Literary novelist Zadie Smith is best known for her debut novel White Teeth and having lunch with President Obama during his final days in office, but she’s just put her foot in her mouth.
Jordan Peele’s fantasy chiller movie Get Out grossed $175 million when it was released last spring and provoked a debate on race. But nobody ever said the movie’s plot— SPOILER!— where through hypnotherapy and neurosurgery a family is transplanting the brains of old white people into the bodies of young black people was an exercise in realism (even though many critics thought it hit close to home).
Until now. Smith makes the startling claim in a new essay for Harper’s on Get Out and Open Casket, a painting by Dana Schultz at the Whitney Biennial.
She writes: “Jordan Peele’s horror-fantasy—in which we are inside one another’s skin and intimately involved in one another’s suffering—is neither a horror nor a fantasy. It is a fact of our experience.
“The real fantasy is that we can get out of one another’s way, make a clean cut between black and white, a final cathartic separation between us and them.
“In this moment of resurgent black consciousness, God knows it feels good—therapeutic!—to mark a clear separation from white America, the better to speak in a collective voice. We will not be moved. We can’t breathe. We will not be executed for traffic violations or for the wearing of hoodies. We will no longer tolerate substandard schools, housing, health care. ”
Smith herself clearly needs to get out more…