Harlem Renaissance class is teaching me to pull out themes/theses from lengthy articles, to examine arguments in the context of environments (“modernity,” race, gender, various Harlems, etc.).
We talked about how women were excluded from the Harlem Renaissance and also how. One thing i thought particularly interesting was that if we include women in our definition of the Harlem Renaissance, we have to expand our geographic conception of the Harlem Renaissance because few of the women were based in Harlem.
One of the pieces we read was Marita Bonner’s “On Being Young—a Woman—and Colored.” (I hadn’t thought of it as an explicitly spiritual piece when i first read it, but listening to Kevin talk about and rereading it myself, i am increasingly struck by that. And religion is one of my pet things, so this makes me happy.)
Here’s the excerpt relevant to what Kelly said.
You must sit quietly without a chip. Not sodden—and weighted as if your feet were cast in the iron of your soul. Not wasting strength in enervating gestures as if two hundred years of bonds and whips had really tricked you into nervous uncertainty.
But quiet; quiet. Like Buddha—who brown like I am—sat entirely at ease, entirely sure of himself; motionless and knowing, a thousand years before the white man knew there was so very much difference between feet and hands.
Motionless on the outside. But on the inside?
Still . . . "Perhaps Buddha is a woman."
So you too. Still; quiet; with a smile, ever so slight, at the eyes so that Life will flow into and not by you. And you can gather, as it passes, the essences, the overtones, the tints, the shadows; draw understanding to yourself.
Kelly said that in history we’re always matching up names, who did what,
but there are no names for these women,
but they were there,
like the Buddha,
Later discussion came up with:
She [Bonner] is Buddha.
She is refusing to manifest in the modern way [for lack of better terminology].
I could think and write lots more about this, but i won’t.
Mommy, Kevin said he’s working on a book about quiet and i thought of you.
Like my Spanish class, this class is largely about close-reading. Greater themes are important as well, though, and i hate when i have specific thoughts that aren’t really relevant. (Not that this stops many Smithies, but....) Like when Kevin’s talking about stuff and it’s to illustrate a point he’s trying to make about the texts, so to take issue with the illustration would be moving us too far from the texts.
Kevin talked about the fierce self-righteous God of the Old Testament being a much more resonant figure for black women than Jesus, and i had never thought of the OL God in a positive light like that, but i’m still troubled.
Kevin said that Jesus never beat people, well except for that time when people were gambling in the temple, and he wished Jesus had done stuff like that more often, I mean, you have all this power, why don’t you use it? I was inarticulately troubled by that. Isn’t Jesus usually held up as a model for pacifism? “You have all this power, why don’t you use it?” seems eerily similar to what the Bush-haters have accused the current administration of doing. I was reminded of listening to some New Yorkers talk about the reforms made (i think by Giuliani)... i forget the specifics as it was around orientation time, but basically they were saying that yeah some people were hurt but it needed to be done and things were so much better now as opposed to how bad they were before and it just seemed to me such like a copy of the pro-war argument and i knew these were anti-war people and i didn’t say anything for a variety of reasons (including knowing next to nothing about NYC) but i was very struck and thought of it when Kevin was talking.
Talking about how Southern women couldn’t just move to Harlem like many men could, Kevin said that black boys aren’t taught to be concerned about domestic responsibility like black girls are, that they are taught to be like Huck Finn, to light out for a trail the rest of us can follow, and having studied Huck Finn (twice, but it’s the time in Michael’s class that’s relevant here) i just had such a problem with that, because Huck’s “lighting out for the territories” while implicitly endorsed by the author, was definitely not sanctioned by the PTBS within the world of the novel (which was meant to be representative of Twain’s world).
I have the same problem in logic class.
We had a sample sentence “Arnie will get elected if he doesn’t say something dumb between now and Tuesday,” and the Nazi stuff came up a bit, and i wished i could remember all the blog stuff (mostly Andrew Sullivan) i had read about it so i could counter pithily because it was really irrelevant to what we were doing but i hate misinformation with a passion.
Talking about suppressed (or “omitted” or “implied”) premises, one student suggested “North Korea has nuclear weapons, therefore we should attack them” with the suppressed premise being that we should attack anyone who has nuclear weapons. Jay said “Ah, the Wolfowitz argument” and this was one of the examples where making the suppressed premise explicit shows the argument to be very shaky.
My first reaction was “WTF? We should attack North Korea? Who’s saying that? They have frelling nuclear weapons. That’s why WMD was a factor in the Iraq war, because we didn’t want an evil man to develop weapons which could destroy the world. We have to negotiate with North Korea because Kim Jong II could annihilate us. We could attack Saddam because he hadn’t gotten there yet.” My second reaction was: “You’ve got the suppressed premise wrong. The suppressed premise is that North Korea is headed by an evil scary man who shouldn’t have nuclear weapons, therefore the fact that he has nuclear weapons is a good reason to intervene.” But i didn’t think that coherently quickly enough, because really there was about a 1 second interval in which one could have brought that up, because once we moved on it looked like harping and i didn’t want to make Logic 100 any more of a politics class than it already was.
It’s so frustrating to hear Jay saying stuff that i have critical issues with. I suppose it’s that human flaw that when you teach someone how to think, you want them to think like you. He’s supposedly a master at thinking logically, and so of course i think that should translate into agreeing with the logical arguments i find sound.