As Classicists we like to focus on the long view of history and to see ourselves in the deeper and stronger currents of time. But if we are honest, we know that we are equally, if not more, shaped by the eddies of our own day and its current events.
The increase in publicly pronounced and tolerated–if not also valorized–racism over the past few years has been shocking to many, although perhaps not to our friends and family who have faced bigotry their entire lives. The most recent year especially has seen a casualization of the rhetoric and political action of the far right in a way I once thought impossible.
Media outlets feed on the extreme voices because they don’t know how to report the news in the modern world. They have a vested financial interest in observing if not perpetuating the controversy. As a result, voices that spew ignorance and hate get more notice than they merit and they can do more harm in causing trauma to those who are marginalized already and, as part of their design, attracting the ignorant, insane or hopeless to their ideas.
When we started this blog, I never imagined I would spend so much time arguing with Nazis online or writing about politics. Last year, following events in Charlottesville, we did both: defending writing about Classics and politics, dismissing charges of political correctness as a tone policing act of the status quo, defending the humanities against conservative attacks, and, recently, arguing that the voices that reject literary theory are also those who align with conservative viewpoints.
Part of this has come from responding to current events, but it has also been inspired by hate speech directed our way. Last year, a week after the Charlottesville event, we received a comment accusing us of supporting “white genocide” or being a “Jewish supremacist”. The antisemitic harassment online has been fairly consistent since; as has a struggle over what it means to be a Classicist.
If we have responded haphazardly and sometimes reactively, we have also been inspired by dozens of other who are doing braver and more rigorous work to question the boundaries of our discipline, the voices within it, and its historical meanings. So, today, if you are feeling shocked or sick at media coverage, take a break and look at the critical work being done by the Classics Community online.
The work of these students, scholars and friends has been inspiring, edifying, and comforting over the past year.
Sarah Teets’ fine piece in Eidolon, Classical Slavery and Jeffersonian Racism
Rebecca Futo Kennedy’s talk on White Supremacy and Classics Scholarship or “On nationalisms Classical Antiquity, and Our Inhumanity” or On Genetics and Ancient Greeks, or on “Blood & Soil”
Pretty much everything Pharos and Curtis Dozier has done over the past year
John Bracey’s exploration of “Why Students of Color Don’t take Latin”
Dan-El Padilla Peralta’s “The Colorblind Bard” discussion
Denise Eileen McCoskey’s post on Racist Use of DNA in work on Classical Antiquity
Brandeis Student Helen Wong’s reflections on being a student of color studying classics
Yung In Chae’s “White People Explain Classics to Us”
Sarah Bond’s analysis of the Modern Romance with Sparta
The work of Classics and Social Justice
Daniel Walden’s “Dismantling the West”
The public advocacy of Matthew Sears against hatred and ignorance
A little outside of Classics, but still important, many posts from Everyday Orientalism