Seth Mandel is a NeverTrumper. Other than that he is a pretty decent fellow. Seth is Jewish, his wife Bethany (Shondark) is Irish, and they are both writers. Seth is the executive editor over at the Washington Examiner. Seth posted a tweet thread today that I want to discuss. I’ll post the first tweet, then cut and paste the text out of the others I want to talk about. (Please pay extra attention to #4, because that is where Seth goes astray)
2. Every week in the magazine, we have a back-of-the-book Obituary, similar to the way the Economist might have and other mags that want to highlight one notable life and give them a full page and really try to get at what was extraordinary in that life.
3. This week’s obituary was pretty obvious, when Toni Morrison passed away early in the week. Now, we have a stable of writers who do wonderful obituaries–it’s a skill, really, that requires a certain touch and deep well of knowledge.
4. But I thought it was fairly obvious that it would be appropriate for the obituarist to be black. I don’t *think* I have to explain why. So I reached out to some friends for suggestions, talked to black feminists who were happy to help make suggestions and connections.
5. Everyone I spoke to agreed this would be a wonderful opportunity to not only honor a major African American figure but also allow the writer to show readers what life and love and struggle and passion and wisdom and wonder looked like through the lens of a black American.
6. Since this is a conservative publication, it would also reach people who need to hear this message and learn its lessons at this critical moment (though those lessons are timeless). Morrison would, then, honor us all by showing that some things transcend partisanship.
7. Haha what was I thinking. Anyhoo, one person suggested reaching out to the twitter handle WritersofColor. I did so. They were happy to tweet out this opportunity for writers of color. I didn’t end up getting a writer through them, but it was still helpful.
8. An employee here came in yesterday and asked me if I got a writer for the Toni Morrison obit, because they had “seen the blowback to the tweet.”
Huh? I hadn’t seen any blowback. So he sent me the tweets in question. It wasn’t much of a blowback at all, but it was fascinating.
9. A writer named Nylah Burton had responded to WritersofColor, but she has me blocked so I had no idea. The backstory here is that Nylah viciously attacked a friend of mine on twitter, and I defended my friend, and one of us held a grudge (guess which one!).
10. Hello old friend!
Long story short, WritersofColor decided they didn’t want to be associated with a Nazi and deleted the tweet with the job posting.
Two more tweets I want to mention:
21. Now, conservatives are often criticized for not letting black Americans speak for themselves, and for not trying hard enough to see things from their perspective. Nylah, WritersofColor, and those chiming in the thread (professors among them, writers, poets) disagree.
22. They don’t want an improvement in the way we talk about race. They don’t want black voices to be heard by nonliberal listeners and readers. This complicates a world they see in a very straightforward way, and they don’t want things to get better. They want evil enemies.
My impression of Seth Mandel is that he is a nice guy but he is a little too naive, gullible, and idealistic. How he ended up with the Holdout Haters is a mystery to me. He’s the only NevwerTrumper I’ve ever seen who isn’t an asshole.
So Seth wanted a Toni Morrison obituary for his magazine. That makes perfect sense. She was a prominent American whose life and works are worthy of commemoration. But instead of simply picking one of his regular writers, Seth screwed up.
But I thought it was fairly obvious that it would be appropriate for the obituarist to be black. I don’t *think* I have to explain why.
Sorry Seth, but it isn’t obvious to me, so why don’t you explain??
There are some people in this country who think that there are (and should be) “Black spaces.” These are the same people who talk about “blackness” “white privilege,” “Microagressions, and other neo-segregationist ideas. In the days of segregation, black people were told that there were white spaces they could not enter. The neo-segregationists want to create black spaces where white people cannot enter or even talk about.
You might recall when Colin Kaepernickel quoted Frederick Douglass in a 4th of July tweet. Senator Ted Cruz replied with a longer, fuller version of that quote, and he was promptly attacked by Mara Gray, a member of the NYT Editorial Board:
“Frederick Douglass is an American hero, and his name has no business in your mouth.”
Gray, who is black, seems to believe that because Frederick Douglass was black, only black people can quote him or talk about him. That idea is just silly. Imagine if we said that only white people could quote or talk about Washington, Jefferson, and/or Lincoln. We would be denounced as racists and for once we would deserve it.
It might be a silly idea but a lot of people in this country have bought into it. Seth Mandel appears to be one of them. In a colorblind society, it never would have occurred to Seth that he should find a black writer for Toni Morrison’s obituary. But we don’t live in a colorblind society.
America is not a racist country either, despite what the Democrats claim. We are a racialized nation. We are obsessed with race. How do we teach our children that race doesn’t matter when we can’t stop talking about it?
Seth made the mistake of playing the Democrats game, and when you play their game you gotta play by their rules. And their rules say they win.
I gotta give Seth credit, those last two tweets were dead on.