Monday, September 24, 2018

Viet Thanh Nguyen on "Good" and "Bad" Immigrants, Race, Storytelling and Activism

The Los Angeles Review of Books has an excellent interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Viet Thanh Nguyen by journalist Christine Buckley.  Here's one excerpt, on the question of "good" and "bad" immigrants:

"If you are not in power in your society because you’re marginalized in some way, the terms of your representation are not up to you. And, as always, the terms of your representation are always going to be polarized into “good” and “bad.” Because you’re always in danger of being suspected as “bad,” you always have to prove that you’re “good,” and being good means being exceptional.

"Now, this is a problem, obviously, because people in the dominant group, whatever they are, never have to be accepted. They can rest in their mediocrity, in their averageness, and there’s no problem with that. That’s the privilege of privilege, which they take for granted. They can be mediocre and they’re not going to be deported, for example. And so the challenge is to trouble those assumptions of “goodness” and “badness,” that viewpoint held by the majority or dominant group but also held by the minority population. Because a lot of people in the minority population adhere to that same polarization, because they’ve internalized it. They don’t want to be cast as “bad,” so they’re invested in being “good” and in making sure that everyone in their community or their race is “good,” too."


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