism. Instead Obama stressed the power of parenting, and condemned those who would say that a black child carrying a book was “acting white.” He cast himself as the child of a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas and asserted, “In no other country on Earth is my story even possible.” When, as a senator, he was asked if the response to Hurricane Katrina evidenced racism, Obama responded by calling the “ineptitude” of the response “color-blind.”
Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others. Black America ever lives under that skeptical eye. Hence the old admonishments to be “twice as good.” Hence the need for a special “talk” administered to black boys about how to be extra careful when relating to the police. And hence Barack Obama’s insisting that there was no racial component to Katrina’s effects; that name-calling among children somehow has the same import as one of the oldest guiding principles of American policy — white supremacy.
The election of an African American to our highest political office was alleged to demonstrate a triumph of integration. But when President Obama addressed the tragedy of Trayvon Martin, he demonstrated integration’s great limitation — that acceptance depends not just on being twice as good but on being half as black. And even then, full acceptance is still withheld. The larger effects of this withholding constrict Obama’s presidential potential in areas affected tangentially — or seemingly not at all — by race. Meanwhile, across the country, the community in which Obama is rooted sees this fraudulent equality, and quietly seethes.
Andrew Solomon: “The Legitimate Children of Rape”
There is a veritable war of statistics about rape and pregnancy, and the confusion is exacerbated by the competing agendas of the pro-choice and anti-abortion movements.
… I have been researching a book, “Far from the Tree,” that deals in part with women raising children conceived in rape, and have therefore met the living reproof to Akin’s remark.
… Rape is, above all other things, non-volitional for the victim, and the first thing to provide a victim is control. Raped women require unfettered choice in this arena: to abort or to carry to term, and, if they do carry to term, to keep the children so conceived or to give them up for adoption. These women, like the parents of disabled children, are choosing the child over the challenging identity attached to that child. The key word in that sentence is “choosing.”
… In working on my book, I went to Rwanda in 2004 to interview women who had borne children of rape conceived during the genocide. At the end of my interviews, I asked interviewees whether they had any questions for me, in hopes that the reversal would help them to feel less disenfranchised in the microcosmic world of our interview. The questions tended to be the same: How long are you spending in the country? How many people are you interviewing? When will your research be published? Who will read these stories? Why are you interested in me? At the end of my final interview, I asked the woman I was interviewing whether she had any questions. She paused shyly for a moment. “Well,” she said, a little hesitantly. “You work in this field of psychology.” I nodded. She took a deep breath. “Can you tell me how to love my daughter more?” she asked. “I want to love her so much, and I try my best, but when I look at her I see what happened to me and it interferes.” A tear rolled down her cheek, but her tone turned almost fierce, challenging. “Can you tell me how to love my daughter more?” she repeated.
Perhaps Todd Akin has an answer for her.