'en avant'



As a teenager, I went through an intense Tennessee Williams phase, reading plays, journals, letters and biographies, and one thing from all that reading has stuck with me: his motto, en avant:
Sometimes he would be able to work, and sometimes he wouldn't. He was tired. But he still was so courageous. He was so disciplined. His feeling about life was always positive. One must go on. 'En avant, en avant.' It was his cry.
And so, forward.

Sean, Hugh and I will be marching in D.C. beside friends and family; I will share pictures on Instagram (@evencleveland) and here on Monday. Take care, friends.

*

Onward poster by Carson Ellis, available here and here. Proceeds support the ACLU.

'we somehow want this to be easy and simple, and it never will be'

Nikole Hannah-Jones' was interviewed yesterday on Fresh Air.  She covers racial injustice for the NYT Magazine and her article, "Choosing a School for my Daughter in a Segregated City," is just an amazing piece of reporting and writing — a complex subject tackled with clarity and completeness and insight.

I listened to the broadcast in the car, then came home and listened to the whole thing again. There is no way to do the conversation justice with a pull quote (you can listen here, or read the full transcript), but here's an excerpt:

GROSS: OK, so this is a dilemma right here. If integration is a goal - to have more diversity and to have more fair schools - and here is something that's going to integrate a school not for the sake of integration but because of overcrowding - but still it would be more integration - and everybody has concerns, everybody's worried about the outcome, so what does that say about the predicament that parents and schools are in? 
HANNAH-JONES: What I always say is we somehow want this to be easy and simple, and it never will be. The systems that and the actions that created this inequality took a lot of effort and a lot of time. And we want to undo them, you know, with no pain for anyone with a snap of the fingers. On my Twitter account, I say - I cover race from 1619. And 1619 is the year the first Africans were brought to what would become America as - to be enslaved. I say that so that we understand there is a very - before we were even a country, we had created this system that was going to put black people on the bottom, and we created a caste system. 
And to undo that, we feel like no one has to give anything up or there's not going to be any tensions or it's going to be easy, and it simply won't. One of the things that I really try to do with my work is show how racial segregation and racial inequality was intentionally created with a ton of resources. From the federal government, to the state, to city governments, to private citizens, we put so much effort into creating the segregation and inequality, and we're willing to put almost no effort in fixing it. And that's the problem.

There is a lot of talk online about what it is to check or surrender privilege; seeing what it looks like in practice is useful (and humbling). This especially:

HANNAH-JONES: [M]y daughter is not going to get an education that she would get if I paid $40,000 a year in private school tuition, but that's kind of the whole point of public schools. I think she - I know she's learning a lot. I think it is making her a good citizen. I think it is teaching her that children who have less resources than her are not any less intelligent than her, not any less worthy than her. And I truly - and I say this - and it always feels weird when I say it as a parent because a lot of other parents look at you a little, you know, like you're maybe not as good of a parent - I don't think she's deserving of more than other kids. I just don't.
I think that we can't say this school is not good enough for my child and then sustain that system. I think that that's just morally wrong; if it's not good enough for my child then why are we putting any children in those schools?

2017

We have not overcome our condition, and yet we know it better. We know that we live in contradiction, but we also know that we must refuse this contradiction and do what is needed to reduce it. Our task as [humans] is to find the few principles that will calm the infinite anguish of free souls. We must mend what has been torn apart, make justice imaginable again in a world so obviously unjust, give happiness a meaning once more to peoples poisoned by the misery of the century. Naturally, it is a superhuman task. But superhuman is the term for tasks [we] take a long time to accomplish, that’s all. 
Let us know our aims then, holding fast to the mind, even if force puts on a thoughtful or a comfortable face in order to seduce us. The first thing is not to despair. Let us not listen too much to those who proclaim that the world is at an end. Civilizations do not die so easily, and even if our world were to collapse, it would not have been the first. It is indeed true that we live in tragic times. But too many people confuse tragedy with despair. “Tragedy,” [D.H.] Lawrence said, “ought to be a great kick at misery.” This is a healthy and immediately applicable thought. There are many things today deserving such a kick.

Albert Camus, from Lyrical and Critical Essays, translated by Ellen Conroy Kennedy. Via Brainpickings.

*

Also: a word for 2017.