NYU Black Renaissance Noire Winter 2014 - Page 67

Because of the way he maligns blacks as a group as anti-Semitic, homophobic, substance abusers, and black males as misogynistic, Gates has been given millions in patronage and has become the c.e.o. of Black Studies money, and patronage, to the detriment of struggling writers, yet he hires people like Devlin and Smydra, instead of black critics like Jerry Ward, Maryemma Graham, Joyce Joyce, Reginald Martin, Herb Boyd, Bernard Bell and others, who might challenge him. In order to fulfill his 1987 boast that black women writers would be more “prolific,” he had to limit the output of people like Baraka, me and others. Some of those wr iters like Jill Nelson, Thulani Davis, Ntozake Shange and Toni Morrison, among many others, have indeed been prolific. Thulani Davis, for example, is a distinguished novelist, writer of nonfiction, poet, playwright and librettist, but because she exposed how the Skip Machine deals with its critics, she too is missing from the Gates’s Norton 3, Vol.2.8 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE When they sent me the final edited version on Friday, it still included errors. Instead of “anthologist,” they had me down as “anthropologist.” Gates continued to cast me as “anti-Feminist” and defined my career by a remark made in The New Republic by Barbara Smith who said that I cast lesbians as “man hating dykes.” Not scholarly criticism but an outburst. And so Gates and Repino base my entire career on a remark made in a magazine that praised The Bell Curve, and whose editor, Martin Peretz, said that black women were “culturally deficient.” I had them remove Smydra’s assessment of my career. He’d said that I had spent the last thirty years or so “explaining” myself. About Barbara Smith’s outburst? He said I hadn’t received any “renown” since the seventies when any undergraduate could click on my site, ishmaelreed.org and discover that I’ve collected all of the “renown” that I need. The information was available for years before. He was relying upon the literary patrolman assigned to me, Bob Fox, whom they consult to get the goods on this particular negro; Fox has been asleep for over thirty years as far as my output is concerned. Did Amiri Baraka’s theater go dark after Dutchman, which is where the Skip Machine ends his career? When he was criticized for hiring only 3 black scholars out of forty to assemble Encarta Africana ,which also had errors, Gates said “It’s a disgusting notion that white people can’t write on black history — some of the best scholars of Africa are white.” He’s right that some of the best scholars of Africa are white. But that doesn’t include these two. I’d say that with their breezy manner in handling African American literature, they’re disgusting or at least disrespectful. 65 For my mild criticism of Gates, I knew that I was going to get it. Two of his literary assassins, Paul Devlin, and David F. Smydra were assigned to do hatchet jobs on my work. Devlin was described to me by Joel Dreyfuss, who left The Root, a tough love zine owned by The Washington Post for which Gates fronts, as a “white boy who writes about Hip Hop.” Not that whites can’t write about black culture. About thirty percent of the books in my library are written by whites. But these two treat Black Literature in such a flip manner and include such errors in their copy that one wonders what critical purpose they serve. Devlin, in a syndicated review of my novel, Juice! said that I’d gone “too far.” I wonder what Gates thinks of a critic who says that a black male writer has gone too far? Like I’m suppose to stay in my place? Besides, during the last hundred years a urinal was included in the 1913 Armory Show and one underground cartoonist, the great Spain Rodriguez, did a panel which had a vice president’s wife fellating Mel Tormé during lunch. Devlin’s is the kind of skinny outside mind, which sees in black literature an opportunity to add some easy points to his resume. Smydra’s profile of me in Gates’s Oxford Guide to African American literature was so full of errors that it took me weeks working with Oxford University Press editor Robert Repino to clean up the mess. Repino and Gates keep promising that I would be sent the revised entry, yet there continue to be delays. Smydra includes some juicy tidbits about my personal life, but what I have done since the nineteen seventies warranted only a slothful paragraph.