Authenticity and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves
A short story in the form of a journal entry that would have been made on July 13th, 20xx, in Madrid, on Gran Via, a few blocks from Plaza D’Esapna, while having espresso; later that day over a bottle of Albarino; and even later than that at the Prado, before going to dinner. It has been edited by us and presented in The Review, not exactly the journal you are reading it in at present. I am one of the editors of this literary journal called The Review. I am not the editor of the journal you are reading this in; that is, there is a fictional journal that this story appears in called The Review, and that is the context for this story in the form of a series of three journal entries made in a single day by an African-American in Madrid one summer not too long ago, but maybe as many as five years ago, what does it matter, really? So then, you have me, the editor presenting a piece of short fiction in his literary journal, a piece written by a fictionally anonymous man who has a character in that story who writes three journal entries in a day in Spain, an African-American man from Brooklyn, New York. Is what he says the only thing to be said? Of course it is not. Are his the only opinions to be had? Of course they are not. The author of me creates me to present to a fictional you a story from an anonymous writer who himself has created a character who writes in his journal a few entries about race or identity or social constructs or media constructs presented as authenticity in the matter of social being. What that then has to do with anyone anywhere at any time is not for me to decide; it isn’t even for my creator to decide. He couldn’t. The editor of the journal that the real-world-you is reading from is a persona of the man who wears the authorial persona of this fiction, only that persona is different from his editorial persona, each just different masks to be worn as we wear aspects of personality depending on the social context, depending on who we are talking to or interacting with, no one the same person everywhere with everyone, no.
All my time in Paris I did not meet one non-native speaker of French working for the government of France or the City of Paris, or in any capacity we would call official . . . and not one non-native speaking waiter, who all were not as bad as had been depicted in one or another American stereotype of Parisian behavior, but then I found the French more charming than most Americans can, and I mean “can,” not “do.” I don’t want to be seen as one of America’s reactionaries from any age because I have and had as much fear of them as I do many of my friends and acquaintances from among the educated liberal elite, who in a deeper under-education than their semi-literacy is able to know, have no idea what they are talking about half the time . . . there are certainly liberals who are elites in America, but I digress. I do have to say what I have said because being black does not keep me from having too many very conservative opinions; being black does not automatically make me one of the eternal left.
How is it that none of us who are intelligent enough to understand this see this?
But there is something preferable in officials of government speaking clear articulate English, something every waiter at Cousin’s Kosher Deli would have insisted he spoke, haven’t you ever heard English? The many kinds of English spoken, a lot less than kin I could have said, what they said how they said it, although I learned what they meant by what they said when they said it how they did there in Brooklyn—I could say, here in Brooklyn, but what I see here in Brooklyn is as far from what I knew as a boy as anything from the far side of the moon. There is something certainly preferable, though, I must say, about getting pastrami in a kosher deli, preferably in New York, or so my prejudice continues. Why would you go to an Armenian for tacos, and I am the one who hates the idea of “authenticity,” itself a marketing ploy used as much in our politics and sociology as it is in sales. We are all of us more a projection of marketing image-making than we are ourselves.
Do you imagine that this is only a position to be held by contemporary neo-conservatives? Do you think that most of our recent arrivals from Asia or the Muslim world would not be right behind the American fundamentalist neo-conservative push to take away a woman’s right to choose if it were not for the blindly stupid xenophobia of most of the contemporary neo-conservatives? Do you imagine that they are not, many of them, fundamentally racist against white and black Americans?
I am not one of the new Nativists, or some contemporary version of a Know-Nothing, although I do wish we were a little bit more conservative about how people speak English in positions of authority or influence or help–I cannot tell you just how many people who work for the City of New York who I cannot understand when they speak–I wonder what they think of my Spanish here? Either my pronunciation is good, as one Spanish woman told me this morning, or they are incredibly tolerant. I cannot, in my belief, get to the existence of that kind of tolerance here. There is no city in the world as liberal as New York—and that isn’t all the time for everybody. Yet, growing in the shower stalls of under education and semi-literacy-as-literate-enough like so much mildew is a neo-conservatism in direct proportion to how stupidly liberal we have become–and I do mean stupid.
You do understand that it is an under educated, historically clueless and semi-literate liberal establishment that has allowed the conservatives to be as stupid and dangerous as they have become. And I am not even talking about what some fucking idiots think I mean, which is in their feeble reflexive insipidly American- liberal minds, a more moderate liberalism. I am not talking about that. I mean literacy the way we have taught it, perpetuated it and enforced it in our schools is too shallow and too narrow to aid us in protecting our liberties with intelligence and vigor. But contemporary American liberals being as insipid as they are, it is no wonder we are suffering this conservative backlash in just the way it has manifested, dangerously ignorant. And I am tired of people thinkiing they know whatI think because I am black; no one knows what anyone thinks until he listens to the person thinking in form of what he says or writes.
Remember, we are not the generation of our fathers and grandfathers; when fascism comes back, as it looks like it is coming back, we will not have the character to fight it.
I wish I had words I could understand when it came to just how much people of color have been co-opted by mainstream media. Not only co-opted, but reformed, re-imagined, re-imaged, re-packaged, made again in the mode of advertising and marketing, new and improved authenticities for us to buy, sell, swallow, parade, live up to . . . new and improved stereotypes made in a great Machiavellian design to keep the People fractured. So much for being “real” as the poor fuckers like to say, believing themselves more authentically human because they are now being authentically black or hispanic or something else—more snobbery from the poor, a kind of rhetorical posturing not positioning that imitates the rich or the once aristocracy—only in America can poor people of color imagine themselves to be truer or more real because they are poor or were once disenfranchised. Royalty was reality in the days of Louis Quatorze; today, it seems in our contemporary rhetoric, reality is only for being poor, urban and black . . . for instance, anyone in any hood blaming having been born black for choosing to be the nigger he has become; but then black has never had anything to do with being a nigger, and today you can’t even use the word nigger, but every one knows the difference or used to know or only pretended not to know the distinction between being a black man and being a nigger, and don’t give me that Tupac bullshit about nigga and nigger because the media wants you to think being a nigger is okay, and provide you with a whole lot of sociological pablum about how hard it is out there to be black, when what they are really selling to young black men is the idea that it is okay to be a nigger as black people have always understood the difference between being a nigger and being black, except now we have lost the notion as Italians have lost the distinction between being a guinea bastard and being Italian or Italo-American, as if the fucking Sopranos has anything to do with being Italian except in a marginal or remote or singularly exceptional way.
As long as we have a welfare bureaucracy as big as we do and prisons being built as a national industry, you are always going to need niggers to fill the roles. What easier way is there than to sell the idea that being a nigger is being authentically black. And this is accepted, understood, believed, disseminated and perpetuated most by semi-literate white liberal chicks under forty. You can’t use the word because the image is being repackaged and sold to undermine one generation after another so we can perpetuate the need for affirmative action which only sells the idea that black people aren’t good enough or smart enough or anything enough and so need extra help. It is also why the hood is always kept piled under shit because we need the image of disadvantage, which isn’t to say that there aren’t enough people living in poor neighborhoods who just feel an obligation to fuck things up, almost as if they are living up to the expectations of what they hear every day about how what else do you expect from people living under such hard conditions? Destroying shit becomes a right of passage which is fucked up enough but when it gets packaged as authenticity that society needs to better understand in order to honor diversity I imagine great African-Americans who had to fight the distinction of being called nigger because of the color of their skin . . .
I do get angry. Very [let me be stereotypical and say] motherfuckin mad. Don’t hand me it’s the same thing.
Again, I am only a fictional editor of a fictional piece written in the style of a journal because inside the story inside the fictional context, a man writes three journal entries in one day in Madrid. What Madrid has to do with the fictional context or how one is to read the story in the journal you are reading this in, or how the fictional readers of this story read this, or how the readers inside the story inside the context read this . . . you decide as they have decided . . . decision only you can understand because only you can make them for you.