Recommended companion piece to The Help: Eudora Welty’s, ‘Where is the Voice Coming From?” short story.
As they so often do, our discussion in class this week reminded me of one of the most influential teacher’s that I’ve had the privilege of learning from at Muhlenberg, Dr. Charles Anderson. Our discussion of how racism directly effects the testing ability of black youth made me feel as if I was right back in introduction to African American Studies and I had to re-visit one particular article that I felt was so relevant to what we are discussing. The article is by Molefi Asante, who is one of the most respected African American studies scholars in the world. He is currently a professor at Temple, where he started the first PhD program for African American studies. He has written countless works, but the articles I read, or should say re-read are titled “Locating a Text: Implications of Afrocentric Theory”, “Afrocentricity”, and “Where is the White Professor Located?”. In all of these articles, among other things, he points out the many flaws in the American education system. More specifically Asante convincingly argues that our education system is based on racist Eurocentric viewpoints that keep white people at the center of every academic subject and only teach these subjects from a Eurocentric perspective. Asante further asserts that because of this narrow and exclusionary education system, young African American students feel alienated, dislocated, unimportant, and above all, marginalized in the scope of academic study. Getting more specific, Asante discusses how non-white groups are portrayed in academic study, specifically the study of history, as the groups that are acted upon rather than groups with agency. He argues that the agency denied to minority groups in the study of history and academia in general further alienates African Americans and other minority groups because it promotes a feeling of helplessness in their lives.
During Thursday’s class discussion, we compared speeches from Dr. King and President Barack Obama. Though forty one years apart, we agreed that the speeches called for similar action; time had not changed much. I found the same to be true of the results of a landmark social psychology study. In the course of reading James Jones’s article “Psychological Knowledge and the New American Dilemma of Race”, I found myself wanting more details about the Kenneth and Mamie Clark doll study because of its influence in Brown v. Board of Education. So, as is my natural reflex I typed it into a search engine. One of the first items that came up was the video below.
NPR story about the book, Inherently Unequal: The Betrayal of Equal Rights by the Supreme Court, 1865-1903
This book sounds like a very interesting read: The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery
Interview with author, Eric Foner, on “Fresh Air” on WHYY: Tracing President Lincoln’s Thoughts On Slavery
For spring break this year I ventured down to New Orleans to visit friends and partake in crazy Mardi Gras festivities. I had not known a lot about the traditions or the meaning of Mardi Gras and carnival time before I arrived, but from the moment my plane landed I started to learn a lot. After speaking to my friend throughout the week and experiencing many aspects of Mardi Gras, I can surely say that it is not all rooted in the accumulation of beads. As many cities in America, New Orleans has very wealthy and very poor sections, as well as sections that reflect middle socioeconomic statuses. While driving through the city, structural racism and direct effects of slavery were clear. I would be driving down one street with beautifully regal homes and then would turn the corner onto another street that had small homes that looked run-down. There was a serious discrepancy between who lived in these houses, as well as who could afford to make repairs after Hurricane Katrina. I found out that this “patchwork” layout of the city was derived from the era of plantations in which slave owners would want their slaves to live close to them for easy access, but would not want them directly on their land. Once I learned of this urban planning technique, I saw the city very differently and realized that there are a lot more racial inequalities that stem from slavery and perpetuation of racial discrimination.
Are you going to see the movie, The Help? Have you read the book? Here is interesting commentary about the movie and how Hollywood typically frames narratives of race relations: On Race and Hollywood – Video Library – The New York Times.