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Meet the Author: Race, Identity & Privileges with Mat Johnson


On April 7, Cass Tech Advanced Placement Literature teacher Vicki Green took her seniors on an annual trip to Marygrove College. The field trip is an extension to The Contemporary Author Lecture series that her students participate in each year at Marygrove College.

“The Contemporary Author Lecture series has been around for almost 30 years and in the last several years they added a high school division of it,” said Green.

The students compete for a college scholarship and then have an opportunity to meet the author.

“Students read the work of one particular author and then write a personal reflection or essay of some sort based on the work. The students then have an opportunity to go and meet the person they studied,” said Green.

This year the novel for the essay contest was Loving Day by Mat Johnson. The book is about a biracial man from Philly’s quest to discover his racial identity in America.

Johnson spoke on his appearance, and how oftentimes people assume that he is Caucasian. He talked about privileges that come along with being white that he experiences firsthand because many solely judge him off his outer appearance.

“The closer you either look or act to the ruling class the more privilege you have,” said Johnson

He stated that he noticed how poorly minorities were treated in comparison to people that are not minorities and the many perks that have come along with “white privilege.”

Johnson acknowledged that white privilege is not the only form of privilege that exists in America. There are many kinds of privileges that people experience without discern.

“We all have different levels of privileges. White privilege is one of the privileges. Middle class is one of the privilege. If you are a man you have certain privileges. A woman has certain privileges,” said Johnson.

Johnson also said that he does not use his race to his advantage when it comes to being an author.

“I am an African-American writer, so when I am reviewed, I am reviewed as a black person, it doesn't matter how pale I am,” said Johnson. This could be deemed as important as his novel Loving Day is solely about racial identity.


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