What is wrong with the kids of today? Social media and other forms of technology have taken over. My child has lost all knowledge of how to verbally communicate. They walk around with these head phones on, blocking out the rest of the world. Their communication skills are tremendously suffering!!!! My fourteen year old is guilty of all of these things. It just absolutely infuriates me. Self expression is being lost. We need to ration out the amount of technological products that we allow our kids to come in contact with.
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I know we’re winding down the semester and that you probably have even more papers to write and/or exams to take, but I hope you’ll take time to read these two short pieces about where race relations are at the present.
This one is more general and remarks upon the supposed greater tolerance for difference among “millenians,” the current generation coming of age:
This one really got my blood boiling. It’s a reaction to a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Ed disparaging Black Studies as a discipline. The title ought to give you a clue:
I have thoroughly enjoyed this semester with all of you. I’m happy to be g0ing out on a very high note, having taught my favorite class ever Best of luck to all of you! I hope to hear great things from you.
I found a really cool interview that Francois Bondy did with James Baldwin. Here’s a portion that didn’t fit into my paper, but I thought was really great.
FB: … You have written that the Americans are not behind Europeans but rather in advance, because they had to face the real problem, while we Europeans often feel that we have solutions just because we don’t have that problem. Do you still think Americans are more advaced in this regard?
JB: I think that it is a great opportunity that America has right now–the trouble is our oppourtunity. What I was trying to suggest in that piece was that Americans, becausde they have lived with it for so long, know more abou tthe color problem than any European nation, because Europe never had its slaves on the mainland. But the price for waht one l might hope to call the American advantage would be an investigation of its own history, which America has never been willing to do. If we could tell the truth about what happened to Indians, what happened to the black man in America, and get rid of all those terifying myths which are all over TV, and books and textbooks; if we could tell the truth about what our real realationship was to the Mexiacans, for example, then we could begin to use this tremendous potential, and it might begin to save the world.
Wowza. Baldwin pretty much tells it like it is. I love it. I completely agree. Until we are able to face our history for what it was and stop covering the icky parts that we don’t like to admit to, growth won’t really be able to happen. I remember reading this same kind of idea in Malcolm X, too. He had thoughts about the origin of our country and how we started out as pillagers. We took this land by force, and force is what we based our existence on. This isn’t the pretty side of the U.S., however we can’t refuse to see the facts.
I have thoroughly enjoy being apart of this class. I am glad that I was able to take an African American Lit class. Though I am African American, or black, there are still aspect of history that I did not know about and this class brought them to light. I love how discussion was encouraged alot and we were free to voice our opinions and thoughts as we wished. We definitely had the right professor teaching this particular class. You new students, as well as your new school will be lucky to have you on their campus.
In closing, I would like to say that this was one of the most enjoyable classes I have had the pleasure of taking. It seemed that most everyone in the class had something to contribute to the discussion, and it was hardly ever just a few people leading the discussion during the class period. It was also a great relief to not just hear the literary analysis of the novels, poetry, short stories, and speeches that we read in class. Yes, the literary analysis and close readings are greatly important in writing papers and being an English major, but it was a relief to be able to have the casual discussions permitted in this class. It sparked ideas in my mind for later discussion and taught me a bit more about the personalities of those who spoke.
It was also a relief to study works that were not either white Americans or Europeans. There are more types of literature than this in the world and, unfortunately, most students will not have the chance in high school to read writers that are not white or European. Even in college, some of these students may never be exposed to the kind of literature we read in class. This whole experience opened my mind up to a wider variety of literature that I had no knowledge of, for the most part, beforehand. Now, I look to a future where writers do not have to be labeled based upon their race or ethnicity. It will be acceptable for writers to write about characters outside of their race and have their novels read in all types of classrooms. They will not have to be considered just African American writers; they can be placed alongside the greatest writers of the known world and have their works read outside of a class entitled African American Literature II.
Above all, I wish good luck to those of us who are sticking around for a semester or more and hope that those of you who are graduating have a wonderful and joyous life ahead of you. I hope that each of you was left with the positive memories of an experience and a class just as I was.
While taking this class, there is another novel that I have often compared many of the works in our class to. It is a novel that, if you are interested in furthering pursuing this topic, I feel would be beneficial to further study.
In high school, our class read Barbara Kingsolver’s 1998 novel The Poisonwood Bible. Although it is written by a white author and set in Africa rather than America, it is an interesting story that could be used to compare with other African American literary works.
The basic story behind the novel revolves around the Price family on a mission trip to the Belgian Congo. The father, Nathan Price, is in charge of preaching the word of God to the natives in the village while also helping them out with needs such as food and clothing. Nathan also brings his entire family which includes his wife Orleanna, his oldest daughter Rachel, twin daughters Leah and Adah, and youngest daughter Ruth May. The novel is broken into various narrations, by chapter, and switches back and forth between the five lead female characters. The situation in the novel is the reverse of much of what we have read in this class. Instead of the whites being the dominant group in society, the Price family is in the minority and often black at the mercy of the Africans of the Congo. I think it would be interesting to compare say, the scene from The Invisible Man where he was boxing and at the mercy of the whites to the situation of the Prices who are, many times, a show for the people of the Congo and are often at the mercy of those people.
I would love to hear from my fellow classmates to see if anyone else has further suggestions for reading around the types of subjects we studied in class.
As we’ve read through several of the novels in this class, I have noticed the interesting use of language. Particularly, colloquial or “slang” language. The best examples of these have come from the novels The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Coming of Age in Mississippi. Since both novels were written around the same time, the language used is similar. However, it is how the language compares to that of today that intrigues me the most.
First, both novels make use of the word “cool.” Of all the words such as “groovy” and “hip,” it is interesting to see that this word is still used today. As seen through popular culture, as soon as people outside of the “in” community, usually adults or “the man,” use these words, they are considered “un cool” and drop from common use. The word “cool” has remained in popular use, however, and was considered both then and now to be an acceptable term for all.
The word “hipster,” however, has changed the most since it was used in the 1960s and 1970s. When Malcolm X used this term to refer to himself and those he associated with. It meant people who were cool and “with the times.” Here, it was the people who wore the sharp zoot suit and attended the dances held at various clubs. The meaning of this word has vastly changed in the 21st century. If you did a quick search of the internet, you would see the term “hipster” pop up in various places, and it is never usually used in a positive manner. Today, “hipsters” are people who wear the thick glasses, t-shirts with old cartoon characters on them, and listen to music that no one has ever heard of. They typically hate anything that is considered “main stream” which includes music, movies, and television. Due to their tendency to criticize the main stream media, they have generated much hate throughout the internet and out in the “real world.”
No, I did not feel that this would provide a good topic for discussion in class, but I felt it was an interesting point nonetheless. By reading through these books, we, as readers, are provided with a glimpse into a past most of us were not alive to witness. As English majors, we are able to point out small details like this and examine their uses through time. While both of these words remain in popular use, “cool” has retained its original use while “hipster” has taken on a completely different, and now negative, meaning.
For those of you who opted out of the viewing of The Black Power Mixtape, you were denied the opportunity to view the Civil Rights and, redundantly, the Black Power Movement through the unbiased eyes of those who were not American. Through the eyes of the Swedish, it is easier to see what America would normally have left out of their news. It is harsh, but, oftentimes, the American news only shows its audience what said news wants them to see. The Swedish, who compiled the footage shown in the movie, have no such qualms as it would not make their country look any worse for wear. They were more “free” to show whatever it was that interested them.
The movie is loosely strung together in a series of segments broken down by years ranging from 1967 to 1975. Although each segment cannot focus on each of the important events of the year, the film focuses on a variety of subjects important to the year. Here, my ignorance was made note of as many of the events and people spoken about in the movie were unknown to me before its showing. For instance, the film opened by showing various speeches given by Stokely Carmichael in 1967 concerning his views on Black Power and the Civil Rights Movement. Here, Carmichael was asked about Dr. Martian Luther King Jr. and whether or not he agreed with his peaceful protesting methods. Carmichael remarked that, while he agreed with and admired what Dr. King was doing, he simply did not have the patience to wait for the “white man” to do something about it. He is famously quoted saying that the nonviolent works of Dr. King would only work if the opponent of the protesting had a “conscience. The American government has none.”
The film also extensively covered the trial and incarceration of Angela Davis. Among this footage and coverage included past and present interviews from Davis concerning her stance and opinions about the situation in American in the late 1960s and early 1970s. According to the film, a young African American boy shot and killed a judge and several others were killed in the gunfire that resulted from the event and the boy was then arrested. The gun he used to commit the shooting was said to be owned by Angela Davis herself and was then arrested and charged with being an accessory to murder. The whole premise for this case seems ludicrous, but it was considered a credible cause to arrest Davis. To me, however, this seemed like an excuse to arrest Davis and to avoid her from “sparking any more trouble.” She was, luckily, found not guilty in front of a jury of her “peers.”
The most enlightening component of the film, in my opinion, would be the section concerning the increasing drug problem among African Americans and other poverty stricken people in the early 1970s. Most of the history concerning this time period is focused on the Civil Rights movements, segregation, lynching and other cruel treatments of blacks, but it never focused on the problem people dealt with. Cocaine, marijuana, and heroin, drugs still vastly popular today, broke out in the early 1970s and devastated the lives of thousands of African Americans and other poor people. One of the most heartbreaking points made in this section was during an interview with a young adult woman. She told the interviewer how she often stole from her mother and was eventually forced to prostitute herself in order to supply the money needed to “get her fix.” To me, it explains one of the largest problems in our country today. The media, and often political figures, only focus on one of the bigger issues and push the rest to the back burner. Yes, the civil rights of African Americans was extremely important, but it also eclipsed many of the other important issues that would have vastly helped blacks and the rest of poor America during the time.
There were many enlightening points of the video, and it would be a bit too lengthy for me to mention them all in one post. The aforementioned points, however, are those I remembered most and thought were worth mentioning. I would recommend the film to anyone going to study African American history or even the history of America during this time period.
One would argue that black on black crime should cast a shadow on this entire case, nevertheless…this happens.
These two links are to audio clips from the “Blacking It Up” podcast. I actually don’t subscribe to their podcast (yet), but I do listen to “The Best of the Left” podcast which is where I heard these (and the source for these YouTube links). The first is an interesting conversation about racial slurs and discrimination over a rather incredible clip from ESPN that (somehow) came about as a result of the whole Jeremy Lin hubbub that happened a couple of months ago. The second is a discussion about the Supreme Court’s decision to revisit affirmative action in a case involving the University of Texas-Austin, and it is also a bit of a warning to all of you about what to expect from our illustrious justices later this summer.