Friday, December 28, 2018

Not Recommended: HAMILTON (the musical)

In 2017, I saw Hamilton in Chicago. Before I went, I listened to the soundtrack and studied the lyrics. Today's post is my notes on the lyrics. As you might expect, they are rooted in who I am: a Native woman who has spent the last 30 years studying and critiquing representations and misrepresentations of Native people.

I did a short thread on Twitter after I saw it in 2017. (These next sentences inserted on Jan 5 for your convenience). The hardest moment for me was when the people in the theater were sobbing when the two fathers stand behind empty chairs and sing about the future their children would not have (they're dead). I could not stop thinking of all the Native fathers and mothers whose children had been killed by the likes of those two men and those who invaded Native homelands.

In August of 2016, Dr. Adrienne Keene, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, published Where are the Natives in Hamilton at her blog, Native Appropriations. I would especially like to link to Native critiques of Hamilton. If you know of one, please let me know. I'm also interested in critiques by anyone who is also asking where the Native people are in the musical. If you've had conversations with others about Miranda's erasure of Native peoples, I'd like to hear about them.



Sometimes, I publish a post-in-progress to give people a look at what I'm doing before I'm finished. I'm doing that today with this review of Hamilton. Each time I add to it, I will begin the addition with an italicized note that includes the time and date of the addition. My notes will consist of brief summary, my comments in italics, and links to items related to my comments.


~~~~

I am publishing my notes on Act I: Song 1. Alexander Hamilton at 12:52 PM on December 28, 2018. I welcome your comments here, on FB, or on Twitter. I'll add to this post, as time and energy permit. 

Act I
Song 1. Alexander Hamilton

Aaron Burr introduces us to Hamilton, asking how this particular man came to be "a hero and a scholar." John Laurens speaks next telling us that Hamilton worked so hard that by the time he was 14 years old, he was in charge of a trading charter.

Then, Thomas Jefferson tells us that while slaves were being slaughtered and "carted away across the waves," Hamilton kept his guard up, ready to "beg, steal, borrow or barter" to be a part of something.

Debbie's comments: Most people think of Andrew Jackson as the person most responsible for the Indian Removal Act--commonly called the Trail of Tears--but the idea originated with Jefferson. See his letter to William Henry Harrison, written on Feb 27, 1803.  As you will see when you read his letter, Jefferson was quite ready to do whatever it took to get Native lands. 

More of Hamilton's history is delivered by James Madison, Burr, and Hamilton himself. Eliza Hamilton tells us that Hamilton's mother died, and George Washington tells us that a voice inside told him that he had to fend for himself.

Debbie's comments: Most people think well of George Washington, but Native people do not. Did you know, for example, that a group of Seneca Chiefs wrote to Washington on Dec 1, 1790, to tell him that they called him "Town Destroyer" in their language and that when that name is heard, their women "look behind them and turn pale, and our children cling lose to the neck of their mothers."? 

Then Burr tells us that learning to fend for himself included "scammin' for every book he can get his hands on, plannin' for the future" and then, "see him now as he stands on the bow of a ship headed for a new land, In New York you can be a new man."

Debbie's comments: I'm noting that Miranda wrote "headed for a new land" instead of "headed for a new world" which is how people then and now--speak of what Native people had called home for thousands of years. So--Miranda chose "new land" instead of "new world." Why? Was he aware of the problems in that "new world" phrase? Or was it because "land" and "man" ("be a new man" is the last line) rhyme better? What do you think? 

That ship gets to New York and Burr says "Another immigrant, comin' up from the bottom."

Debbie's comments: That line is one reason so many people are enthralled by this musical. It frames America as a nation where immigrants can have the American dream. Every dollar of those dreams, though, came from lands that belonged to Native peoples that were in the way of the riches the immigrants wanted. 

Part 1 of Act 1 ends with people saying they fought with Hamilton, died for him, trusted him, loved him, and one of the final lines is Burr, saying "I'm the damn fool that shot him."


--Update, Friday, December 28, 1: PM--
On Twitter, Dr. Jeff Berglund told me about The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda. It is a two-act play by Ishmael Reed and will be at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in New York City from Jan 4 through Jan 7, 2019. The website for the play says:

“The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda" is a two-act play by Ishmael Reed, about a playwright who is misled by a historian of white history into believing that Alexander Hamilton was an abolitionist. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote a musical based upon this falsehood. Other historians would agree with Hamilton's grandson, Allan McLane Hamilton, author of The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton, who writes, "It has been stated that Hamilton never owned a negro slave, but this is untrue. We find that in his books there are entries showing that he purchased them for himself and for others." The ghosts of those slaves who were trafficked by Hamilton attempt to educate Miranda, including Harriet Tubman who teaches him about “The Underground Railroad.” 
The main issue of the times during which "Hamilton" takes place was the expansion into Native American territory, yet no Native Americans appear in "Hamilton." Two Native American scholars educate Lin-Manuel Miranda about Washington and Hamilton's policy regarding the Native-American presence. Not only are Native-Americans omitted from “Hamilton", but so are white indentured servants, even though indentured servants worked on both the Washington plantation and the estate of his wealthy father-in-law, General Philip Schuyler. After his education, Lin-Manuel Miranda confronts Ron Chernow, the author of "Hamilton." It is Ishmael Reed’s hope that this play will form a rebuttal to the musical "Hamilton," which has misled thousands of students.

If I lived in NY, I'd be in the audience for sure. I hope to hear from people who do attend! And, thanks, Jeff, for the info! Back again at 1:33 PM to say that I started looking for interviews of Ishmael Reed about his play but haven't found anything yet. I did find a terrific article he wrote for Counter Punch on August 21, 2015: "Hamilton: the Musical:" Black Actors Dress Up like Slave Traders... and It's Not Halloween. Go read it!


--Update: Dec 29 2018, 10:46 AM--

I received two excellent comments about Hamilton. I am pasting them here (in the body of the post) so that people can see them (a lot of people choose not to read comments to posts). The first is from Ava Jarvis:
By all rights Hamilton the musical should make people uncomfortable, and the fact that it doesn't make more people uncomfortable is just very... 
Well, I'd call it "very assimilative." There's a very pervasive way that society takes what the mainstream considers perverse (like people of color, black music, etc) and assimilates it and changes it to make it palatable for the mass audience. Cultural phenomena like the white legend of Pocahontas are a very clear example of this process.
Hamilton is also a case of this, but very different. Whereas the white legend of Pocahontas is not intended to bring Native Americans into the mainstream as anything other than "one with nature" resources to be possessed and exploited by white socio-economic-political structures, Hamilton has the effect of incorporating non-Native POC into the history of white power structures so that we (I speak as a Vietnamese person, so I'm a non-Native POC) will feel affection for and subliminally support the history of our oppressors.
And it... grudgingly... works to do that. Even for me. I feel the thrill of hearing rap music on the Western musical stage, so traditionally white in terms of music; I see people of color on that stage in prominent starring roles and my heart sings; it is too, too easy to forget that this is a siren song to accept that US history was just when it was clearly very much not. 
So, unfortunate as it is, because of how history is, the effect of Hamilton feels very horrific to me. I would actually say that, reflecting on the effects the musical has on my mind, it's almost Lovecraftian in the way it urges me to forget every crime committed by the US government on multiple continents and in multiple countries, including my own family's ancestral home. To forget that I have friends and acquaintances and followers who've suffered greatly at the hands of the US government.
Hamilton urges us to forget the genocide, the slavery, the racism, the usurpation of foreign democracies, and nowadays draconian and cruel immigration "policies", and does it in such beautiful tones that it is so easy to remember the fantasy called "America" instead of the bloody true reality.
We can't forget that reality. If we do, we will not change it; we just end up accepting white power structures instead of resisting them. 
And I think Miranda was very, very purposeful in leaving out Native Americans. It would ruin the narrative effect he was going for. I really, really don't think he did this by mistake.   

The second one is from Dina Gilio-Whitaker and begins as a response to Ava's comment:

I certainly cannot say it more beautifully or concisely than Ava Jarvis above has stated it. I have not seen Hamilton, nor will I because I’m not really interested in paying to be entertained by false historical narratives. I will say, however, that I am deeply suspicious of anything by Lin Manuel Miranda. I didn’t know who he was until I reviewed Disney’s film “Moana” two years ago for Indian Country Media Network ( i’d post a link to it but the link is not working due to the technical issues involved in creating the new Indian Country Today site). 
I was part of a media junket that was treated to a full day at Disney’s Moana studio, in which they paid for several International journalists to come and be part of this tour (raising the questions of conflicts of interest immediately). I might add, that I received no travel benefits from the Disney company given that I live in Southern California. Anyway, I was very critical of the film in my final review of it, and I was later referred to by one of Disney’s staff to my editor as having “terrorized” them because of the tough questions I raised. My written critique was very balanced, but did note how Disney went so far out of its way to erase the colonial histories of Polynesia while it created a work of art that would make people fall in love with it without realizing its bigger problems, and also noted the kind of money the company would make of the images of other peoples cultures. 
The way it did this was by creating what they called the “oceanic brain trust“, a collection of Polynesian artists, elders, and other cultural people to lend a sense of authenticity to the film. All of those people were bound by non-disclosure agreements, which meant that they could not talk about what they were being compensated to be part of this “trust,” naturally raising suspicions for many in the Polynesian community who were also critical of the film. Too many people benefitted monetarily from the film to think more deeply about what they were contributing to. This is just one of the problems the film raised. 
Manuel wrote the music for Moana. He is an entertainer, not a historian. His job is to make people feel good, not to tell an accurate story. In Moana he does this at the expense of telling the truth, and to make people not think about the fact that Hawaii is basically an illegal, fake state. Although Miranda is Puerto Rican, he was raised in mainland US with a degree of economic privilege, and his father was a Democratic Party operative. He is steeped in party politics, and appears to be committed to multicultural liberalism, which is never about understanding history in terms of colonialism. It is thus no surprise that he would bring a sanitized pop culture rendition about Hamilton. Making people feel good pays a lot better than making them rethink their hideous history. 


~~~~

I am publishing my notes on songs 2, 3, 4, and 5 on Sunday, Dec 20, 2018 at 3:45 PM. My last note on the lyrics for Act I, Song 1 is that Burr was saying he's the fool that shot Hamilton. 

Act I. 
Song 2. Aaron Burr, Sir

The year is 1776; the place is New York City. Hamilton introduces himself to Burr because he'd heard that Burr had finished Princeton in two years and he wanted to do that, too. The two agree to have a drink together. Burr advises Hamilton to stay quiet about what he's for and against. When they get to the bar, they meet Laurens, Lafayette, and Mulligan, who are talking about joining the revolution. Burr tells them he's going to sit it out. Hamilton is taken aback by Burr and asks him "If you stand for nothing, Burr, what'll you fall for?"

Song 3. My Shot

Laurens, Mulligan, and Lafayette sing "ooh, Who are you" and wonder what Hamilton is going to do. Hamilton replies that he's not throwing away his shot. "Just like my country" he says, he is "young, scrappy and hungry." He brags about his brains and says that they are "a colony that runs independently" and that Britain "keeps shittin' on us." He says King George taxes them and then goes on a spending spree. He won't ever "set his descendants free, so there will be a revolution in this century." Lauren sings that they'll never "be truly free until those in bondage have the same rights as you and me." Burr cautions them to lower their voices. He's on their side but thinks they sould be careful. They sing "When are these colonies gonna rise up?" Hamilton sings of how they'll "roll like Moses, claimin' our promised land." Song 3 ends with them all singing about how it is time for them to take a shot.

Debbie's comments: Hamilton's question to Burr (about what he'll stand for) are about integrity. They tell the audience we should like Hamilton. He's a good guy, with principles! But if you're a Native person, where is Hamilton's care for the Native people who called New York City their homeland? If Britain is shitting on the colonies, what -- in fact -- are the colonies doing to Native people? Hamilton calling the colonies "our promised land" affirms American beliefs--then and now--that God made this land for them and did things like clear the land of Native people via smallpox, on their behalf. [Back at 4:00 PM to add that what is currently known as Manhattan was homeland for the Lenape people.]

Song 4. The Story of Tonight

Hamilton sings that "when our children tell our story..." they will tell about that night when Hamilton, Laurens, Mulligan, and Lafayette are together in the pub, planning the revolution. They "raise a glass to freedom, something they can never take away."

Debbie's comments: The irony in those four men singing about freedom... This "our story" part is worth noting, too, because "our" does not include Native people. Later in the musical, there's a "who will tell your story" song. 

Song 5. The Schuyler Sisters 

Eliza, Angelica, and Peggy are the Schuyler sisters. Burr sings that they're there (downtown) to gawk at the men at work. Angelica says she's looking for "a mind at work." She's read Common Sense by Thomas Paine. The sisters sing "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal" and Angelica says that when she meets Thomas Jefferson she's going to tell me to include women. They sing that they "just happen to be" in the greatest city in the world (Manhattan).

Debbie's comments: More irony as they sing "all men are created equal" when so many men didn't view enslaved African as equal and told themselves a convenient lie, that Native peoples were inferior to them.  


~~~~

16 comments:

Ava Jarvis said...

By all rights Hamilton the musical should make people uncomfortable, and the fact that it doesn't make more people uncomfortable is just very...

Well, I'd call it "very assimilative." There's a very pervasive way that society takes what the mainstream considers perverse (like people of color, black music, etc) and assimilates it and changes it to make it palatable for the mass audience. Cultural phenomena like the white legend of Pocahontas are a very clear example of this process.

Hamilton is also a case of this, but very different. Whereas the white legend of Pocahontas is not intended to bring Native Americans into the mainstream as anything other than "one with nature" resources to be possessed and exploited by white socio-economic-political structures, Hamilton has the effect of incorporating non-Native POC into the history of white power structures so that we (I speak as a Vietnamese person, so I'm a non-Native POC) will feel affection for and subliminally support the history of our oppressors.

And it... grudgingly... works to do that. Even for me. I feel the thrill of hearing rap music on the Western musical stage, so traditionally white in terms of music; I see people of color on that stage in prominent starring roles and my heart sings; it is too, too easy to forget that this is a siren song to accept that US history was just when it was clearly very much not.

So, unfortunate as it is, because of how history is, the effect of Hamilton feels very horrific to me. I would actually say that, reflecting on the effects the musical has on my mind, it's almost Lovecraftian in the way it urges me to forget every crime committed by the US government on multiple continents and in multiple countries, including my own family's ancestral home. To forget that I have friends and acquaintances and followers who've suffered greatly at the hands of the US government.

Hamilton urges us to forget the genocide, the slavery, the racism, the usurpation of foreign democracies, and nowadays draconian and cruel immigration "policies", and does it in such beautiful tones that it is so easy to remember the fantasy called "America" instead of the bloody true reality.

We can't forget that reality. If we do, we will not change it; we just end up accepting white power structures instead of resisting them.

And I think Miranda was very, very purposeful in leaving out Native Americans. It would ruin the narrative effect he was going for. I really, really don't think he did this by mistake.

Dina Gilio-Whitaker said...

I certainly cannot say it more beautifully or concisely than Ava Jarvis above has stated it. I have not seen Hamilton, nor will I because I’m not really interested in paying to be entertained by false historical narratives. I will say, however, that I am deeply suspicious of anything by Lin Manuel Miranda. I didn’t know who he was until I reviewed Disney’s film “Moana” two years ago for Indian Country Media Network ( i’d post a link to it but the link is not working due to the technical issues involved in creating the new Indian Country Today site).

I was part of a media junket that was treated to a full day at Disney’s Moana studio, in which they paid for several International journalists to come and be part of this tour (raising the questions of conflicts of interest immediately). I might add, that I received no travel benefits from the Disney company given that I live in Southern California. Anyway, I was very critical of the film in my final review of it, and I was later referred to by one of Disney’s staff to my editor as having “terrorized” them because of the tough questions I raised. My written critique was very balanced, but did note how Disney went so far out of its way to erase the colonial histories of Polynesia while it created a work of art that would make people fall in love with it without realizing its bigger problems, and also noted the kind of money the company would make of the images of other peoples cultures.

The way it did this was by creating what they called the “oceanic brain trust“, a collection of Polynesian artists, elders, and other cultural people to lend a sense of authenticity to the film. All of those people were bound by non-disclosure agreements, which meant that they could not talk about what they were being compensated to be part of this “trust,” naturally raising suspicions for many in the Polynesian community who were also critical of the film. Too many people benefitted monetarily from the film to think more deeply about what they were contributing to. This is just one of the problems the film raised.

Manuel wrote the music for Moana. He is an entertainer, not a historian. His job is to make people feel good, not to tell an accurate story. In Moana he does this at the expense of telling the truth, and to make people not think about the fact that Hawaii is basically an illegal, fake state. Although Miranda is Puerto Rican, he was raised in mainland US with a degree of economic privilege, and his father was a Democratic Party operative. He is steeped in party politics, and appears to be committed to multicultural liberalism, which is never about understanding history in terms of colonialism. It is thus no surprise that he would bring a sanitized pop culture rendition about Hamilton. Making people feel good pays a lot better than making them rethink their hideous history.

Debra Johnson said...

As always, Debbie's post and the comments are thought-provoking and challenging. Please don't miss the essay by Ishmael Reed. His thoughts about the miseducation of America is vital to understanding why these romanticized and sanitized versions of history are damaging to all of us.

Media will not correct until an accurate and inclusive history becomes the primary source of information in schools. That will not happen until IBPOC demand accurate and honest representations replace the fairytales, half-truths, and erasures that populate history books. The time for change is now.

Anonymous said...

Hamilton has made countless number of young people look into the founding of this country more than any history class. I think some people who criticize something they've never seen have no basis to write a criticism. Yes, Miranda is an entertainer. When I see a show I want to be entertained. When I attend a lecture, I want to learn something. I am not attending a Broadway show or an animated children's movie to learn anything.

Debbie Reese said...

Anon: your response is typical. People say that sort of thing a lot, in comments to AICL reviews of their favorite books.

Fiction and story are instructive. Whether you're feeling entertained is irrelevant to what is being affirmed/confirmed by words or song or image. Students are being taken to see Hamilton precisely so they can "learn" -- but what they "learn" is merely an echo of what they get in history class. The musical is seductive because of the music -- but the seduction is the same-old lie about American exceptionalism.

Ava Jarvis said...

Anon at December 29th: You do realize that Miranda intended for the released musical soundtrack alone to be a complete experience without the need to attend a $400 show, yes? Miranda did this because he often spoke of how he could only enjoy Broadway musicals through soundtracks because he couldn't afford to go, and so Hamilton's released tracks are actually more complete than most? I think there's only one minor bridging song that wasn't included. I also was only, for the longest time, able to "see" musicals through their soundtracks. And I can tell you that Hamilton is very complete, even moreso than Weber's musical soundtracks.

Your attempt at devaluing critique by claiming someone hasn't had the full experience is not only a common fallacy used by defensive cowards and thus already invalid on its own; in attempting to use this cudgel you insulted Miranda way more than any of us have with our critiques, and for absolutely zero informational value. Congratulations.

Beverly Singer said...

Then why are you hiding behind anonymity?

Erika said...

Just for full disclosure, I haven't seen the show or heard more than bits of it plus some interviews with Miranda, but the beginning of Ava's comment struck me. Is it possible that our premise that the musical is entirely aimed at making us feel good might be flawed? I got the sense that it was supposed to discomfit people to hear the words "all men are created equal" from a Hamilton played by a person of color, and that lines like we "just happen to be" in Manhattan are supposed to be jarring. Is it possible that teachers taking kids to the show to learn history and the audiences who come away with nothing more than warm fuzzies are, in part, the ones missing the point? I don't think that's a contradiction to the critique about the show neglecting what was happening to indigenous people. That's more than fair, though I'm not sure there's a way to do those stories justice other than writing a different show altogether. I just never got the sense, from commentary and such, that what Miranda was after was just uncomplicated love of Alexander Hamilton/the founders/America.

Ava Jarvis said...

Hi Erika,

I doubt the musical is meant to make people feel discomfort. If it was set up to do that, then Miranda did a terrible job. If you want a musical (or other piece of art) to make people feel uncomfortable, it would be a good idea that it actually have that effect on most of the audience at least.

I feel the discomfort because I'm so aware of the complexity of intersectionality and the propagation of white supremacy and bigotry; this is not something most people know about. Miranda, if he were designing the musical to be discomforting, would have to have added stuff to bring this knowledge to focus and to educate the audience; otherwise they don't have the tools to find the critical reading of the material.

You could argue that he's just not skilled enough to write a discomforting musical intentionally, and instead accidentally wrote a blockbuster that made people feel awesome about the presidents and the US government, but that would be the only way I could see this happening.

And Obama additionally featured bits from Hamilton in the White House as well. You could argue Obama's too naive to notice a manipulative piece of art, or that Obama secretly desires the recognition of America's complicity in many, many crimes; but I find that highly unlikely a scenario.

And Miranda is highly skilled. Thus I'm pretty sure he intended a feel-good blockbuster, not a piece that would prompt intense introspection.

In fact, if Miranda had designed this musical as a rebuke to the US government, I would not have been discomforted by the musical; I would have cheered and been really happy. Of course, you could just argue I'm too naive and cynical to be able to discern that kind of reality and am just a soulfully small person who sees the bad in everything and can't conceive of joyful material (which would be wrong, but I've seen people do this to me in the past, so pardon my minor paranoia).

Erika said...

Yikes, no, I wouldn't say you're any of those things, Ava! But I get why you'd anticipate that :(

I don't mean to claim the show was designed to be a rebuke or provoke "intense contemplation." As I said, that would be a different show entirely, probably a different genre, even. It just seemed like, from interviews I heard, that 100% dissonance-free Founders love was not the goal, either. "Feel-good...but also hmmmm..." sounded like roughly the target.

Your word "assimilative" is really apt here; I just wouldn't put that completely on Miranda. Rather, it's at least partially due to us white audience members' mind-boggling ability to take even things that should and might be intended to make us at least a little uncomfortable and squelch even the tiniest nudge toward contemplation right out of it. I mean, Mike Pence was surprised a Broadway cast wasn't absolutely overjoyed to perform for him. We can be *really* dense.

Could/should Miranda shake us white folks up more? Probably (though given how capable we are of flipping out over even fictional characters being cast as POC that might be giving us too much credit). Is it problematic that how far a composer/playwright can go making white people uncomfortable is still usually the limiting factor in how much a piece of pop-history can grapple with reality and still be "pop"? Absolutely.

Anonymous said...

It is the thinnest kind of criticism to deride a work of art not for what is and how it is presented, but for what the viewer believes the creator should have done instead. I suppose that a person could criticize the musical COME FROM AWAY for not having content in it about the Beothuk and Mi'kmaq, or criticize MAN FROM LA MANCHA for putting Cervantes in the Inquisition dungeon with people who seem criminal and not explicitly Jewish, but it is not a particularly compelling critique. HAMILTON, COME FROM AWAY, and MAN OF LA MANCHA are all still brilliant, stirring, and magnificent musicals, different as they are from each other.

Unknown said...

Anonymous, Debbie did not say that Hamilton was not brilliant, not stirring, or not magnificent, so your final sentence is completely irrelevant to the topic of hand.

If you do not think that what we choose to omit and gloss over in a work of art is as significant as how we present what we choose to include (which is also part of this critique), you are hopelessly naive about how art works. It is one thing to criticize a romance for not being a murder mystery; it is something else entirely to criticize a musical about the founding of the United States for omitting discussion of the US's two great founding sins, genocide and slavery, whose repercussions are still being felt and promoted today.

I have not seen Hamilton. I have felt ambivalent about it ever since people I know and respect started loving it so much. Surely there must be something there for so many people whose opinions I esteem to be so excited. At the same time, the last thing I'm interested in seeing is yet another glorification of the US "founding fathers."

--Veronica

Unknown said...

I do want to start by saying that you made a lot of great points mam. In the shows the defense, it does show that the founding fathers are heavily flawed, hypocritical, and even down right prejudice. This is mostly shown through Thomas Jefferson who sings about "being free" only to tell his slave\mistress Sally to go politely get the phone for him. They even throw Hamilton himself under the bus by calling him a number group and belittling him despite being a fellow Founding Father. Even in the cabinet battle number 3 Mr Miranda ( through Hamilton) calls out the hypocrisy that the American colony embodies.
So while Native Americans may not be present in the play's story, it does highlight the negative character flaws of the people who founded these historic figures
Sorry for this long-winded response- Desmon

Jamalia Higgins said...

I have been away, so I am just catching up on this very interesting post about Hamilton. Thank you to Dr. Reese and many of the follow-up comments, even the anonymous ones. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and I find thoughtfulness in many points of view. I have seen similar discussions online and in person within the African-American community to which I belong.

However, I was alarmed to read this line in Dina Gilio-Whitaker's comment: "Although Miranda is Puerto Rican, he was raised in mainland US with a degree of economic privilege". When we start to assign levels of diversity, degrees of equity, or aspects of inclusion, we begin to lose our way. Take issue with the output of Mr. Miranda, but I caution playing the game of who is or isn't "diverse enough". This methodology usually brings disastrous results.

Dina Gilio-Whitaker said...

As an American Indian, I think that we have to be brutally honest about what “diversity“ means, especially in a capitalist society built upon indigenous land dispossession. Not all people of color share the same level of privilege or more to the point, under privilege. This is not a popular stance, I realize, and can be seen as divisive among “people of color.“ However, there are huge problems with how we define diversity, which all too often collapses all groups into the same category without regard to histories of genocide and land dispossession. We simply cannot as American Indians except the flattening out of our histories in these ways.

Debbie Reese said...

I welcome the ways in which we are looking carefully at "diversity" and how that word is used.

Some will see discussion of that as divisive, as J Higgins does, but not recognizing differences within our communities contributes to the monolithic representations that we are pushing against.