zadie smith gets in and out

July 13, 2017

words by: Ifeanyi Awachie

If you’re anything like us, you turn to your favorite mag (cough, Globetrotter, cough) when a new album or exhibition comes out, hoping to get a preview and some guidance on how to frame your thinking - and questions. But these days, there seem to be more knee-jerk, quick takes on music, art, and culture than good, deep, satisfying reviews that have you reading, rereading, and sharing, your mind blown.

That’s why we’re excited to hear that novelist par excellence Zadie Smith has taken a closer look at Jordan Peele’s wildly resonant social thriller, Get Out, in an incisive new longform piece in Harper’s Bazaar this July. In her essay, Smith tackles vast issues like “black fears of white folks,” the legacies of Frantz Fanon and James Baldwin in 2017, and police brutality. With her reliable wit, she anchors the reader with deeply specific, personal, and thoughtful observations, rendering accessible themes of biracial identity and artistic depictions of black pain.

Smith’s recap of the film:

“White women who date black men. Waspy families. Waspy family garden parties. Ukuleles. Crazy younger brothers. Crazy younger brothers who play ukuleles. Sexual psychopaths, hunting, guns, cannibalism, mind control, well-meaning conversations about Obama. The police. Well-meaning conversations about basketball. Spontaneous roughhousing, spontaneous touching of one’s biceps or hair. Lifestyle cults, actual cults. Houses with no other houses anywhere near them. Fondness for woods. The game bingo. Servile household staff, sexual enslavement, nostalgia for slavery—slavery itself.”

When racial identity isn’t just black and white:

“[My children’s] beloved father is white, I am biracial, so, by the old racial classifications of America, they are ‘quadroons.’ Could they take black suffering as a subject of their art, should they ever make any? Their grandmother is as black as the ace of spades, as the British used to say; their mother is what the French still call café au lait. They themselves are sort of yellowy. When exactly does black suffering cease to be their concern? Their grandmother—raised on a postcolonial island, in extreme poverty, descended from slaves—knew black suffering intimately. But her grandchildren look white. Are they?”

On the Whitney Biennial controversy over Dana Schutz’s Emmett Till painting:

“I found I resented the implication that black pain is so raw and unprocessed—and black art practice so vulnerable and invisible—that a single painting by a white woman can radically influence it one way or another.”

Click here, sit back, and dig into Smith’s words. Get Out is available for online streaming and showing in a limited number of theaters worldwide.