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04 March 2006 @ 04:35 pm
White people and Richard Wright  
Even though he was writing about racism in a different location and era to the racism that I experienced, as a BLACK person, I can identify with a lot of the emotions expressed in the book, "Black Boy"...it takes a profound look at what it means to be black in a racist society from a black person's perspective - so I kind of find it baffling that the majority of people who have listed Wright as one of their interests on Live Journal are white...I also found that a lot of white people had selected "Bigger Thomas" as an interest...as seems to be the case so often with regard to white people's apparent interest in racial matters, I guess it's probably the "coolness factor".
Vladkinseym on March 4th, 2006 09:22 pm (UTC)
Wright works from a specific place and time that is outside of all of our experiences (black, white, whatever), but that doesn't mean that his narrative and his perspective don't reflect truth about different types of marginalization. Whether or not Wright intended his books specifically as critiques of the African-American experience, his work resounds with anyone who has been marginalized, and the conclusions that he comes to about identity have applications far beyond race.

it's not as simple as the "coolness factor".
Beletilirare_exile on March 4th, 2006 09:47 pm (UTC)
Wright works from a specific place and time that is outside of all of our experiences

Who is the "us" you're referring to here? Are you talking specifically about the average livejournaler? Because then I would agree with you. But if you're extrapolating that "us" to be, say, Americans in general, you're very wrong. Older Black Americans can relate very well to the Jim Crow era, which is the specific place and time Wright is writing about.

I also think it's safe to say that Wright did intend his books for American Blacks. He wasn't interested in reaching white america or changing their collective mind about racism. He was quick to dismiss artists from the Harlem Renaissance who he felt pandered to white audiences, pleading for acceptance.

The conclusions he comes to about identity can be applied to "anyone who has been marginalized", but the fact remains he wasn't writing about, say, the Chicano poor in 1970s Los Angeles. He wasn't writing about middleclass white lesbians being excluded from the women's movement. He wasn't writing about the conflict between England and Ireland. He was writing, very specifically, about the American Negro experience as defined by the Jim Crow laws in the south and the staggering though less codified racism of the north. To say that his conclusions have "applications far beyond race" makes me think you're missing a large part of his picture.
laeva on March 7th, 2006 12:39 am (UTC)
I guess my question would be how, in a forum such as Livejournal, can you be sure about a person's racial identity? User icons are hardly evidence, nor community membership, nor even userinfo. In an artificial forum such as this, plenty of things are about "coolness factor". As to Richard Wright being one of those factors...maybe some people are trying to highlight the diversity of their reading list, trying to prove that they have a variety of interests in order to attract a wider variety of people. Misappropriation? Maybe. But as another user pointed out, Wright's intended audience does not have a monopoly on him. Freed and runaway slaves in the Abolitionist movement wrote for a white audience, for understandable reasons. Should we not read their words, because, in a sense, they weren't writing for us?
Be your own hammerbeam angels of the air: Buddhajust_the_ash on June 13th, 2007 12:44 am (UTC)
I'm responding to a post over a year old, but here are my two pennies anyway.

Hi, I'm white. I study and teach African American literature. However, there isn't a lot of coolness factor in this, deep in the heart of redneck territory, even north of the infamous Mason-Dixon line. In fact, I get a lot of barely-veiled "Why would you want to teach what those people write?" crap, even out of the mouths of people I had previously considered sane.

My syllogism goes like this.

1. It is extremely important that Afro-Diaspora literature be taught to all students.

2. There are not enough black people around here to teach all of the students who need to learn this literature.

3. Thus, inevitably, non-black people are going to wind up teaching Afro-Diaspora literature.

I do not for one second imagine that I have any grasp of what it is to be a person of color in today's world, or in the time of Native Son. I can only ask my students to consider previously unconsidered factors that help them understand Afro-Diaspora culture as a whole, and help them at least see "that damn rap stuff -- is it even really music?" in the context of the griot tradition, for starters.

And, if ONE white kid in ONE of my classes on ONE day, reading an account of African American experience, decides: "Fuck this shit, I'm not just going to not be racist; I'm going to be actively anti-racist" -- then I've done one tiny little thing right.

That said, I would still list the author as an LJ interest long before I would the book, still less the character. I teach Toni Morrison's Sula a lot, but I wouldn't list "Eva Peace" as an interest, because I don't want to be seen as celebrating one-legged grandmothers who murder their junkie sons and then jump out of windows in failed rescue attempts.