I’ve recently just read Native Son by Richard Wright and Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. And, The Surrounded by D’Arcy McNickle.
I’m a little too frazzled right now to write much for this blog, as my comprehensive exams are in three weeks, and training week for GTAs starts next week, and classes start the week after. So I’m reading, reviewing notes, and trying to get my own syllabus and orientation week workshops in order (because I was brilliant and agreed to take on a leadership role in my most intense and important semester of graduate school).
But. I just want to say this. The descriptions of the relationship between the police and African Americans in Ellison and Wright, and the police and Native Americans in McNickle are so disturbingly familiar, so much like what I see on the news, and from activists that I’m sickened. How can it still be the same?
Of course, asking in horror why it’s still so similar does no good. I suppose that part of the horror is that, I know when students read these texts they think it’s all in the past. Somehow, it’s been reframed as past. As if the Civil Rights Movement “fixed” everything when really things just got a little more quiet for a bit.
One of the main things that strikes me about Invisible Man is when the committee tells our unnamed narrator that they have no interest in the people telling them what they need; that the committee will tell the people what they need. This, too, is true of government and of academia now. It’s easy to look in from the outside and decide we know better because of our education. But there needs to be some listening, some communication, that takes place. Yes, education is good. Yes, some are more qualified than others to speak on an issue. But shouldn’t the community’s needs be considered? How do we do this?
Nothing conclusive or insightful, just the thoughts I’m having as I read all of this literature that’s “past” and think about all the events that are “present.”