[Fountain] penning whiteness as the civilized norm

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In January of 2013, I was in Munich, Germany walking around downtown. I adore the art of pre-digital writing tools such as parchment paper and fountain pens, so naturally I became excited when I saw a store that sold fountain pens. I went in and had a terrific time looking at the hundreds of styles of fountain pens, ranging  in price from 5 Euros to over 5,000 Euros.

But I did notice something that I have always noticed when looking at the ‘special’ editions of fountain pens that have been sold by the most ‘elite’ fountain pen companies: the special edition commemorates and perpetuates the narrative that the greatest artists, writers, philosophers and scientists are always white/lighter skinned people from the Occident (i.e. Europe).

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W.E.B. DuBois, James Baldwin, Edward Said, Frantz Fanon, and Nella Larsen fall into my personal category of “greatest thinkers” that I would love to see represented in a line of commemorative fine fountain pens. Thus yet, I have never seen such commemoration of these ‘types’ of great thinkers while I have been living in the global West. While perusing fountain pens on on-line stores, I have failed to see anything like this as well. Of course there are many reasons for this, but the most obvious to me is that my “great thinker’s” ideas do not promote a ‘civilized norm’ for the producers and collective clientele of fine writing pens such as Mont Blanc. If anything, their ideas, political stance, activism, etc., greatly contest the normativity of Eurocentricism as the benchmark of “superior” art, math, science, and philosophy. And yes, I do know that companies like Mont Blanc are trying to appeal to a demographic of people that can afford $3000+ pens, and that this demographic is most likely white and of European descent…. But, I just wanted to share my thoughts of what was going on through my head while looking at the ‘special edition’ of fountain pens.

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What are your thoughts about this?

3 thoughts on “[Fountain] penning whiteness as the civilized norm

  1. Breeze,
    My initial thought was to remember when I proposed a course in black history at the community college where I taught. The Dean said, “We don’t have enough black students to take the course.”

    My reply was, it is not for black students. All students need to know this ignored history.

    If we can believe the “liberal rhetoric”of many modern day elites, they will buy the expanded pen-line, in similar proportion to their Euro-white American clients. Any Algerian, of any hue, -with money–could buy the Frantz Fanon pen.

    The problem might be getting US sports celebrities to know and take pride in purchasing the pens as much as they purchase other Eurocentric bling.

    “Boxes, little, boxes–and they all look just the same.” Malvina Ray’s song about ticky tackey has wider implication.

  2. The power of the pen…

    Many African American/Black celebrities probably sign those million dollar deals with Mont Blancs. I bet, The thought to include a diverse group of writer’s never crossed their minds. That is why in America we are taught at a young age that America is a melting pot. Be like me. Act like me. Think like me. Try to look like me. I set the standard. All the while, we are like a salad. Each of us keep our texture and color.

    We don’t know each other… However, I am transitioning my family in to whole-foods veganism. I was on Amazon looking at your book. I decided I didn’t want to wait for it to come in the mail. I went to four book stores. Yes, across the state line. I went to two in S.C. and two in N.C. Not only could I not get your book or Supa Nova Slom’s book… I could not find a single book that spoke about the Black Veganism experience … We have many vegan/organic/whole food restaurants in Asheville, NC. You mean to tell me in 2 hour radius from my house no body expected a black vegan reader!!!!

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