Daily Archives: April 6, 2012
Haki Madhubuti’s poems “IS TRUTH LIBERATING” and “my brothers” both seem filled with criticism of the black community, and to some extent America as a whole, on the part of the poet. The former poem seems to be along the same avenue as our recent readings in that it provides something of a critique of American culture and ideology in general. In the final two stanzas, in particular, Madhubuti equates the philosophies America “sells” and those we sell to ourselves with charge card purchases and refunds: “Black people in america” he emphasizes, specifically targeting an American audience and subject, “selling false dreams to our children.” The fixation on the materialistic in American, and its use as a distraction from the societal problems the country faces is clearly under the microscope in this poem. The final stanza of the poem condemns this materialistic and culturally blind attitude: “lies / are refundable, / can be bought on our revolving / charge cards as / we all catch truth / on the next go round / if / it doesn’t hurt.” The idea that lies are refundable, you can give them right back to whoever sold it to you – you sell me a lie that I want to hear, and I’ll sell you one right back – is very telling of what the poet observes in his own culture (and in all cultures) in America. “If it doesn’t hurt,” buy it. The first line of the poem carries the phrase “truth that binds.” There is a lot of irony in the statement, particularly in regard to the rest of the poem. The truth from which these materialistic aspirations hope to distract is that a large portion of the American populace is in “binds,” bound by oppression and inequality. The poem brings to light people’s refusal to fight against, or even see, what they themselves are being bound by. “my brothers” was very interesting. It is a criticism of men, black men, specifically, on the part of a black man, for their treatment of black women. “my brothers,” the poem is titled and begins, implying an already strong sense of camaraderie on the part of men. The end of the same stanza states, “Black women have not been / loved enough.” This camaraderie has not been extended to members of the female sex. The second stanza criticizes the fact that, while men have more women to love than women have men, that “the women Black are / three to each of us,” women are not being shown enough love. The final stanza brings the cultural attitude toward black women into the picture, with the line, “self hating and hurting ways.” In many of our other readings we have seen darker-skinned blacks being discriminated against within in their own race by lighter-skinned blacks, and men leaving darker women for lighter ones. This self-loathing, this attempt to get away from one’s own culture and the idea that white is better, is being sharply criticized. The poet even reminds the reader in the final lines of the poem that these black women who are being neglected are “those images you reflect.” They are the same, they are equal, and yet they “are not being loved.” Both the Madhubuti poems we read for today were very socially aware and interesting in what the poet chose to target in his subject matter.
I’m guessing that the oppression goes both ways.
I can’t turn on the television without seeing a black face in a mug shot on the news. It seems that every second, a black man is either killed, has killed, or has done something that pushes his black fellow-man towards degradation. Madhubuti focuses on the old cliche’ “The truth will set you free” in the poem “Is the Truth Liberating?” I’m sure any reader of this poem can agree with Madhubuti in the claim that while truths may determine the state of a relationship or the future of a hopeful child, it certainly looses the battle when faced against lies.
“Black people in america
may not be made for the truth
we wrap our lives in disco
and sunday sermons
selling false dreams to our children.”
The question arises, is it more morally correct to lie and save feelings or lie and destroy dreams? The false dreams that Madhubuti are speaking of may be the often words expressed by parents to their children, “You can be anything you want to be,” however, this gives the child the option of wanting to become President, professional athletes, doctors, and lawyers. This can correlate with Malcolm X’s experience in which he was told that blacks have their place in society. William Lynch was a famous slave owner that gave a speech in 1712 about how to control black slaves. He hinted that, if you keep a group of people oppressed for so long, then they will only began to oppress themselves. There is TRUTH in this. In Madhubuti’s “My Brothers” the speaker wants his “brothers” to know that they are oppressing themselves.
“my brothers i will not tell you
who to love or not love
i will make you aware of our
self hating and hurting ways.”
The self hating and hurting ways that the speaker speaks of is the thought that many black men have today. The thought that industry is the only way to catch up to “the white man”; the want to only catch up, and not exceed. Black men are hurting themselves by crime and lack of education, however, the oppression from being distressed has stuck with us. Black men have forgotten their roots but, are still ironically tied to them.
In anticipation of our library research orientation on Monday, April 9 (in Arnold 206/207), here is the assignment sheet for your final paper. I will post more detailed information about the annotated bibliography separately.
Please come prepared on Monday with any questions about finding and using credible sources.