Riot grrrl drew from liberal formulas that define racism as ignorance, and ignorance as the absence of intimacy; in the words of a zine I admittedly have long discarded, “racism is a lack of love.” (We also know this in the familiar disavowal, “I’m not racist, I have black friends,” which suggests that proximity is a social prophylactic against virulent racism. In the name of a transformative love, white girls (and some boys) confessed to failures of social bonds — admitting a lack of non-white friends was popular — and proposed solutions through which racism might be overcome through experiences that would then yield intimate knowledge of the other. The presumption is that intimacy is a pathway to a good relationship is the passage to social justice, or as Lauren Berlant observes of its limits, “sentimentality’s universalist rhetoric gains its authority not in the political domain, but near it, against it, and above it: sentimental culture entails a proximate alternative community of individuals sanctified by recognizing the authority of true feeling — authentic, virtuous, compassionate — at the core of a just world.”

(Mimi Thi Nguyen, Slander No. 8)

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