All across Oberlin—a school whose norms may run a little to the left of Bernie Sanders—there was instead talk about “allyship”: a more contemporary answer to the challenges of pluralism. If you are a white male student, the thought goes, you cannot know what it means to be, say, a Latina; the social and the institutional worlds respond differently to her, and a hundred aggressions, large and small, are baked into the system. You can make yourself her ally, though—deferring to her experience, learning from her accounts, and supporting her struggles. You can reach for unity in difference.
On February 25th, TheTower.org published an article that included screenshots from the Facebook feed of Joy Karega, an assistant professor of rhetoric and composition at Oberlin. The posts suggested, among other things, that Zionists had been involved in the 9/11 plot, that isis was a puppet of Mossad and the C.I.A., and that the Rothschild family owned “your news, the media, your oil, and your government.” The posts did not sit well with everyone at Oberlin, where, weeks earlier, a group of alumni and students had written the president with worries about anti-Semitism on campus; the board of trustees denounced Karega’s Facebook activities. As a teacher, however, she’d been beloved by many students and considered an important faculty advocate for the school’s black undergraduates. The need for allyship became acute. And so, with spring approaching, students and faculty at one of America’s most progressive colleges felt pressured to make an awkward judgment: whether to ally themselves with the black community or whether to ally themselves with the offended Jews.
I had been ignoring the avalanche of calls and texts from friends and family asking where I was and if I was OK. But that night I caved, turned on my phone and decided to look. Scrolling down the list of messages, I saw one from a friend that read: “Just Google yourself.” I typed my name into the search bar and a huge list of news reports with photos of my face stared back at me. Shocked, all I could think was, “Oh my God, the police are looking for me.”
I was living two lives at once, and it was so surreal.
The collection’s title is not ironical. There is magnitude and sublimity in this latest chronicle of a long, hard pilgrimage to inner freedom.
A man watches Vertigo more than 50 times. A man with a fear of heights watches another man, Jimmy Stewart as Scottie Ferguson, develop a fear of heights in Vertigo. A man watches Vertigo, a film about obsession and identity, more than 50 times and writes a book about Vertigo (and obsession and identity).
Critics from left and right blame the two-term presidency of this evidently intelligent and decent man for everything from the failure to close Guantánamo Bay (he’s still trying) to a continuing economic malaise that has fuelled what is shaping up to be the most extremist presidential election since 1860. Yet Souza’s photographs tell a different story – and the one that matters. Obama accomplished the impossible and made the White House an African American home for eight years.