— The Troll (@TheCityTroll) December 28, 2020
A scathing op-ed in The New York Times about what 2021 will hold reveals yet another misunderstanding of whiteness, American values, and what is known as the American Dream. In 2020, as COVID-19 ravaged communities and government-imposed lockdowns decimated the American economy, The New York Times took aim at American morale and fired.
Viet Thanh Nguyen wrote with glee that one good thing about COVID-19 is that it “is killing off the myth that we are the greatest country on earth.” In his latest, he has implored American writers, specifically the white ones, not to “retreat to their pre-Trump selves.”
In Nguyen’s view, “Mr. Trump destroyed the ability of white writers to dwell in the apolitical. Everyone had to make a choice, especially in the face of a pandemic and the killing of George Floyd, both of which brought the life-or-death costs of systemic racism and economic inequality into painful focus. But,” he asks, “in 2021, will writers, especially white writers, take a deep breath of relief and retreat back to the politics of the apolitical, which is to say a retreat back to white privilege?”
In short, white writers who do not cater their words to a political message advocating for minority groups are racist. If they do not engage the political realm once the hated orange menace is out of office, they are not actually helping the cause, posits Nguyen, and helping the cause, apparently, is the only valid reason to do any writing.
Isabel Wilkerson wrote in The New York Times that America has a caste system, which it absolutely does not. We do not have a fixed caste system, instead people can move in and out of economic classes on the merit of their work, luck, and other factors, many of which are within an individual’s own control. Yet Wilkerson wrote: “Thus, the caste lines in America may have at one time appeared even starker than those in India.” It is as though, for Wilkerson and The New York Times, the Civil Rights Movement never happened.