Recently, I attended a speech titled, ‘Get Woke’. In the oration, an elderly white female shared story after story of how she and her best-friend navigated life as an interracial duo. Growing up in the same area, doing the same things, but having drastically different experiences, she sought to give credence to white privilege and help others understand black culture.
On Facebook, a good friend continues to share his African-American struggles and the atrocities committed disproportionately to black males, especially by white police. Story after story of diversity in America.
Two very different people communicate their experiences to reveal the plight of black culture, especially for those who may not be aware.
As a white male
As a white male who grew up in a rural climate, African-Americans weren’t part of my culture. I didn’t need to be racist to be naïve to socio-economic struggles many were born into. For this very reason folks like the speaker and my Facebook friend share their stories. They do so to educate people who live in blissful ignorance (like me).
The editors at GQ magazine recently wrote an article, “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read” calling readers to forget the past and pick up newer books. One of the editors, Jeff VanderMeer, admitted in the piece that he hates the idea of fishing. He hates it so much that, while trout fishing with his grandfather, he threw his pole in the water to avoid hurting the fish. Unsurprisingly, VenderMeer suggested that Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (the story of a fisherman) left VenderMeer “unmoved”. He went on to write,
We should avoid the book in support of what makes us feel good, of course.
Other folks, like Drew Magary (contributer), enjoyed the very same books they are suggesting to avoid. David McCullough’s writing on the Panama Canal too dry? Too detailed? Too…historic? Try looking, “for some kick-ass history”, a book on the assassination of President Garfield, for instance.
Let’s be honest
Let’s be honest, I actually like what GQ is doing[i]. They are not explicitly saying *don’t* read these icons from the past. They are just expanding libraries. The problem, however, is they shut down perspectives in the process. Oh, you don’t like fishing? Well then don’t read books about fishing. Words like slavery or the N word offend you? Better not read Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. It flies in the face of artistic value.
This is exactly what the speaker and my Facebook friend are combatting.
Number 12 on GQ’s list is the Bible. Following suit with his cohorts, Jesse Ball draws a line in the sand and offers some less than appealing comments for biblical adherents (only those who have not read it) and the Bible itself: “overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced”[ii]. Instead, Ball suggests reading The Notebook with its “cruelty…like that famous sword strike…through the bowels, the lungs, and the throat and into the brain of the rower.” In other words GQ is endorsing the idea that, if morality, love thy neighbor, and turn the other cheek is not your style, try a book that was hailed by The Guardian as “much more terrifying than Agatha [Christie]”.
Whether you’ve read the Bible or not, whether you agree with it or not, whether Christians act Christ-like or not, the fact of the matter is: The Bible is still the best-selling book of all time. The Bible has changed lives, influenced cultures, and is a vitally important book to the vast majority of the United States population. If nothing else, the Bible is the starting place to ‘Get Woke’.
Sean McDowell writes, tongue in cheek:
[The Notebook] may be a great book. I haven’t read it. But I doubt anyone will be talking about it in a short time. But I guarantee people will be reading, discussing and studying the Bible. That will never change.
Where GQ Went Wrong
GQ isn’t wrong for using a catchy title, nor are they wrong for offering other books in familiar genres. Where they are wrong is in their casual dismissal of culture relevance in support of cultural bias. If our goal is to move society further and further away from diversity, then we should follow the suggestions that GQ has offered. If, on the other hand, we want to be a culture of diversity, we must embrace our history and learn from it.
What do you think? Did GQ go too far? Leave your thoughts below.
[i] Even the parts I don’t agree with. Even though I don’t find fault with Tolkien’s elaborate detail—I rather enjoy it–having another fantasy adventure novelist on my bookshelf is a welcomed endorsement by Manuel Gonzalez.
[ii]These quotes are are taken directly from the original GQ article and demonstrate the need for more biblical literacy.
For more thoughts on this, make sure to check out Misty’s post, https://clearlens.org/biblical-influence-western-civilization/