Revolution Books disagrees with the organizers of the BABF dis-inviting Alice Walker to the festival. Banning Alice Walker is wrong, and contributes to exactly what we do not need regarding critical thinking and intellectual discourse.
BABF chose Walker to be in conversation with author Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (who has since canceled her appearance in protest of the canceling of Walker), presumably because they felt Walker, a pioneering Black woman author of the pathbreaking novel The Color Purple, and many other works would be the right choice to “take part in a program we designed to celebrate the lineage of Black women writers in America.”
So far so good. But then they dis-invited Walker.
“Our decision (to disinvite Walker) was based solely on our determination, shared by numerous other cultural organizations and news outlets, that Ms. Walker’s promotion of the conspiracy theories and disinformation of David Icke is dangerous. A quick online search reveals his profound antisemitism, as well as his arguments that Covid-19 is a hoax.”
Think about this: Joe Biden has committed undeniable crimes against humanity - he was an enabler of mass incarceration, which imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino people and is still going on; he actively supported the unjust and illegal war in Iraq, which killed hundreds of thousands; he had a hand in the US campaign of drone bombings in the “war on terror”; he is now on a course in Ukraine that could end us in WW 3; he is opening up more public land to oil and gas drilling at a time of existential environmental crisis. Is the festival banning everyone who supports Joe Biden?
The spewings of David Icke (and of many other racists and fascists in present day America and the world) are harmful. And when these ideas come to the public square they should be vigorously ridiculed, exposed, countered—not tolerated or passed over, or promoted.
But setting a standard of approving, implicitly or explicitly, those who support the thoughts and actions of those in positions of great power who are doing great harm, while canceling any writer who has supported a wacko antisemitic conspiracy theorist (and there is a constantly shifting standard of who and what should be “canceled”)—is absurd, wrong, and does great harm to the kind of intellectual exchange and critical thinking that the Festival should be all about, and which this world and this country greatly needs.
We hope that the organizers will reconsider their action, review Walker’s major contributions to enriching, disrupting & transforming the literary canon, and to the broad discourse around social justice over decades, and invite Walker back to the Festival, with appropriate public announcement.
We also want to direct people to read what Bob Avakian has been writing about “cancel culture” including Fascist Lunacy and “Woke Folk” Insanity: A New “Two Outmodeds”