Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Macon's family enjoyed their advatage of wealth; they owned their own house, had a car, and even the job of Ruth's father and Macon's position being landlord intimidated the fellow black communiy. But the problem was that even though they had higher living standard than most of black people, their skin color was black so didn't really have advantage. Although Ruth's father was a well known doctor, Ruth could only, out of her 3 labors, deliver Milkman in the very own hostipal that her father worked in. Milkman, with guitar, was stopped and was caught while running away with green sack they stole from Pilate just because their skin color was black. Only when Macon payed money, Milkman was released. Also by the clothes and the way they acted, we can know that they tried to look like white but it was impossible to overcome their skin color.
When Magdalane called Lena wanted to have relationship with Henry Porter, Macon's self-esteem of being higher class than Porter prevented him from letting Lena have the relationship. Also in early stage Milkman couldn't mingle with the lower black community, until Guitar helped him out.
Even though only few whites appear in this novel whole concept of segregation is rooted in the background of the novel.
Although the characters in Song of Solomon don’t seem to suffer directly from others’ racist actions, the entire black community suffers as a result of the white’s ignorance. Since the black characters are not given the same rights or opportunities as the whites, they are forced to live lives of poverty in separated, predominantly black sections of town. Some of the black community in the novel is defeated as a result of their continual suffering and act as though they are not able to change their rights, while characters, like Guitar and his fellow Seven Days members, are mobilized as a result of their suffering. They feel as though the suffering and lack of rights have gone on long enough, and if they are not able to change rights then at least they are able to counteract and balance the suffering.
In "Song of Solomon", Milkman's travels from his hometown in Michigan, the "industrialized North", to the place of his family roots, Pennsylvania and Virginia. While he is treated with respect by the natives of his hometown, Milkman finds that the inhabitants of the rural South are less courteous. Milkman's demeanor is unique from other black characters in the novel, and perhaps this is the reason for the variations of approval in his travels. Milkman serves as a substitute for the novel's absence of white characters. Although he is physically a black man, Milkman dresses, talks, and behaves like a white man. His fellow black Michigan town members treat him with respect, as a white man would have been treated. His white mannerisms are approved of by the Northerners. As Milkman travels south, he begins to experience a change in the way he is treated. The black townspeople in the South do not respect Milkman's fancy clothes and speech; instead, they take offense to his "white" mannerisms.
responding to dr. noff-
Monday night we had a debate about whether Malcolm X or MLK was right. It was interesting to be in the Malcolm X group, because we had Brendan who didnt want to argue him what so ever because he thought he was wrong, and then we had Hannah who is all for peace, but yet was able to come up with valid arguments defending X. Our group as a whole came up with the point that X never advocated vi0lence upon whites, but he gave the activists a purpose in their beliefs.
[The plight of African Americans is unique and unlike any other struggle in history. However, it can be applied as universal, in that it represents a struggle that many groups have had since the beginning of time all across the world. For thousands of years races of people have been oppressed and discriminated against. During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Spanish conquistadors succeeded in eliminating nearly all native residents (the Aztecs and Incas) of Central and South America. In the 19th century, while the United States was beginning to occupy the western half of the nation, the government pushed many Native Americans off of their own land and onto reservations. The Dawes Act in 1887 gave land to individual Native Americans rather than to the tribe as a whole, upending one of their key cultural values. During World War II, Adolf Hitler adopted what he called the "final solution," a plan to narrow down the world into one "master race," which included the extermination of millions of Jews, gypsies, and people who were mentally handicapped. However, the struggle that blacks went through (and still go through) in America is unlike any other struggle of any other people in history. Until the elimination of slavery in 1863, nearly all of the southern economy was based on the enslavement of an "inferior" race. The White Southern slave-owners depended on slaves for their economic prosperity. The conquistadors killed the Aztecs and Incas for the "three G's" (gold, God, and glory) and land for the Spanish empire; the United States put Native Americans on reservations not because they depended on them, but because US citizens wanted their land; Adolf Hitler killed millions of innocent people not because they made the German economy boom, but because he simply believed they did not have a warrant to live. The African American struggle, while it can be applied as universal, goes much deeper than any other struggle.] Aside from all of that, Song of Solomon represents an odyssey of change, something experienced by many people, not just African Americans. Milkman starts his journey looking for gold, but ends up looking for his family history, something much more valuable than his initial desire. He starts his journey as someone with material values much like his fathers and a cold heart. However, by the end of the novel, Milkman changes into a caring human being after reflection and deeper investigation of his roots. Milkman's odyssey not only represents how personal change is possible, but also how there is great variety within every race. Like an innumerable amount of novels, Song of Solomon displays how a cold-hearted soul can change into a kind, compassionate person. But it also shows how every culture and race has its own differences. Not all blacks agreed on every subject during the civil rights movement (as our passionate debate showed on Monday), nor does any race or culture have the exact same values on every subject. The diversity of the African Americans in Song of Solomon shows how stereotypes of cultures can be easily proved wrong. There is a large amount of disagreement between people throughout the novel. Guitar, on one side, advocates killing innocent whites while Pilate, on the other side, is a figure of peace and love who would probably never advocate killing anybody. Macon Jr., a man who only seems to care about wealth, is disliked by much of the community. In any society there is disagreement. Upon examination, disagreement is the tell tale sign of being human. While it can lead to bigger problems, disagreement shows how every society is human. Song of Solomon is not a novel about African Americans, it is a novel with African Americans as its subject and universally applicable themes.
ASSIGNMENT for THURSDAY’S SEMINAR
Sitkoff paints a pretty gloomy picture of the status of African Americans in 1990, 25 years after the major gains of the Civil Rights Movement. While there were surely distinct gains during that period, there were also some ominous signs of stagnation and even of decline. In every region, at every educational level, and in every occupation, African-Americans had a lower median income than did whites; “a third of African-Americans, and half of all black children, [were] living below the poverty level;” (p. 226); over half of African American families were headed by a single female; African-Americans had a higher rate of infant mortality than some third world countries, and almost half the prison population in the U.S. was African-American. (Sitkoff, p. 227). Even a cursory glance at the 2000 census reveals even further decline
Throughout the past week and a half we have been looking at policies and actions that have wrought significant change. Your assignment is to take what you have learned through our study and apply it to one of the problems faced by African-Americans today. Begin by re-reading Sitkoff, pp. 224-228) and look for an issue that seems to you especially pressing. Then do some research to discover the current issue you've identified, and what steps are being taken to address it. Then, working singly or in groups, come up with a plan for change. You may draw on any of the strategies we’ve encountered in our reading; you may work inside or outside government; you may surely invent your own strategies. Your goal is to write a Manifesto for Change. It will contain a statement of the problem; your goalA; a carefully constructed strategy for accomplishing it; and an underlying argument for why you think your strategy will work.
You should come to class on Thursday ready to present your Manifesto (in preliminary form) to our group. The culminating exercise for this Seminar will be a written Manifesto due on Tuesday, 3/27.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
After having been away a few days, I checked the blog this afternoon, hoping to learn something more specific about what transpired in class yesterday--but I found very little to help me. Could some (all?) of you please write some impressions about class on Monday evening? What were topics of discussion? What were your "takes" on these topics? What's up for Wednesday? How is the process going? Please shed some light on these issues for me!
1. How many white characters do we meet in the novel? How would you characterize the role of whites in the novel (direct/indirect, positive/negative/neutral, etc.)? How does this role of the whites reflect the issues addressed in Sitkoff?
2. Sitkoff cites MLK's role in emancipating the psyche of blacks (we discussed this idea last week). Is there any reflection of this experience in the novel? Where does it appear? How does it come about?
3. Can we make any generalizations about the male and female characters in the novel? Where/how does Sitkoff's study address gender roles among African Americans?
4. As Sitkoff's book makes clear, rhetoric--the ability to move through words--played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement. What do you notice about the language (diction) of the novel? Does it affect or in any way reflect the characters' struggles?
5. Sitkoff's study draws attention to the different strategies adopted by civil rights activists, generally divided along the lines of gradualism and radical change. Where in the novel do we see different responses to the plight of blacks and the potential for change?
6. One of the striking things that Sitkoff's book makes clear is the astonishing capacity for suffering among civil rights activists (think of those photos we saw), as well as the general suffering among blacks in America. What kind of suffering do we encounter in the novel? Where does it defeat, where energize or mobilize the characters?
7. In King's "Letter From Birmingham City Jail" King insists that injustice anywhere is the business of all Americans: i.e., the plight of African Americans is in some sense universal. Is there a similar sense of universality in Morrison's novel--in other words, is this novel just about blacks, or about human beings generally?
8. The setting of the novel shifts between the industrialized north and the rural south. How does Milkman's experience differ in those two settings? How did these settings figure in the Civil Rights Movement, as outlined by Sitkoff?
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Will you be stubborn, obstinate, or refuse to listen to both sides of the question? Will your knowledge of science help you determine your action or will you let customs, superstition, or tradition determine the decision for you?
This is the chance that the youth of America has been waiting for. Through an open mind, broad outlook, wise thinking, and a careful choice you can prove that America's youth has not "gone to the dogs" that their moral, spiritual, and educational standards are not being lowered. This is the opportunity for you as citizens of Arkansas and students of Little Rock Central High to show the world that Arkansas is a progressive thriving state of wide-awake alert people. It is a state that is rapidly growing and improving its social, health, and educational facilities. That it is a
state with friendly, happy, and conscientious citizens who love and cherish their freedom.
It has been said that life is just a chain of problems. If this is true, then this experience in making up your own mind and determining right from wrong will be of great value to you in life.
This challenge is yours, as future adults of America, to prove your maturity, intelligence, and ability to make decisions by how you react, behave, and conduct yourself in this controversial question. What is your answer to this challenge?
What issues must your generation address? To what extent are you even informed about issues that potentially could affect you and those around you? What are you willing to do to help address those issues and what are you willing to personally sacrifice to achieve those goals? What do you see when you look at those images of students your own age jeering, spitting and physically harming other students, whether it is at Central High or at a lunch-counter where students are attempting to order a burger? There is no civil rights movement without people your own age willing to act.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Thursday, March 15, 2007
The scene takes place on the raft as Huck is assisting his friend Jim in gaining his freedom. As the scene progresses Jim praises his friend for his help in achieving this goal. Huck's reaction, of course, is a feeling of failure as if he is doing something wrong. After all, Huck grew up in the antebellum south where he learned how to maneuver and understand a society built on white racial supremacy. Everything from the laws to the institution of slavery to the way people behave around one another was premised on race. From Huck's point of view his friends praise was not a reason to feel pride or the emotional satisfaction involved in helping Jim, but the realization that he was breaking the law. This sounds strange to us but only because we live at a time when our feelings of sympathy and empathy correspond with our beliefs about justice. In short, there is not conflict.
This is not the case for Huck, but we must ask whether there could have been a way out for Huck given that by the end of the novel he gives up any sense of morality and becomes a pragmatist. Perhaps the understanding that our moral frameworks must on occasion be brought into question can help us here. We should be willing to accept that our moral views may on occasion need to be tweaked or revised given that our society continually evolves and new information becomes available in reference to difficult moral problems such as abortion or animal rights and so on. I am not implying a position of subjectivism where morality simply becomes a matter of the individual just that we need to question.
Now how do we do this? One possibility is that our natural abilities to empathize or sympathize offer each of us a way to step back and imagine ourselves in the position of the "other." Huck clearly has this ability, but he is unable to take the next step which would be to use his natural other-regarding feelings for Jim as a check on his more formal ideas of morality and justice.
We need not necessarily have to figure out the foundations of morality and justice in order to ask the more immediate question of how we go about thinking through the way we learn and revise our ideas in these two areas.
What's most disturbing to me about images of black children picking a white doll as the "good" doll is that this raises the question of where those internalized notions of "goodness" and "badness" have come from? How old were those children--4 or 5? Have they already absorbed, perhaps at an unconscious level, images from the media?
This sentence is fascinating to me because of the unclarity of the last three words. Is Morrison saying that it isn't Doctor Street, or also Not Doctor Street? You can read it both ways. Since the "not" isn't capitalized, it would seem like the first choice. But if read aloud, it sounds like the second choice. Unclarity almost always has a purpose in literature, and I wonder what it means in this case.
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I'm Max. Seminar so far has taught me lots of things. From the readings I learned deeply about the civil rights movement that had taken place in America, but from discusssion that we had on Monday and Wednesday, I was able to get more profound thoughts on the issue. Views and points that everyone had helped me to view the event with more dimensions.
In the book "Song of Solomon," there wasn't direct white oppression in the events but from the mentality that the main characters have showed how significantly white oppression was pressing blacks down. I looking forward to great discussion tomorrow.
I've only been in America for a year, so I'm still struggling with my English. So if the things that I say are not clear or doesn't make sense, please tell me. It'll help me a lot to learn more by everyone helping me out. Thank you.
okay so this quote isnt completley random, after discussing King's act of "non-violence" i thought about this quote by good ole Abe, and the brilliance of non-violence is the realization that we must live with one another peacefully and not through hatred.
Also - thanks for the cookies Caitlin!
I shall write more substantively next time. Again, thanks to all for your good will and active participation.
I'm also curious what the students thought of the faculty participation: too much? too little? too directive? not enough?
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
You might find it interesting to take one of the tests at this site. It contains a series of tests of implicit preference -- religion, race, age, gender, etc. Each one only takes a few minutes. Have no idea how valid the data are, but they're interesting.
Cut and paste this link for a follow up to last night's discussion of the minority journalism program. Should provide further insight -- and a picture!