Sunday, May 30, 2010

Black Boy

right before i started Nomad by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, i was finished Black Boy by Richard Wright. i was completely engulfed in this book. i think autobiographies are some of the most enlightening books. i love seeing life through a complete stranger's eyes and hearing about situations and experiences i might never find myself in. next up-Native Son.

in a literature class i took last fall online, an excerpt from this book was on our reading list. it was the part where Richard's boss, Mr. Olin tells Richard and another black kid from another company that Richard wants to fight him. eventually, Richard and the young man realize that everything is made up and their white bosses just want them to fight for their entertainment. like two men watching two pit-bulls fight. after money enters the equation, however, they disregard the fact that they are degrading themselves and their people and fight anyway. both boys feel like the animals these whites believe them to be at the end of the fight. the excerpt was just a testament to how blacks weren't considered humans and how many whites took that notion and ran with it.

in the class, we had to make posts about the required reading and make three responses to other students' posts. most people said the typical, non-thinking, generic crap like "blacks were treated really really bad. Mr. olin was bad. richard shouldn't have fought...." and some other mess. but one chick said the excerpt portrayed southern whites in a negative light and that she enjoyed it, but didn't like the stereotypical role whites were in. to me, she was completely disregarding the main characters' feelings, as well as the feelings of all southern blacks. yes, southern and northern whites were racist, vicious, and completely inhumane. was she trying to deny the fact or dilute the severity of what living in the south with brown skin meant?
Richard was born in 1908 in Mississippi and died in 1960. that excerpt from the book was while he was staying in Memphis, Tennessee working, trying to make it to Chicago around 1930. nearly any book written by a black author from that time can back up his depiction of southern whites.

i responded to her post. basically saying that she was, like i said, disregarding the feelings and realities of black men, and black people in general in the south; she was trivializing the extremes racism took. not to mention that she was just wrong. this was an excerpt from a book, and not once did he say Mr. Olin or any other white he ran into was indicative of ALL whites (although, if he had, i don't think it would have been off in the least bit).
she responded saying that she was proud of our country and proud to be from the south and that these cirucumstances have made this country the fantastic country it is. i thought i was conversing with Sarah Palin at one point. i responded saying "yea, it made this country what it is. it lynched, raped, murdered and beat it. it forced people off their land, gave it blankets ridden with smallpox, starved it, exploited it, and left it destitute and confused...." i was going "in" like they say here in brooklyn.
my teacher sent me a message saying i was attacking this girl and that i shouldn't throw around the word "racist" or make people feel as though they're "trivializing" a topic or a group of people. not once did i call her a racist, or any name, for that matter, and my teacher ignored whether she really was trivializing it or not. my teacher was just an ignorant person that knew nothing about racism and became uncomfortable at even the mention of it. sticking to the typical, elementary responses is what she expected of her students. two people actually analyzing and debating about the implications of characters and concepts was too much for her. coming from a pre-K teacher, a response like this would have been acceptable, but coming from a college professor, it was a disappointment.
anyway, go check this book out. heres a quote from the book i liked:

"My life as a Negro in America had led me to feel-though my helplessness had made me try to hide it from myself-that the problem of human unity was more important than bread, more important than physical living itself; for i felt that without a common bond uniting men, without a continuous current of shared thought and feeling circulating through the social system, like blood coursing through the body, there could be no living worthy of being called human."
comment. think. read this book.

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