Amanda Petrusich: “I often catch myself suspecting that work that’s been unilaterally praised is either boring (what kind of art is so innocent and uncomplicated as to bestir only gracious titters of approval, like a child’s finger painting?) or provocative in such a way that critics are paralyzed, terrified to dissect it for fear of being seen as unsophisticated or boorish.”

Geoff Nunberg: “The most deceptive slurs aren’t the ones that express unmitigated contempt for their targets, like nigger and spic. They’re the ones that are tinged with sentimentality, condescension, pity, or exoticism, which are no less reductive or dehumanizing but are much easier to justify to ourselves. Recall the way the hipsters and hippies used spade as what Ken Kesey described as ‘a term of endearment.’ Think of Oriental or cripple, or a male executive’s description of his secretary as ‘my gal.’ Did that usage become sexist only when feminists pointed it out? Was it sexist only to women who objected to it? That’s the thing about obtuseness, you can look deep in your heart and come up clean.”

Lisa Smith has won the Guardian 4th Estate BAME short story prize.


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