Dismayingly, institutionalized racism and prejudice endure
too, long after the abolition of slavery, or the desegregation
of public institutions, or the protest marches or the shattering
acts of violence. Racism, it turns out, can take the heat.
—Joy Gregory, on her adaptation of Studs
Terkel’s ‘‘Race: How Blacks and Whites Think
and Feel about the American Obsession’’
Most horrific acts committed by one person against
another occur as small thoughtless gestures
under mundane, if not trite, circumstances.
—Jennifer Culbert, ‘‘Beyond Intention’’
The erotic is the mode of subjective communication.
—Deborah Bergo√en, ‘‘Out from Under’’
It is time to recognize the political dimensions of erotic life.
—Gayle Rubin, ‘‘Thinking Sex’’
Introduction
The Last Word on Racism
A few days after Tupac Shakur’s death in 1996, I pulled into a Safeway park-
ing lot in Palo Alto, California, with my friend’s fifteen-year-old daughter,
Danielle. We were listening to one of Shakur’s songs on the radio; because
he was a hometown boy, the stations were playing his music around the
clock—a kind of electromagnetic vigil, if you will. An older (but not elderly)
woman with a grocery cart came to the driver’s side of my car and asked me
to move my vehicle so that she could unload her groceries. The tone of her
voice assumed fruition—it was not only a request but a demand that would
surely be met. The Southerner in me would have been happy to help; the
critic in me didn’t understand why she simply couldn’t put her groceries in
on the other side where there were no other cars or potential impediments. I
told the woman that I would gladly wait in my car until she unloaded her
groceries—that way, there would be plenty of room for her to maneuver.
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