Time and time again throughout this class I am reminded of Simone Browne’s phrase about the “absented presence” of blackness. Tyler Schmidt approximates the Browne’s language in his White Pervert piece, only with respect to white absence in the novel Beetlecreek. Shmidt makes reference to a white man who in essence “approximates” blackness vis-a-vis an active denial of his whiteness – approximates in quotes because blackness appears to be the default when whiteness is rejected or deviated from. This is of course due to the hegemonic hold that whiteness holds over blackness. It is one or the other; nothing in between.
Thinking back to when I read pieces from Tan Confessions, I was shocked at how my mind was attempting to attach racial characteristics to the characters in those pieces and yet there is nothing particularly black about the pieces I have been exposed to from Tan Confessions. What I mean to say when I say this is that the pieces give no indication as to an ethnic or racial identification. The people in the pieces appear to be “race neutral” but of course I know this is not the case given the context we are provided by Leisa D. Meyer in her essay Strange Love.
But of course I realize that this is a faulty way of thinking and that I must be wary about my own line of thinking when I start to assume that there must be a set way to depict black experiences. I must keep myself in check as a non-black person of color when thinking about why I assume there is nothing particularly black about the (small sample of) pieces I have been exposed to from Tan Confessions. So what I really meant to say when I said this is that when reading anything that has been censored by black Americans in the 1950s, I have to remind myself that there is (of course) no monolithic black culture.
Meyers’ own essay reminds us of this from the start when she presents us with two “disparate reactions” to the first issue of Tan Confessions; one is appreciative of the works presented while the other is not as enthusiastic. Breaking down my own line of thinking further, I would say that there is nothing stereotypically black about the pieces I have been exposed to from Tan Confessions – nor should there be – and yet the expectation existed and persists. It’s as if the absence of blackness during the 1950s – and the subsequent denial of depictions of blackness – denied a generational transmission of blackness through the ages. This sets the stage for the proliferation of black stereotypes that only serve to censor blackness. This is dangerous especially in the context of blacklists then and blacklists now.