ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Then frightened black mothers were brought down to the jailhouse to whip their children
in front of the policemen to teach them not to fight white children. The alternative
was the reformatory, though not a single white child was rounded up.
Books by John Oliver Killens
Keith Gilyard, Liberation Memories: The Rhetoric and Poetics of John Oliver Killens (2003)
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Killens, the Black Man’s Burden, and the Jena 6
Editorial by Rudolph Lewis
how many Black men/women/children have been lynched or otherwise
murdered by white men that weren’t even arrested?Crystal
I was just reading John Oliver Killens “The Myth of Non-Violence versus the Right of Self-Defense” in his The Black Man’s Burden (1965, 1969). It is well worth the read in light of the increasing number of cases of white violence (by civilians and police) against African Americans. The case that I find quite extraordinary is that of the Jena 6 down in Louisiana, which suggests a rather national mood in regard to blacks and black juveniles in particular. The Jena cases are now ongoing: Strange Fruit in Jena. You may also recall the teenaged girl who was locked up for pushing a white hall monitor, Shaquanda Cotton, threatened with 7 years in jail. Then there was the Seven-Year-Old Black Child Arrested, Cuffed, Fingerprinted. Then there was recently the incident in which NYC Police Brutalized a Human Rights Attorney; he and his wife both busted up on the streets in broad daylight by one of New York’s “finest.”
With these incidents in mind, it would be instructive to recall one of Killen’s stories in “The Myth of Non-Violence versus the Right of Self-Defense”:
One spring, which came quite early that year as it usually does in Georgia, an incident erupted at the crossroads. A white lad called a Negro boy that word, I mean the one white folk invented the better to castrate us black Americans.
Innocently enough he asked, ‘Hey nigger’, what you learn in school today?’ Friendly like.
‘I learned your mother was a whore’, the sassy black boy answered. We were all seven to eleven years old.
His black buddies laughed appreciatively, the white boy slapped his face, and that was how it started. Everybody got into the set. We fist fought, we rock battled, we laid on each other with sticks and baseball bats, and everything else that came to hand. Nobody won, and later after a while it just sort of petered out. We black kids went home with cut lips and bloody noses, but we went home proud and happy, though we got our backsides whipped for tearing our school clothes. By the next day we had forgotten it.
But just before noon the school ground swarmed with police. They strode into classrooms without even a ‘good morning’ to the teachers and dragged out scared kids, many of them crying. They even dragged them out of the outhouses and snatched them as they tried to flee the school ground. They took some who had been in the ‘riot’ and a number who’d never even heard about it. Somehow they missed yours truly. I felt left out and rejected, insulted even, especially since I was the bosom buddy of the kid who had started it.
Then frightened black mothers were brought down to the jailhouse to whip their children in front of the policemen to teach them not to fight white children. The alternative was the reformatory, though not a single white child was rounded up. Thus they drove the lesson home, the lesson that every black American must learn one way or another: that he has no inalienable right to defend himself from attack by Mister Charlie; that even though he can expect his own black person to be violated at any moment, he must remember better than anything else in this world that the white man’s person is inviolable so far as he is concerned. The cruelest aspect of this story is how they used black mothers to drive this lesson home (“The Myth of Non-Violence versus the Right of Self-Defense” ).
Now this incident of Killens youth is almost exactly what happened in Jena, Louisiana. . . . Killens also points out another scenario that could easily take place today in America. Matter of fact, it is very similar to the New York lawyer incident in which his wife was punched in the face for asking the cop not to beat up her husband:
A black man and his wife and children get into their Sunday-go-to-meetings, and start off for the circus, where they will pay the same price white folk pay, but will be given inferior seats reserved for colored only. They are mingling in the crowd heading down the main stem toward the Big Tent.
Whatever cares they have in the world they have left back in colored town. Then a white man, filled to the overflow with good feeling and corn whiskey, playfully pats the black mans wife on her buttocks. What the heckhe didnt mean any harm. He was smiling when he did it. Furthermore, he was drunk and cutting the fool and obviously not responsible for what he as doing.
Now this black man has two alternatives, possibly even three. He can pretend he didnt see the white man pat his wifes backside, he can pretend it was an accident, or he can die. Lets say he is a damn fool, and he knocks the white man down. In Plum Nelly, Georgia, which is any little two-by-four one-horse town in Dixie, he has signed his death warrant. Inside of fifteen minutes, Law and order and every other source of Anglo-Saxon power will merge to put the crazy nigger out of his misery. The cry goes out all over the country. The headlines of the tabloids scream it. The radios and TV proclaim it:
Big Burly Negro Runs Amuck
He will be dead before the sun comes up. Incredible? It has happened a thousand times and more (“The Myth of Non-Violence versus the Right of Self-Defense” ).
The situation is much more dire than the celebrity situation of OJ, though Goldman has made him his dog on a leash and the media have joined in on continuing the civilian persecution of the man. But there is a larger situation in which we have returned to the Jim Crow days in which any white man, especially if he’s a district attorney or other person in a position of authority, thinks he has a license to chastise, persecute, put himself upon any Negro for any cause and there are many middle-class Negroes who have joined in on such persecutions. And worst, the white consensus continues to deny blacks the right of self-defense.
You may have noted the making of more and more films in which cops are encouraged to be torturers and bullies of Negroes. There is a new film K-Ville, set in New Orleans, and according to Jordan Flaherty’s review, K-Ville “falls perfectly into an agenda of explaining and forgiving brutal police behavior. In fact, it takes one of the nation’s most notoriously racist, violent and corrupt police forces, and explains away their harmful acts as the natural result of the trauma of Katrina and its aftermath.”
Picking up a copy of Killens The Black Man’s Burden is worthwhile indeed. Some of the essays are highly relevant to our situation today.
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Mychal Bell Injustice Overturned on AppealA state appeals court on Friday threw out the only remaining conviction against one of the black teenagers accused in the beating of a white schoolmate in the racially tense north Louisiana town of Jena. Mychal Bell, 17, should not have been tried as an adult, the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal said in tossing his conviction on aggravated battery, for which he was to have been sentenced Thursday. He could have gotten 15 years in prison. His conspiracy conviction in the December beating of student Justin Barker was already thrown out by another court. Bell, who was 16 at the time of the beating, and four others were originally charged with attempted second-degree murder. Those charges brought widespread criticism that blacks were being treated more harshly than whites after racial confrontations and fights at Jena High School.Janet McConnaughey. Teen’s conviction tossed in La. beating Yahoo.com 14 September 2007
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Let me state from the outset that I am sickened by video footage, available on youtube youtube (part 1) and youtube (part 2) and youtube (interview) and youtube (arrest Bush not Rev address) of the assault on Reverend Yearwood by the Capitol Hill Police. Nowhere on the internet is the footage available of the press conference I had on the subject of certain Capitol Hill police officers. But at that press conference were black Georgia constituents who told of the utter contempt with which they were treated at the hands of certain Capitol Hill police officers. Kudos to whoever it was in the hallway at the time of Yearwood’s incident who had the video or cellphone camera and the smarts to record it all.
I understand Reverend Yearwood’s leg was brokenall because he wanted to hear Petraeus testify before Congress. But what’s more incredible is that according to my friends, there has been absolutely no coverage at all of this incident in what we call the mainstream media and that there have been norepeatno Members of Congress to speak out against this travesty.
Kudos to Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report and Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! for covering this incident. The video will take only 7 minutes of your time, please watch it. Of course, the police charged Reverend Yearwood with a crime, just like in New York, they’ve charged the Warrens, noted civil rights attorneys, for having the audacity to take down the license plate numbers of NYPD officers involved in beating a young, handcuffed Latino man.
I’m also told that in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania another incident, this time involving a woman, Diane White, was beaten and maced by cops, after having been pulled away and out of site of the Festival she had organized for neighborhood children. This happens in the midst of two unthinkable incidents: the Jena 6 situation in Louisiana with the imbroglio that has resulted from black teenagers sitting under the “white tree” in the Jena High schoolyard and the situation in West Virginia where a 20-year-old black woman was kidnapped, raped, and tortured amid racial epithets and the Feds decide yesterday that it’s not a hate crime!
Unarmed blacks and Latinos are attacked and killed in city after city across this country and there is little justice to be found in the courts. It is clear that our country needs a peace and justice movement that brings people from all backgrounds together with a single vision: to make a better U.S.A. for all of us and the world! If people in Haiti and Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba, Nicaragua and Brazil can do it, I know we can do it, too! I wanted to send a recap of my London visit because I think some important observations and conclusions were reached therelike the need for an international tribunal on 9-11 truth. But I’ll send more on that and other news later. Right now, after viewing the video, I think this situation is so urgent, I wanted you to know right now. The BlackList
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“Reasonable men adjust themselves to their environment. Unreasonable men attempt to change their environment to suit themselves. Therefore all progress is the work of unreasonable men.” George Bernard Shaw The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider Freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness. . . . Dr. Bob Moorehead “It’s called the American Dream, but you have to be asleep to believe it.” George Carlin
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DB CONTRIBUTES TO JENA 6 LEGAL DEFENSE FUNDDavid Bowie has come forward to lend his support by making a $10,000 donation to the Jena 6 Legal Defense Fund. And he has posted extra information on the BowieNet MBs regarding the situation in Jena, useful to those of us outside of the US that may not be particularly familiar with the case. David Bowie
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Revealing Racist Roots: The 3 Rs for Teaching About the Jena 6
Network of Teacher Activist Groups (TAG)
Edited by Ariana Mangual and Bree Picower
(September 20, 2007)
Statement from TAG (excerpt)Last April several teacher activist groups across the country came together to form a network, Teacher Activist Groups (TAG), to challenge injustice through teaching and participation in social movements. We developed this resource guide because we believe the Jena 6 case is a critical one about which teachers can make a difference. How can the Jena 6 engage our students in an examination of the history and current reality of racism? How can this case open up space for students to examine their own experiences with racism and to build solidarity? The Jena 6 might have gone unnoticed nationally, ignored by corporate media, if activists had not used alternative media to get the word out. This could be a starting point to develop students critical media literacy and to explore how media can be used to challenge injustice. The national outpouring to defend the Jena 6 has already had an impact. How can teachers help students find their own ways to act? We offer this guide as a resource, and we call on educators to seize on this critical case to teach and act to make a difference. Pauline Lipman September 14, 2007 NYCORE
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Georgians Stand in Solidarity with Activists Nationally: Demanding Real Justice In Jena, Louisiana Atlanta, GeorgiaActivists, organizers, students, and community members throughout Georgia are called to participate in a Public Demonstration and Press Conference in solidarity with the “Jena 6” at 10:30 a.m . Thursday, September 20, 2007, in front of Rush Memorial UCC Church at 150 James P. Brawley Drive located on the campus of Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. Speakers include Professor Kathleen Cleaver, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, Senator Vincent Fort, Reverend Timothy McDonald, John Evans, and Reverend Derrick Rice. We are encouraging all participants to wear black to demonstrate solidarity with those demonstrating around the country. The ongoing legal battle of six African American teenagers against trumped up charges in Jena, Louisiana makes it even clearer that racism and its systemic aggression against Black Americans continues to grow in this country. In Georgia, over two thousand people rallied in Douglas County to demand justice for Genarlow Wilson. On September 20th, we will put tens of thousands more in the streets in Jena, to demand justice for Mychal Bell and the Jena 6. This time the demand for justice will resonate throughout the land. In addition to the over thirty organizations and churches that have endorsed this effort, students and community members throughout the state will join in solidarity with a national coalition for justice called for by Detroit City Councilman Kwame Kenyatta and activist radio personality, Bob Law. This national coalition not only stands in solidarity with the Jena 6 but also with The Katrina International Tribunal and the many others fighting for justice in Louisiana. While the conviction of Mychal Bell, one of the six Black youngsters in Jena, has been thrown out by the Third District Court of Appeals, the struggle for justice is far from over. Our concern is that the racist double standard remains in tact allowing whites to commit acts of aggression against Blacks with impunity, while Black youngsters face unjust prosecutions and harsher prison sentences. We will stand in solidarity on September 20th, the day Mychal Bell was scheduled to be sentenced for a bogus second degree battery conviction, with not only the tens of thousands that will march in Jena, but with those gathering around the country including St Louis, Kansas City, New York, Detroit, Philadelphia, Newark, and more. We stand in solidarity with activists nationally calling on the mayor of each American city, as well as everyone with a national voice and influence, to publicly denounce the judicial farce taking place in Jena, Louisiana. We encourage city councils nationwide to follow the lead of Atlanta, Georgia, Cambridge, Maryland and Detroit, Michigan and pass resolutions in the interest of justice, calling for the dismissal of all charges against the Jena 6 and not just another trial in juvenile court. Additionally, we call on the corporations in Louisiana that are the recipients of millions of Black consumer dollars, to denounce the injustice and blatant racism in Jena, Louisiana, in New Orleans generally, and in the Ninth Ward in particular. Some communities have already begun to say, “No justice, No profit!” Across the country we say, “Enough is Enough!” We draw the line against racism and injustice here and now. We will continue to strengthen this coalition of organizations across the country, fighting to challenge racism, whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head. Supporting organizations include: First Afrikan Presbyterian Church, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM), The Avarita L. Hanson Chapter of the Black Law Students Association, New Afrikan People’s Organization (NAPO), Let Us Make Man, The Davis Bozeman Law Firm, Sankofa Society of Georgia State University, International Action Center, Foreverfamily, AfriSalsa Cultural Organization, N’COBRA Youth Commission, Operation LEADS, African American Ministers in Action, Sankofa UCC Church, The Law Office of Chris Leopold, N’COBRA at CAU, AYAED AYA Educational Institute, African Community Centers, Minister Kenyatta Bush, Youth Pastor, Shiloh Baptist Church & Chair, Henry County Democratic Party, Youth Task Force, Campaign for Juvenile Justice, Grassroots Link, Armstrong & Associates, Law Offices of Robert Daniel, LLC, The Secret Firm, P.C., Georgia Alliance of African American Attorneys (GAAAA).
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BBC documentary on Jena, LouisianaThis World: Race Hate in LouisianaThis World investigates the rise of discrimination in America’s Deep South as six black youths are charged with an alleged attack on a white student, which could see them jailed for up to 50 years
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The African-American teens were dealt with differently. They were expelled, but appealed to the school board. The school district had conducted an investigation, but the school board was not allowed to review it. The school boards lawyer was none other than the prosecuting district attorney, Reed Walters.
Board member Fowler recalls the January meeting: Our legal authority that night was Mr. Walters. I asked, And he told you, you couldnt have access to the school proceedings, or the investigation?
Fowler replied: Thats right. [Walters said] it was a violation of something. The board voted, without information. Fowler recalls: It was unanimous. No, no it wasnt. There was one board member who voted no, and that was Mr. Worthington. Melvin Worthington, the only African-American on the school board, voted against upholding the expulsion of the black students.
Asked if he felt that Walters had a conflict of interest that night, Fowler replied, Well, Im assuming that Mr. Walters knows the law.
Louisianas 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals doesnt agree. The court just overturned Walters first conviction in the Jena Six case (by an all-white jury), that of Mychal Bell, ruling that he should have been tried as a juvenile. Walters pledges to challenge that ruling in the Louisiana Supreme Court, while continuing to pursue the other five prosecutions. Amy Goodman. Tipping the Scales of Justice in Jena
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Demonstrators descend on JenaProtesters from across the nation cheerfully defied obstacles placed in their way by town officials, such as a line of portable toilets put directly in front of the courthouse steps where the demonstration was held. They celebrated what Rev. Al Sharpton described as the birth of a “new civil rights movement for the 21st Century,” driven by black Internet blogs, e-mail and talk radio more than any traditional civil rights leader. Many of the participants traveled 20 hours or more by bus from both coasts and even Alaska to arrive at dawn for the peaceful, six-hour rally, which featured Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King III, radio personality Michael Baisden and dozens of other black leaders and celebrities. . . .
Louisiana state police estimated that the crowd numbered between 15,000 and 20,000 people, but organizers said they believed there were at least twice that many demonstrators filling this two-stoplight town of 3,000. . . . President Bush offered his first comment about the Jena case at a press conference, following three of the Democratic presidential contendersSen. Barack Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwardswho last week all questioned the administration of justice in the town. “The events in Louisiana have saddened me,” the president said. “And I understand the emotions. The Justice Department and the FBI are monitoring the situation down there. And all of us in America want there to be, you know, fairness when it comes to justice.”Chicago Tribune
posted 15 September 2007 (last updated 20 September 2007)
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How William Faulkner Tackled Raceand Freed the South from ItselfJohn Jeremiah Sullivan on Absalom, Absalom!You are my brother. No Im not. Im the nigger thats going to sleep with your sister. Unless you stop me, Henry.
This is a novel [
that uses the word nigger many times. An unfortunate subject, but to talk about it in 2012 and not mention the fact hints at some kind of repression. Especially when you consider that the particular example Ive quoted is atypically soft: Bon, the person saying it, is part black, and being mordantly ironic. Most of the time, its a white character using the wordor, most conspicuously, the novel itself, in its voicewith an uglier edge. The third page features the phrase wild niggers; elsewhere its monkey nigger.
Faulkner wasnt unique or even uncommon in using the word this way. Hemingway, Dos Passos, Gertrude Steinall did so unapologetically. They were reflecting their countrys speech. They were also, if we are being frank, exploiting the words particular taboo charge, one only intensified when the writer is a white Southerner. Faulkner says Negroes in plenty of places here, also blacks, but when he wants a stronger effect, he says niggers. It isnt a case, in short, of Thats just how they talked back then. The term was understood by the mid-30s (well before, in fact) to be nasty. A white person wouldnt use it around a black person unless meaning to offend or assert superiorityexcept perhaps now and then in the context of an especially close humor.
Even if we were to justify Faulkners overindulgence of the word on the grounds of historical context, I would find it unfortunate purely as a matter of style. It may be crass for a white reader to claim that as significant, but a writer with Faulkners sensitivity to verbal shading might have been better tuned to the ugliness of the word, and not a truth-revealing ugliness, but something more like gratuitousness, with an attending queasy sense of rhetorical power misused. I count it a weakness, to be placed alongside Faulkners occasional showiness and his incessant not constructions, which come often several to a page: and not this, nor that, nor even the other thing, but a fourth thing adjective adjective adjective made him lift the hoe (where half the time those things would not have occurred to you in your natural life, but old Pappy takes his time chopping them down anyway).
The defense to be mounted is not of Faulkners use of the word but of the novel in spite of it, or rather, in the face of it.
has been well described as the most serious attempt by any white writer to confront the problem of race in America. There is bravery in Faulkners decision to dig into this wound. He knew that the effort would involve the exposure of his own mind, dark as it often was. You could make a case that to have written this book and left out that most awful of Southernisms would have constituted an act of falsity.
Certainly we would not want to take the word away from Bon, in that scene in the woods, one of the most extraordinary moments in Southern literature. A white man and a black man look at each other and call each other brother. One does, anyway. Suddenly, thrillingly, the whole social edifice on which the novel is erected starts to teeter. All Henry has to do is repeat himself. Say it again, the reader thinks. Say, No, you are my brother. And all would be well, or could be well, the gothic farce of Sutpens dream redeemed with those words, remade into a hopeful or at least not-hope-denying human story. Charles Bon would live, and Judith would be his wife, and Sutpen would have descendants, and together they might begin rebuilding the South along new lines.nytimes
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Randall Kennedy
The word is paradigmatically ugly, racist and inflammatory. But is it different when Ice Cube uses it in a song than when, during the O.J. Simpson trial, Mark Fuhrman was accused of saying it? What about when Lenny Bruce uses it to “defang” it by sheer repetition? Or when Mark Twain uses it in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to make an antiracist statement? Kennedy, a professor at Harvard Law School and noted legal scholar, has produced an insightful and highly provocative book that raises vital questions about the relationship between language, politics, social norms and how society and culture confront racism. Drawing on a wide range of historical, legal and cultural instances Harry S. Truman calling Adam Clayton Powell “that damned nigger preacher”; Title VII court cases in which the use of the word was proof of condoning a “racially hostile work environment”; Quentin Tarantino’s liberal use of the word in his films Kennedy repeatedly shows not only the complicated cultural history of the word, but how its meaning, intent and even substance change in context.
Smart, well argued and never afraid of facing serious, difficult and painful questions in an unflinching and unsentimental manner, this is an important work of cultural and political criticism. As Kennedy notes in closing: “For bad or for good, nigger is… destined to remain with us for the foreseeable future a reminder of the ironies and dilemmas, the tragedies and glories, of the American experience.” (Jan. 22)Forecast: This may be the book that reignites larger debates over race eclipsed by September 11. Look for a bestselling run and huge talk show and magazine coverage as the Afghanistan news cycle continues to slow; the book had already been the subject of two New York Times stories by early January.Publishers Weekly
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By Glenn C. Loury
In this pithy discussion, renowned scholars debate the American penal system through the lensand as a legacyof an ugly and violent racial past. Economist Loury argues that incarceration rises even as crime rates fall because we have become increasingly punitive. According to Loury, the disproportionately black and brown prison populations are the victims of civil rights opponents who successfully moved the country’s race dialogue to a seemingly race-neutral concern over crime. Loury’s claims are well-supported with genuinely shocking statistics, and his argument is compelling that even if the racial argument about causes is inconclusive, the racial consequences are clear.
Three shorter essays respond: Stanford law professor Karlan examines prisoners as an inert ballast in redistricting and voting practices; French sociologist Wacquant argues that the focus on race has ignored the fact that inmates are first and foremost poor people; and Harvard philosophy professor
Shelby urges citizens to break with Washington’s political outlook on race. The group’s respectful sparring results in an insightful look at the conflicting theories of race and incarceration, and the slim volume keeps up the pace of the argument without being overwhelming.Publishers Weekly
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By Melissa V. Harris-Perry
According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless Mammys behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own familys needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.
As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.
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Edited by Jonathan Birnbaum and Clarence Taylor
Contrary to simple textbook tales, the civil rights movement did not arise spontaneously in 1954 with the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. The black struggle for civil rights can be traced back to the arrival of the first Africans, and to their work in the plantations, manufacturies, and homes of the Americas. Civil rights was thus born as labor history.
Civil Rights Since 1787 tells the story of that struggle in its full context, dividing the struggle into six major periods, from slavery to Reconstruction, from segregation to the Second Reconstruction, and from the current backlash to the future prospects for a Third Reconstruction. The “prize” that the movement has sought has often been reduced to a quest for the vote in the South. But all involved in the struggle have always known that the prize is much more than the vote, that the goal is economic as well as political. Further, in distinction from other work, Civil Rights Since 1787 establishes the links between racial repression and the repression of labor and the left, and emphasizes the North as a region of civil rights struggle.
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 1 July 2012