How We See One Another: Editors Castro and Sukrungruang in Conversation
September 13, 2016 § Leave a comment
Guest editors Joy Castro and Ira Sukrungruang discuss what they hoped for and what they learned in assembling Brevity’s Special Issue on Race, Racism and Racialization, which went live yesterday.
Joy Castro: Editing this issue with you has been a fascinating process, Ira, and I’m really glad to have gotten the chance to read these essays. Can you talk about why you wanted to edit an issue about race and racialization at this particular vexed moment in U.S. racial politics?
Ira Sukrungruang: Because I couldn’t sleep. Because I felt helpless. Because I remember what the novelist Marlon James said at the 2015 American Book Award Ceremony in San Francisco, about the difference between a non-racist and an anti-racist. I was sitting there with my then-fiancé, now wife, and I was moved to silence. She was moved to silence. When a heavy truth is delivered sometimes the body freezes to let it all in. What Marlon said made absolute sense, and it was simple. Non-racists say they aren’t racist and do nothing. Anti-racists are not racist and are active in ridding the world of racism. If you are a non-racist you are part of the problem. You see the world burning, and you do nothing to stop it.
So, why not start a conversation? Why not wrestle away the talk of race from political figures who are empty in their rhetoric, or dangerous in their accusations? To me, a lot of their talk is non-racist talk. It’s pointing out the problem and nothing else. Or saying, quite plainly, we do not have a race problem, or, worse yet, people of certain races are the problem. This is scary.
My racial awareness came about through reading. What I was seeing in literature I wasn’t seeing anywhere else. The gray areas. The minute moments of inequality, the everyday lives of people of color. Those struggles. Those joys. In literature, race wasn’t about color alone. It wasn’t about difference. In literature, race is made complicated. Race is seen through a myriad of views. Played out not only through violence and hate and injustice, but love and understanding and empathy. The authors I read, you included Joy, had things to say that triggered a tuning fork in my bones. It was this reason I became a writer, to be part of this tribe, part of an ongoing conversation about race via the written word. So when Brevity asked me co-edit this issue, I couldn’t say no. To co-edit it with you, doubly so.
How about you, Joy? Why do you think an issue about race and racialization is necessary now, more than any other time in our country?
Joy Castro: Well, I’m not sure I’d claim it’s more necessary now than at any other time, because the history of the United States has never not been racially vexed, and intervening with multiple voices on the topic of race and racialization could have been useful at many, many points.
What I do think is that it’s more possible now. Very possible.
Read the remainder of this conversation in the latest Brevity, and stay to read the essays as well.