Goldberg: My only point is that I want writers to write about whatever they want to write about.
Adichie: So do I. So do I.
Goldberg: But I hate this idea that this space is being closed to anybody who wants to write anything about anything.
Adichie: It’s a strange thing, though, because there’s two sides to it. So, on the one hand I think of course anybody should write what they want. I think my friend Dave Eggers—so Dave wrote a book about a guy from Sudan called What Is the What. And I thought it was very well done. And Dave is white and male, and this guy he wrote about is black and African. It’s not that it can’t be done. It simply—Ta-Nehisi said it well—there’s a history.
And it’s not just that there’s a history. It’s also, I mean—when I say I know a lot more about whiteness than white people know about blackness, it’s not because I’m necessarily interested in whiteness. It’s because I live in a world that is [so] steeped in whiteness, that you don’t have a choice. So I know a lot about white women’s hair because all the women’s magazines are about white women’s hair. But my white friends know very little about my hair because they don’t know. And of course, America being America, where liberals are very well-meaning—nobody asks anything because they’re just really well-meaning.
Goldberg: Going back to this point about everybody being scared to actually ask stuff.
Adichie: Yeah, and I don’t mind. I’m like, Ask me. I’ll tell you because don’t you know. So this woman said to me once, “Oh. Your dreads are lovely,” and I said to her, “No, I don't have dreads. They're braids.”
Goldberg: But there’s no offense meant.
Adichie: No, no, no, no. Because there’s a difference between—there’s malicious intent and then there’s just simple, well-meaning not knowing. And I like that. I like the kind that isn’t malicious.
Goldberg: Let me come finally to the issues of feminism and this very strange moment and maybe very hopeful moment that we’re in in America. The moment triggered by the revelations surrounding Harvey Weinstein, which has now taken on much more meaning than just what happened in one movie company over a period of years. The question is: I feel like maybe we’ve reached a tipping point. It seems as if it used to be that the default position of women was not to talk about this and now it seems like we’re moving toward a place where people can talk about it and we’ll be getting a fuller understanding of how common this kind of behavior—maybe not the level of Harvey Weinstein behavior but level of sexual harassment, intimidation. Am I being overly hopeful about where we’re at?
Adichie: Yes. I’m happy that you’re hopeful. I want to be hopeful too but I don’t know. And I don’t want Harvey Weinstein to be this sort of the standard. I don’t want him to be. So I’m happy that women … and I know about the #MeToo hashtag and women are talking about it. It doesn’t surprise me obviously because I think that most women, if not all women, have a story but it’s also for me about other things. … We just need to find a way in our culture to start believing women. And I think that’s really the fundamental thing. And so Harvey Weinstein–type assault is terrible obviously but so is just that larger diminishing of women … all over the world. In the U.S. it’s so much more subtle and almost sophisticated that it’s difficult to point out. In Nigeria it’s very in-your-face. So you know what you’re dealing with. You know somebody be like, “Oh, you’re a woman, you really can’t be governor.” So you know what you’re dealing with.
Goldberg: And that will be said in "polite society"?
Adichie: Oh, they will tell you. Oh, yeah. They’ll tell you. In the U.S., they’re thinking it. They don’t tell you.
Goldberg: Do you think people were thinking that about Hillary Clinton?
Adichie: Of course. Of course there were many people who thought. Yes. Men and women, by the way, not just men.
Goldberg: Women too.
Adichie: Let’s be clear. Yes, women too. So, I want to be hopeful. I desperately want to be hopeful, but I don’t know.