“When the president of the most powerful country in the world doesn’t need to care what the facts are, then we can be sure we have entered the Age of Empire.” This is Arundhati Roy, as quoted in a 2014 Rain Taxi review of Joseph Hutchison’s poetry collection Marked Men. The “facts,” as they relate to the Hutchison poems, concern the racial prejudice surrounding the infamous Sand Creek massacre, which Hutchison takes as his subject. This event took place in 1864, but the racial undertones of the tragedy and the concurrent ignoring of “facts” feel familiar enough to have happened this year.
Despite the fact that minorities are scapegoated for nearly every problem in the United States, including problems disproportionately endured by these groups themselves, this era is too often billed as “Post-Racial.” What this really means is that the country is trying more vigorously than usual to sweep its hatred under the rug. And, because this is an election year, the usual sleights of hand and coded rhetoric are ramped up and defended all the more passionately, in the name of “telling it like it is”—an idiom clung to by those who want to voice racist ideology without being stuck with the uncomfortable term “racist.” These candidates don’t need to care what the facts are; doing so would stand in the way of the empire they’re hoping to fortify. And the collateral damage of this practice will be felt, as always, by those identified as Other.
We’ve got poets, though. We’ve got writers showing the America experienced by far too many of us, collective pronoun. Read their work, because their work is true. In an age like this one, we should need no more reason than that.
Some of Rain Taxi’s best recent reviews of writing on racial inequality and injustice:
Review by Dale Jacobson of Marked Men by Joseph Hutchison (Winter 2014/2015, online)
Review by J.G. McClure of Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (Spring 2015, online)
Review by George Longenecker of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson (Summer 2015, online)