Reading through the maligned In the Heights review written by Julissa Contreras and Dash Harris Machado and published by the Washington Post, it is apparent that two crimes against good writing have transpired. First, the writers assume a place of moral superiority relative to the reader and the subject of their essay, and second, they could have been well-served by a skeptical editor. The number of non-words and grad-school jargon throughout the piece makes for a miserable reading experience. It feels intended for the sort of people who already agree with the thesis — that Lin-Manuel Miranda is a race-ignorant schmuck who intentionally erases the existence of certain minority groups. An example:
We live parallel realities, as most racialized people in White societies do. But we should continue challenging the systematic decisions that make predominantly afrodescendant communities more white-washed fodder for white-centering Latinxs.
While it would be enjoyable to scoff at the piece line-by-line, much of that hay has already been made by more capable writers, so I’ll skip the dunking. Instead, I’d like to focus on the second sin, the lack of skepticism from editors for these sorts of “racially-conscious” articles.
I’m an education-studies minor, which means I must often tread the halls of the “studies” wing of the university. Gender, ethnic, and racial studies get grouped in with education studies, and it is a weekly event where I am reading pieces such Contreras and Machado’s. These articles traffic in vocabulary such as “spaces, whiteness, and white-centering Latinxs.” Words are made up in Suess-ian fashion, and no one ever seems to question whether this is necessary or achieves the ends the writers purport to desire. Racism is assumed in everything, and the only way forward is a revolutionary change, so the prevailing “wisdom” goes.
For most Americans, the second they read, “the larger project of White hegemony and domination, maintained through racism, colorism, and classism,” their eyes glaze over, and they go read something else. Good for them. These writers deserve to be mocked for their departures from common parlance and inability to see the world outside a racialized lens.
The best thing that could happen to the various “studies” disciplines would be conservatives or skeptical liberals joining their departments. They don’t even need many, just a few who aren’t afraid to look at these nonsensical thought-pieces and give honest, brutal feedback. It would save the rest of us having to read undergraduate poppycock in the pages of the Washington Post and provide these academics with useful criticism. It is shameful how academically bankrupt these disciplines have allowed themselves to become through complacency and the competition to out-progressive one another. The upside, if we can call it that, is the public will have the opportunity to mock them for years to come until they self-correct.