Colson Whitehead: “A dead cat would be a better president than Trump”

“A dead cat would be a better president than Donald Trump. So come on, dead cats for everyone! “. He says it between irony and rage Colson Whitehead (New York, 1969) author of ‘The Nickel Boys’ (Random House), the novel with which this gifted African-American narrator has won his second consecutive Pulitzer. From New York he explains telematically some keys to a creepy book based on real events. The story of a Florida reformatory in which black boys were abused, tortured, and murdered over the course of a century with complete impunity.

Whitehead has suffered a police brutality that, he believes, is in the genes of white agents and is a painful inheritance from the days of slavery. “I have been detained, handcuffed and interrogated just for being black; it is something common in my country, “he laments. “All young blacks are at the mercy of a racist police. In New York it is common to arrest and search violating all basic rights, “he denounces.

In the days of ‘Black Lives Matter’, and with the society mobilized and polarized, he is not very optimistic. He believes that there will be advances, as there were in the 60s with Martin Luther King, “but each time they happen, the Republicans deactivate them by regaining power.” He predicts that if Donald Trump, whom he does not hesitate to call a corrupt white supremacist, remained in the White House it would be catastrophic. If he wins again, a lot of people will die. It will be a tragedy and not just for the United States. We would have another four years of death and destruction, “says the writer who was consecrated with ‘The Underground Railroad’, narrating slavery and the black reality of his country like no one else.

That novel launched him to stardom and gave him his first Pulitzer. The second came to him while he was doing some tests for covid-19 and it dislodged him. He found it incredible and almost gave him a fit of laughter when he went down the street with a mask. No one has chained two Pulitzers before and dares not dream of the third. “It would be ridiculous,” says the sixth writer in history, the second black, to win the Pulitzer and the National Book Award and for the same novel.

‘The boys of the Nickel’ part of a story that caught his attention six years ago. The shocking story of Dozier reformatory in Florida, where more than 50 bodies of children who were convicted of minor offenses were unearthed. For decades, the survivors of that hell reported beatings, torture and sexual abuse that no one wanted to hear until the macabre discovery that confirmed more than a century of impunity.

Whitehead claims to have lowered his horror story of what was experienced in the reformatory, “about which I did not know anything until 2014”. “The real tragedy is that no one did anything like nearly a hundred years to stop so much horror; that in a century no voice would be raised about something that was well known in Florida, “she laments. “What happened there was so shocking that it would not work when portrayed in fictional terms,” ​​he says.

Police Racism

What is happening in Wisconsin these days does not surprise him in the least. «It is the daily bread since the end of slavery. I have known cases of police brutality all my life. The police are still racist and nothing will change. There are no guarantees of permanent reforms, ”he insists hopelessly. What little progress is made “is reversed by the republican administrations” and is the result of “the exercise of systemic violence.” “Nobody is held accountable, nobody pays for crimes like those of Jacob Blake and George Floyd. They have all gone out of their way, as happened in Dozier, ”he hurts. “This book is born from the impotence that nobody pays for these crimes and everyone gets free”He says of a novel that sold more than a million copies in his country and that it is already considered a modern classic.

It stars two opposing characters, the idealistic Elwood Curtis, a promising black teenager who ended up in reform school due to a misunderstanding, and the activist and pragmatic Jack Turner, for whom the only way to survive in Nickel is to emulate the violence and cruelty of his oppressors. «I separate my emotions from what I write. Otherwise I would go crazy. Writing about slavery and Nickel left me very touched, very depressed, “he admits. His antidote to finish it was a six-week binge of video games with his children.

Former President Barack Obama and host Oprah Winfrey enthusiastically recommend Whitehead’s books, ironing out Trump’s brainpower. «’The Nickel Boys’ is too long for him. I would recommend a children’s book, “he says sarcastically.

Whitehead suffered several editorial rejections and before succeeding he published six very disparate books: from an essay on poker to a dystopia of a pandemic that degenerates into a zombie apocalypse. At the age of 50, in July he became the youngest writer in history to receive the Library of Congress Award for a career. The series based on ‘The Underground Railroad’, will premiere on Amazon at the end of the year.


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