Tuesday, May 7, 2013

 "On Quitting" 
- Keguro Macharia, The New Inquiry 

"On Quitting" is a wonderfully poetic piece by Keguro Macharia about the precariousness of being a Black intellectual in America. He describes in vivid, nonlinear detail the devastating sum of the colonial experience in a white supremacist society. The United States is still a colonialist nation whose contemporary reality is the ongoing tale of “slavery’s long shadow and racism’s insistent pressing.” America has the power to estrange and colonize natives and non-natives, like Macharia, alike. In that sense white supremacy doesn't discriminate.

Adding to the inescapable toxicity of operating as Other in a racialized society is the disfigurement of university life by the cultures of professionalism and corporatism; money and status and annual reports are prioritized over the life of the mind, including the minds of the students. This anti-intellectual atmosphere is one he chooses to leave behind, despite having a tenure-track job.

Liberatory writers like Franz Fanon help guide Macharia's conscience-stricken body through the minefields of racism, class, greed and mental illness to a somewhat safer place outside of the US where the decolonization of his spirit might stand a chance, to “a space," he writes, "within which scabbing can begin, and, eventually, scars that will remain tender for way too long.”

Macharia’s efforts to save himself become a form of resistance within the context of a fundamentally unjust social order that destroys and distorts the colonized being down to the core. The act of recording his experience is a powerful discursive intervention in the racist western intellectual and cultural traditions that equate blackness to "disposability and killability."

In such a context, in which hope is rejected outright as "cruel optimism," it is astonishing Macharia's words carry such an indomitable spirit and beauty. I have nothing but admiration for writing of this kind, for Macharia's painful honesty and moral consistency. This is the work of a freedom fighter.

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