One Thing About Being A MacArthur Fellow Pisses Me Off

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There is nothing bad about being a MacArthur Fellow itself. People keep asking me how I am doing or how my day is going. I laugh. Are you kidding me? My day is going great. I stubbed my toe, burned my toast, and mailed the tax bill to the cable company. I lost my keys. I got soap in my eyes. I am a MacArthur Fellow. I AM GREAT.

More than being great, other people agree that I am great. Chapel Hill is a small town. It is also a company town. I forget that. Everyone from my real estate agent to my ophthalmologist has emailed me congratulations. Thanks to the grapevine and Vivian, word is out.

Word is so out that when I go to the eye doctor or call to order books or buy a ticket for a drive-in movie, sometimes people make the connection. A strange thing happens next. People assume that my time is valuable. Just today someone offered to just “email [my] test results” because they know that I am so busy.

I am busy. That is true. I have been busy since 1998. Yet only now do people agree that my time is valuable.

It dawned on me today that this must be what it is like to be a man. People assume I know what I am talking about. Some people look for opportunities to smooth the way for me in routine interactions. My errand time is cut by at least 25%. I save time and energy because…people believe I am worth it.

That pisses me off.

Think of all the time I could have saved.

It brought to mind Brittney Cooper on how time is racialized:

That, in turn, brought to mind Saidiya V. Hartman (another MacArthur Fellow) who pokes at how racism makes time work differently to sustain itself by making sure Black people die sooner and non-Black people die later.

I want my time back.

I am a crass structuralist with no business dabbling in post-structuralism. But, Alexis Okeowo has written a lovely profile of Saidiya Hartman for The New Yorker this week. Saidiya is a beautiful thinker who was nice to me once in a shared car at a book festival. I’m pretty easy for basic kindness.

Hartman was illuminating what she calls the “afterlife of slavery”: limited access to health care and education, premature death, incarceration, and impoverishment — the “skewed life chances” that Black people still face, and the furious desire for freedom that comes with them. As Butler put it, “The question she returns to again and again is: ‘Did slavery ever really end?’ ” How Saidiya Hartman Retells the History of Black Life

Speaking of time, I am spending some of it on Dolly Parton. I made a call on Twitter:

Only half the people followed the directions. But, there are some good reads in that thread, if you would also like to read everything written about Dolly. I may be writing about it:

Speaking of time, people like to take Dolly out of time when they write about her. I am trying to figure out why that is.

Written by

Sociologist. Writer. Professor. MacArthur Fellow. Books, speaking, podcast: www.tressiemc.com

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