Recently I encountered this white Polish woman who claimed Conrad as one of her own. The British stole him from us she said, seemingly oblivious to what this claiming Conrad meant. As I realised through the weeks I had known her, it wasn’t obliviousness at play, it was the need to make invisible white supremacy. This included another story I was told about a post-colonial writer known for the word ‘subaltern’. Apparently as this white woman escorted her around London, all this Prof did was to call all white people racist. This isn’t a story to be told at Goldsmiths or in a London radical political gathering. These are the kind of stories that get reserved to be told to browns when in a brown country!
A few weeks later reading through Achebe I came across his brilliant writing on Conrad and how problematic it was. I wonder why race is so difficult for white people to get and then maybe the question or understanding ought to be that it isn’t really difficult, what white people don’t want to acknowledge is the power that enables them to keep the privileges that sustain their race. Achebe, in his essay Africa’s Tarnished Name, deconstructs Conrad’s writing and here’ a quote:
“This tradition (referring to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness) has invented an Africa where nothing good happens or ever happened, an Africa that has not been discovered yet and is waiting for the first European visitor to explore it and explain it and straighten it up, or, more likely, perish in the attempt.”
Here’s a link to another blog post that elaborates on the above essay.
Achebe’s book “The Education of a British-Protected Child’ is a great read.