Episode 9: Mychal Denzel Smith
In episode 9 of Missing Words, we sat down with Brooklyn-based author Mychal Denzel Smith. Smith’s work has appeared in numerous publications, from The New York Times to the Paris Review, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Bleacher Report, The Nation, and so many more.
In 2016, he released the incredible book Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: A Young Black Man's Education. The book is an extremely personal account that details being a black man in the age of Obama. It discusses experiencing and dealing with the deaths of Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and confronting the notions and stereotypes of masculinity, and more. The book was a New York Times Best Seller and received numerous accolades.
Late last year, Smith released another powerful essay through Harper’s titled, The Gatekeepers. In it, Smith addresses a variety of topics, including passages like this: “I feel as though I’ve built a career by capitalizing on black pain—exploiting that of others and monetizing my own. The dilemma is both personal and political. The guilt of my ambition is intertwined with the sense of a fruitless project. Writing to white people about the black experience is meant to engender their sympathy. Yet it never comes. For hundreds of years, black writers have tried to shift the consciousness of the white majority by telling stories of black suffering. And here we are, in Trump’s America. Appeals to the white conscience have not worked, and there are no signs that they ever will. It is a strategy whose burial may be long overdue.”"
In this episode, we discussed The Gatekeepers and his relationship with those who manage and control the media, confronting the “Americanization” of art, denying revisionist history, how LeBron James is the greatest storyteller in sports, and much more.
Check out episode 9 below.
Thanks to Mychal for taking the time to chat with us. You can keep up with everything he is working on by following him on Twitter. Please check out The Gatekeepers article and definitely pick up Invisible Man… at your local bookstore or online.
Thank you to Bill Shouldis for producing this episode.