Tag Archives: racism

Obama Was Invisible to White America

A Salon article explores how some of white supremacism’s rise can be traced to rage over having had a black president. Quoting Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” it makes the case that the right couldn’t really see Obama.

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Poetry Helped Feed Robert E. Lee Myth

Herman Melville and Julie Ward Howe, although anti-slavery, unfortunately wrote poems which helped mythologize Robert E. Lee, whose statues have become symbols of white supremacy. And indeed, Lee was a white supremacist.

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Mosley & Du Bois: Art as Propaganda

In a visit to our college, novelist Walter Mosley was asked to respond to a W. E. B. Du Bois passage about art as propaganda. Mosley said that, if his art is true, it will indeed function as propaganda in that it will overturn racial stereotypes.

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Trust in God, Argue For Justice

This Raymond Foss Purim poem reminds us that Queen Esther can be seen as standing up for oppressed people everywhere. The poem is particularly relevant in these dark times.

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Hughes Dreams the Real American Dream

Langston Hughes’s “Let America Be America Again” is a powerful riposte to President Steven Bannon and Co.’s “Make America Great Again.” Poems like this one can play an important role in resistance against the Trump administration.

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Read Poetry To Keep Hope Alive

Literature that just shows us the grim truth of reality without the possibility of hope calls into question the whole enterprise. Much great literature frames reality in such a way that we can see new possibilities for ourselves.

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We Benefit When We Check Our Privilege

Do be blind to one’s privileges is to live in a world of shadows and phantoms, as Ralph Ellison and Lucille Clifton both make clear. Life if much richer if we identify our blindnesses and engage with people as three-dimensional beings.

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Obama’s Problematic Allusion to Atticus

In his farewell speech, Obama quoted Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In light of the white backlash against having had a black president, however, the Atticus Finch of “Go Set a Watchman comes to mind, making Obama’s allusion seem a bit weak.

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Morrison: Where America Went Wrong

Toni Morrison’s 2008 novel “A Mercy” seems to start with a promising vision of America before everything goes wrong. It’s as though she starts with the optimism of the Obama years and then predicts the Trump backlash.

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All Must Love the Human Form

In “The Divine Image,” Blake gives us a poem for our time, a call to pray for mercy, pity, peace, and love and to recognize the human form in diversity. In “The Human Abstract” he adds that prayer is not enough. It must be accompanied by human justice.

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How Trump’s White Appeal Degrades

In his novel “Snow,” Turkish Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk captures what it is like for Turks to see themselves through the eyes of Germans. In Trump’s election, my students of color saw themselves through the eyes of white America and didn’t like what they saw.

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Toni Morrison: White Panic Led to Trump

As Toni Morrison sees it, William Faulkner’s observations about white panic go a long way toward explaining Trump’s victory.

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Entering a Brave New Trumpist World

In which I reflect upon my students’ shock upon Donald Trump’s victory. Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” and Flannery O’Connor’s “All That Rises Must Converge” figure into the discussion.

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Lit Opens Minds to Suffering of the Other

Philosopher Martha Nussbaum argues that literature is essential for creating good citizens in a diverse society, turning to Sophocles’s “Philoctetes” and Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” to make her point.

Posted in Aurelius (Marcus), Ellison (Ralph), Sophocles | Also tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

We Must Revisit Slavery To Find Healing

After attending some remarkable reconciliation events dealing with America’s history of slavery, I now have a better understanding of Octavia Butler’s time travel novel about slavery–and about why the protagonist doesn’t escape back to the present unharmed.

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Poetry Turns Prisoner’s Life Around

Reginald Dwayne Betts’s life was turned around when he encounter an anthology of African American poetry in prison. Today he is a graduate of Yale Law School and an accomplished poet in his own right. I share a poem written about Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old shot by Cleveland police.

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Trump as a Haruki Murakami Villain

Donald Trump has an uncanny resemblance to the villain Noboru Wataya in Haruki Murakami’s masterful novel “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle” (1998). Both have a similar hollowness and both have the ability to separate people from the higher instincts and put them in thrall to their lower ones.

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Robinson Ran Against Walls, Never Broke

A Ken Burns documentary on Jackie Robinson gives me an excuse to run this short, powerful Lucille Clifton poem honoring the player who broke baseball’s color line.

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Lit for Handling a College’s Race Problems

After a series of arson fires and racist incidents, I turned to works in each of my courses to address the situation. In Intro to Lit, Lucille Clifton’s poetry; in Early British Literature survey, Aphra Behn’s “Oroonoko”; in British Fantasy, “Perdido Street Station.”

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Lucille Clifton’s Song of Myself

Lucille Clifton’s Whitmanesque “won’t you come celebrate with me” will inspire anyone who has gone through hard times.

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Black Students Find Strength thru Clifton

Our college last night held a celebration of the poetry of Lucille Clifton, who taught for 16 years here. A particularly powerful moment occurred when two African American students read Clifton poems and explained how they drew strength from them.

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The Wife of Bath & U.S. Race Wars

A racial flair-up at our college has given me an opportunity to stress the relevance of the Wife of Bath’s prologue and tale. Like our African American students, she too feels disrespected. One has to dig beneath her seeming confidence to realize how vulnerable she feels, however.

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Black in a White World

Clint Smith’s poem captures what it can feel like to be the only black student in an otherwise all-white class.

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Harper Lee’s Book Became Less Honest

“Gp Set a Watchman” is not as polished a book as “To Kill a Mockingbird” but it is more ambitious and more honest. Something important got lost in the editing process.

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Reading Poems to Protest Donald Trump

A student attending a Donald Trump rally staged a silent protest by reading the poetry of Claudia Rankine. The collection of poems could not have been better chosen.

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Children Lit’s Changing Racial Landscape

My mixed race granddaughters have children’s books with protagonists of color. It’s a far cry from the Dick-Jane-and-Sally books of my childhood and of the reality described by Toni Morrison’s “Bluest Eye.”

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Obama’s Eulogy & Beloved’s Baby Suggs

Commentator Melissa Harris-Perry quoted from “Beloved” following Obama’s Charleston eulogy. The passage she chose helps explain the power of the speech.

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Milton’s Satan Invades Charleston

Once again, light has attracted darkness in America with the Charleston church killings. John Milton describes how this dynamic works in “Paradise Lost” and Leslie Marmon Silko does so as well in “Ceremony.”

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The Color Purple and a Texas Pool Party

The out-of-control police officer at an African American pool party brings to mind a scene from “The Color Purple.” We’ve made progress, however, since the days in which the novel is set.

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Protesting Baltimore’s Racial Divide

The racial divide we are currently seeing in Baltimore was noted by Countee Cullen in 1925.

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How to View Prejudice in the Classics

How to handle instances of prejudice in the classics? Let the values battles fly.

Posted in Lawrence (D. H.), Milton (John), Rabelais (Francois), Woolf (Virginia) | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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