Mat Johnson Interview – Fresh Air

On feeling pressure to push through his own frustrations because of what his ancestors endured

There’s so many times when things get really dark, whether it’s on a personal or societal level, the impulse is just to give up. And I think about that when I want to give up in different ways. Like, what I’m enduring is nothing compared to what my African ancestors endured, just in the sail from West Africa to the States, just that part alone, in addition to the 100 years of violent oppression and sexual assault.

And then on my white side and the Irish side, they came here from a place where they’re being starved to death. And they managed to just come out of incredibly bleak circumstances and make it across the sea and live in poverty for a couple of generations. And thank God for the GI Bill. …

I think putting it in that context is sometimes the only thing I can do that forces me to put my own frustrations and my own feelings of nihilism in perspective, because there’s an incredible strength in that, that people who endured the worst possible things that we can imagine … were able to have enough hope. Because that’s what it is — hope that tomorrow would be better. We’re talking about people whose kids were enslaved from the moment they came out of the womb. But they still had enough faith and hope that things could get better. And if they can do it, it seems insulting and disrespectful to their legacy if I don’t try to do that.

Fresh Air

See also: Ethical Obligation to be Optimistic