Essay Issue 22


Carissa Pobre

A brief response

Today’s historical revisionism must be happening with broader counterforce as we see deposits of some kind of “response.” The themes of silencing and amplification are crucial, of course—so we overextend our statements as we inhibit this culture on social media. Or in the face of lopsided political inclinations we just silence ourselves. I’ve been typecast, too, even then. We live in appalling times and are appalled.

Reparation is a strange occurrence: institutions and sectors have attempted to do this across histories—from Martial Law and human rights victims’ compensation, symbolic apologies from political figures (most notably by Obama throughout his engagements in East/Southeast Asia and Latin America1), and in general how institutions have contended with their existence when steeped in slavery or colonial power. Some to positive effect.2,3 Some to total distortion.

Inasmuch as history is being “revised” (that’s the news which outrages us), there may still be pockets of how histories are being addressed—or aided or distorted—by reparation. Do we even feel or experience reparation? Would I dare to care about it? And if these are the institutional responses of other sectors to misdeeds in history, then by the same logic how will art respond? Enough with futility. I will not eat myself.

1. Fisher, Max. “Obama, Acknowledging U.S. Misdeeds Abroad, Quietly Reframes American Power.” New York Times. Published on September 7, 2016.

2. “I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters—two beautiful, intelligent black young women—playing with their dogs on the White House lawn.”

3. Zamudio-Suaréz, Fernanda. “Georgetown’s Plan Spurs Hopes for a Shift in How Universities Confront Ties to Slavery.” Chronicle. Published on September 2, 2016.