Measuring and evaluating disturbingly racist histories

 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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17 December 2019 13:02
 

[A neighboring thread may be where this post fits, but that thread is closed to self-scrutiny.]

We can attempt to experience, if only second-hand, current and past racist attitudes and behaviors by reading fiction and nonfiction stories. Plenty of current literature addresses racism, but readers may (or unfortunately may not) need to go back in time a hundred years and more to get some flavor of more intensely racist times. Reading both current and past literature that features overt and debilitating racism can help inform today’s decision-makers regarding sociological, educational and cognitive-behavioral tools now at their disposal, reparations among them.

For a taste of an unfit past, I would first recommend Theodore Dreiser’s short story, The Lynching of Nigger Jeff. It’s by far the most powerful and convincing race story I’ve ever come across. Richard Wright’s novel, Native Son, also seems to me a must-read. What texts have you found insightful, historically accurate even if in fiction form, and emotionally engaging with regard to any culture’s current or past racist ways?

 
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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17 December 2019 19:34
 

I don’t need to read such stuff because I already know that what is being written about was wrong. To read them would simply be for the sake of emotional outrage and to convince myself and others of how much better I am then the perpetrators. But I already know I’m better so no need to waste time trying to convince myself or anyone else.

[ Edited: 18 December 2019 10:09 by GAD]
 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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17 December 2019 20:07
 

Huckleberry Finn.

 
 
GAD
 
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17 December 2019 22:27
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 17 December 2019 08:07 PM

Huckleberry Finn.

The book or the Disney movie version smile

 
 
Garret
 
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Garret
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18 December 2019 10:05
 

Some books I’ve read recently:

Fools Crow - Set in Montana in 1869, James Welch’s book follows a couple members of the Pikuni (Blackfeet).  The author is a member of the Blackfeet Nation, and had listened to stories passed down about a massacre on the Marias River, but when he went to look it up, there existed essentially no official acknowledgement of it.  He had to do a lot of research on the massacre itself, but then also did a lot of anthropological work on his own people as well in order to create a fully lived experience for that time (down to details like how they skinned hides).

Lose Your Mother - Saidiya Hartman’s memoir of a year spent in Ghana.  The book is a personal narrative, but weaves in some very good hard history as well.  She looks at why attempts by black Americans to reunite with the continent of Africa have largely failed and why.  It’s an examination of how history influences identity, and also how identity influences history.  There is a lot of really good discussions about how narratives are created, by who and for whom.  She also does a really good job of representing people who disagree or have a different point of view from hers.

Evicted - Matthew Desmond spent a year or so living in Milwaukee and following around various people who experienced eviction, as well as landlords, and those who enact the process of eviction.  He largely just presents people in their own words, and then separates out his own writing which includes a lot of really good statistics and historical documentation.  Extremely well documented, but not so dense as to be technical or a slog to read.

Our Past is Our Future - Nick Estes writes a fairly long and complex book about how the past events don’t just explain how the Dakota Access Pipeline came to be, but how the various actions of institutions in the past are often just the exact same actions those institutions are doing now.  Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee has enjoyed a lot of popular success, but in a lot of ways its a really bad book.  Estes’ writing does not necessarily give one hope for the future, but he does present indigenous people as being alive, vibrant, and active in the world around them.

 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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18 December 2019 11:28
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 17 December 2019 08:07 PM

Huckleberry Finn.

I realize you’re being light here, and we both know that Huck’s word choices would get him into big trouble if he were alive today.

Are you implying that you think GAD is correct in his evaluation above (reply #1)?

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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18 December 2019 14:11
 
nonverbal - 18 December 2019 11:28 AM
Antisocialdarwinist - 17 December 2019 08:07 PM

Huckleberry Finn.

I realize you’re being light here, and we both know that Huck’s word choices would get him into big trouble if he were alive today.

Are you implying that you think GAD is correct in his evaluation above (reply #1)?

I’m surprised that you think I’m making light of the OP. What led you to that conclusion? How long has it been since you read HF? Don’t you find it “insightful, historically accurate even if in fiction form, and emotionally engaging with regard to any culture’s current or past racist ways?”

 
 
nonverbal
 
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nonverbal
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19 December 2019 05:45
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 18 December 2019 02:11 PM
nonverbal - 18 December 2019 11:28 AM
Antisocialdarwinist - 17 December 2019 08:07 PM

Huckleberry Finn.

I realize you’re being light here, and we both know that Huck’s word choices would get him into big trouble if he were alive today.

Are you implying that you think GAD is correct in his evaluation above (reply #1)?

I’m surprised that you think I’m making light of the OP. What led you to that conclusion? How long has it been since you read HF? Don’t you find it “insightful, historically accurate even if in fiction form, and emotionally engaging with regard to any culture’s current or past racist ways?”

Good point. I got caught up in a net made of a variety of stereotypes of my own devising!

 
 
Antisocialdarwinist
 
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Antisocialdarwinist
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19 December 2019 08:56
 
nonverbal - 19 December 2019 05:45 AM
Antisocialdarwinist - 18 December 2019 02:11 PM
nonverbal - 18 December 2019 11:28 AM
Antisocialdarwinist - 17 December 2019 08:07 PM

Huckleberry Finn.

I realize you’re being light here, and we both know that Huck’s word choices would get him into big trouble if he were alive today.

Are you implying that you think GAD is correct in his evaluation above (reply #1)?

I’m surprised that you think I’m making light of the OP. What led you to that conclusion? How long has it been since you read HF? Don’t you find it “insightful, historically accurate even if in fiction form, and emotionally engaging with regard to any culture’s current or past racist ways?”

Good point. I got caught up in a net made of a variety of stereotypes of my own devising!

Maybe. But the book has been criticized in the past, mainly for the word choices.

The decision to ban the book [HF] for grade 11 students came after a students and faculty forum, local media reported. The great American novel is about a boy named Huck Finn who fakes his own death to escape his violent father and then goes down the Mississippi River with an escaped slave.

A letter confirming the decision was sent to parents of students at the school by Art Hall, the principal.

“We have all come to the conclusion that the community costs of reading this book in 11th grade outweigh the literary benefits,” Mr Hall said.

I thought the story was a clever counterargument to racist attitudes. There are a few scenes in particular where Huck struggles with his conscience, believing that helping Jim the slave escape is wicked and will condemn him (Huck) to Hell. But he finally concludes that he doesn’t care because Jim is a good (despite his escape) and loyal friend. That, to me, was more effective than all of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s preaching in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

But apparently, that’s not what makes HF such a great work—rather, it’s the “literary benefits.” I’m not sure what that means, exactly, but it doesn’t sound like it has anything to do with anti-racism. So maybe I’m misinterpreting it.

 
 
unsmoked
 
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unsmoked
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19 December 2019 09:01
 
nonverbal - 19 December 2019 05:45 AM
Antisocialdarwinist - 18 December 2019 02:11 PM
nonverbal - 18 December 2019 11:28 AM
Antisocialdarwinist - 17 December 2019 08:07 PM

Huckleberry Finn.

I realize you’re being light here, and we both know that Huck’s word choices would get him into big trouble if he were alive today.

Are you implying that you think GAD is correct in his evaluation above (reply #1)?

I’m surprised that you think I’m making light of the OP. What led you to that conclusion? How long has it been since you read HF? Don’t you find it “insightful, historically accurate even if in fiction form, and emotionally engaging with regard to any culture’s current or past racist ways?”

Good point. I got caught up in a net made of a variety of stereotypes of my own devising!

Thinking of Huck and Jim floating down the Mississippi, ‘THE TASMANIAN’S TALE’ by Richard Dawkins and Yan Wong comes to mind.

This is a chapter near the beginning of the Dawkins/Wong best seller - ‘The Ancestor’s Tale’ -  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ancestor’s_Tale

The Tasmanian’s Tale illustrates the identical ancestors point starting from which all living people trace exactly the same set of ancestors back in time.

(“For instance . . . Barack Obama can be shown to be a direct descendant of the English king Edward I.”)

 
 
Poldano
 
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30 December 2019 01:20
 

I recommend the fiction of Octavia Butler and N.K.Jemison to get a sense of what it feels like to be an outcast in one’s society. I suppose the works of the more mainstream African-American writers would do the same, but I’m a science fiction fan and generally don’t bother with mainstream fiction, so I haven’t read any of the mainstream works.

Some might say that all such works are just elaborations of chips on shoulders, but I think that’s exactly the point. Unless you understand what the chips on the shoulders feel like, you won’t understand the world views and decision processes of those who suffer from them. It’s not only black people who act according to the chips on their shoulders, it’s everyone who has them. Even Donald Trump, and especially many Trump supporters.

Also, The Republic for which It Stands, by Richard White, contains a lot of history about Reconstruction and Post-Reconstruction racism, and good explanations of the political and social background in which it occurred. It stops at 1900, so it doesn’t contain some of the more recent significant events such as the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920’s, white-initiated race riots, and other events which are perhaps more relevant to the present day. It does serve to show that the racism has long historical roots, and is not a simple effect of 20th-century economic events. Cultures do not change quickly.