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“If Beale Street Could Talk” (2018), directed by Barry Jenkins, is based on the 1974 James Baldwin novel of the same name. Jenkins is best known as the director of “Moonlight” (2016). Teyonah Parris and Regina King play supporting characters.

Our Story: Lonny (Stephan James) and Tish (KiKi Layne), two picture-perfect lovebirds in Harlem, are so happy that you know their life together is about to be disfigured by senseless tragedy. And so it is: Lonny is accused of raping a woman he has never met. It appears he was framed by Officer Bell, a White police officer. Tish hires a lawyer who, you know, Can Only Do So Much. Her father and father-in-law-to-be commit actual crimes (stealing more than just paperclips from work) to raise money to defend Lonny against a crime he did not commit. Oh, and now with Lonny in jail, Tish discovers she is pregnant!

This is James Baldwin, so do not expect a Hollywood ending.

This is also Barry Jenkins, so expect a Suffering Hero (Tish), beautifully filmed, who is a victim of societal ills. His films are kind of hard to take, bordering on Black trauma porn, but they are meant to be uplifting:

Tish’s mother (Regina King):

“If you trusted love this far, trust it all the way.”

Tish talking to Lonny in jail.

The book was better, way better. The part that is burned into my brain is Lonny’s first run-in with Officer Bell. Tish is there and looks into the policeman’s eyes:

“his eyes were as blank as George Washington’s eyes. But I was beginning to learn something about the blankness of those eyes. What I was learning was beginning to frighten me to death. If you look steadily into that unblinking blue, into that pinpoint at the center of the eye, you discover a bottomless cruelty, a viciousness cold and icy. In that eye, you do not exist: if you are lucky. If that eye, from its height, has been forced to notice you, if you do exist in the unbelievably frozen winter which lives behind that eye, you are marked, marked, marked, like a man in a black overcoat, crawling, fleeing, across the snow. The eye resents your presence in the landscape, cluttering up the view. Presently, the black overcoat will be still, turning red and with blood, and the snow will be red, and the eye resents this, too, blinks once, and causes more snow to fall, covering it all.”

None of that comes across in the film. Jenkins is a serious and talented film director, so I do not fault him, but the limits of his medium, film. A book lets you get inside the mind of a character, lets you become that character, in a way film just cannot.

“I Am Not Your Negro” (2017) was also based on Baldwin’s writing and also good in itself, but also came up against the limits of film to go beyond broad strokes. Such films, at their best, are introductory compared to Baldwin himself.

– Abagond, 2021.

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582

 

the layers of my thought

Where my different ideas and beliefs come from, from the largest layer to the smallest:

Catholicism (1.345 billion):

  • The oneness of mankind.
  • The value of each human life.
  • Poverty is not a moral failing.
  • Life is more than sex and money.
  • We live in a fallen world.
  • The Bible and the Catholic Church as a source of wisdom (even if I do not always agree).

The West (1.012 billion):

Anglosphere (500 milion):

  • Reflexive Anglophilia.
  • Freedom – for individuals, businesses, ideas, art, trade, etc – is good.
  • Rights of private property.
  • Judges should be independent.
  • People do not need government or religion to tell them what to think.
  • Life is what you make it. It is not fate or Providence.
  • Empiricism: facts matter more than reason.
  • Religion is a private affair.
  • Incremental social change, not revolution, is best.

USA (331 million):

  • Freedom of speech.
  • Freedom of religion.
  • Constitutional government.
  • Meritocracy as a good thing.
  • Value of hard work, almost as an end in itself (an “Asian” value according to some).
  • Individualism.
  • Moralism in politics.

US blue states (~165 million):

  • No man should be above the law, not even the president.
  • Good: democracy, science, immigration, labour unions, education, pluralism.
  • Power corrupts.
  • Capitalism needs to be regulated by government for the good of ordinary people and the planet. Left to run amok it leads to things like slavery, pollution, unsafe working conditions, starvation wages, stock market crashes, etc.
  • Government can be a force for good: the abolition of slavery, defeating Hitler, the moon shots, public health and public education, etc.
  • The US civil war was about slavery.
  • The more people who vote the better.
  • Racism and sexism are morally wrong and also mess up society, making it way less meritocratic.
  • Russia is not our friend.
  • Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Black America (47 million):

Metropolitan New York (18 million):

  • The cosmopolitan model of US society – maybe this is a blue-state thing, but it is at least a New York thing.
  • No one ethnic group is a shining model for others.
  • Creative anarchy.
  • Live and let live.

Uptown Manhattan (~0.7 million):

  • Most of what the US believes about itself are self-serving lies.
  • The US will try to turn you into a soulless machine, as it has done to so many.
  • See things as they are, not as people wish them to be.
  • Money and progress are not necessarily good things.
  • In the end it all comes down to power.

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

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Mulan (花木兰)

Mulan as imagined in the US in 2020.

Huā Mùlán (circa 400s), aka 花木蘭 or 花木兰, is a folk hero in China and a Disney princess in the US. She disguised herself as a man to fight in the army in her father’s place. This post assumes she was a person in history, though some think she was just made up to make for a good story.

Timeline: some works that she has appeared in:

  • by 535: “Ballad of Mulan” – just 62 lines
  • 1500s: “The Female Mulan” – a two-act play by Xu Wei
  • 1695: “Romance of Sui and Tang” – a novel by Chu Renhuo
  • 1998: “Mulan” – animated Disney film (US)
  • 2020: “Mulan” – live-action Disney film (US)

Mulan was not Han Chinese but Xianbei, a Proto-Mongolic Eastern Barbarian. Some Xianbei later became actual Mongols while others took over northern China as the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534), marrying the Han and taking on their ways, but not becoming fully Han till hundreds of years after Mulan’s time.

Mulan fought Rourans, not Huns. It is a well-documented fact that by the 400s the Huns were ravaging the Roman Empire in the Far West. The Rouran were also Proto-Mongolic Eastern Barbarians like the Xianbei. In fact, genetic studies show that they were closely related. Mulan’s Roman counterpart would have been a half-Romanized German woman fighting in the Roman army against German invaders.

According to the Ballad, she snuck off in the morning to join the army in place of her father. She fought for 12 years, on horseback with armour, presumably an archer. Among other places, she fought in the Yan hills (400 km north-east of Beijing). She would have looked something like this tomb painting of a Xianbei calvaryman from the 300s:

After the war:

The Khan asks her what she desires,
“I’ve no need for the post of a gentleman official,

I ask for the swiftest horse,
To carry me back to my hometown.”

It was only after she returned home that the truth came out:

I take off my battle cloak,
And put on my old-time clothes.

I adjust my wispy hair at the window sill,
And apply my bisque make-up by the mirror.

I step out to see my comrades-in-arms,
They are all surprised and astounded:

‘We travelled twelve years together,
Yet didn’t realise Mulan was a lady!'”

In both Disney versions her gender reveal takes place while in the army.

The Ballad ends:

But when the two rabbits run side by side,
How can you tell the female from the male?

The Disney Version: Even in the 2020 remake Disney was still getting stuff wrong. For example:

  • Shows Mulan living in southern China.
  • Shows Mulan as a tomboy.
  • Adds Western story elements, like witches, dark magic, and a duel to the death.
  • Adds apples. China did not have apples back then.
  • Misunderstands (气) as a magical power.

At least they got her full name right this time.

Whitetastic: The director, writers, and even the costume designer were all White. As if it were made in the hills of Idaho. Or Hollywood.

– Abagond, 2021.

Sources: mainly Google Images, The Ballad of Mulan, the two Disney films, Xiran Jay Zhao for cultural inaccuracies, and, for general historical background, the Wikipedia (Xianbei, etc).

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604

Les Filles de Illighadad

Remarks:

I do not know the name of this song. The video is from the Druga Godba music festival in 2018 in Slovenia, but Les Filles (and the band leader’s brother in the back) are themselves a Tuareg band from Illighadad, a village in western Niger at the edge of the Sahara desert. The strange-looking drum on the right is a calabash. I found them while looking for music from Saharan cellphones.

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The Lord’s Prayer written in Old English in 1050. Via the British Library.

The Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9b-13a) in English for each century that I could find:

400s:

500s:

600s:

700s:

800s:

900s: from 995:

Fæder ūre þū þē eart on heofonum
Sī þīn nama gehālgod
Tō becume þīn rice
Gewurþe þīn willa
On erðon swā swā on heofonum
Urne gedæghwamlīcan hlāf syle ūs tō dæg
And forgyf ūs ūre gyltas
Swā swā wē forgyfð ūrum gyltendum.
And ne gelæd þū ūs on costnunge
Ac alȳs ūs of yfele.

1000s: pictured above.

1100s:

1200s:

1300s: Wycliffe’s Bible in 1389:

Oure fadir That art in hevenes
Halwid be thi name
Thi kingdom come to
Be thi wille don
On erthe as in hevenes
Give to us this day oure bred ovir othir substaunce
And forgiv us oure dettis
As we forgiven oure dettours
And lede us not in to temptacioun
But delyevr us from yvel

1400s:

1500s: Tyndale’s Bible in 1525:

O oure father which arte in heven,
halowed be thy name;
let thy kingdom come;
thy wyll be fulfilled
as well in erth as hit ys in heven;
geve vs this daye oure dayly breade;
and forgeve vs oure treaspases,
even as we forgeve them which treaspas vs;
leede vs not into temptacion,
but delyvre vs ffrom yvell.

1600s: King James or Authorized Version (KJV/AV) of 1611:

Our father which art in heauen,
hallowed be thy name
Thy kingdome come.
Thy will be done,
in earth, as it is in heauen.
Giue vs this day our daily bread.
And forgiue vs our debts,
as we forgiue our debters.
And lead vs not into temptation,
but deliuer vs from euill:

1700s: King James Bible of 1769:

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:

1800s: English Revised Version (RV) of 1885:

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
as in heaven, so on earth.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And bring us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

1900s: the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of 1952:

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts,
As we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.

2000s: the English Standard Version (ESV) of 2016:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

595

 

September 12th 1855

Few diaries kept by Black American women in the 1800s have been published. Here is an entry from one of them, from Salem, Massachusetts in 1855, from a free state in the northern US back in slave times. (I broke it up into smaller paragraphs for easier reading):

Wednesday, Sept. 12. To-day school commenced. – Most happy am I to return to the companionship of my studies, – ever my most valued friends. It is pleasant to meet the scholars again; most of them greet me cordially, and were it not for the thought that will intrude, of the want of entire sympathy even of those I know and like best, I should greatly enjoy their society.

There is one young girl and only one – Miss [Sarah] B[rown] who I believe thoroughly and heartily appreciates anti-slavery, – radical anti-slavery, and has no prejudice against color. I wonder that every colored person is not a misanthrope. Surely we have everything to make us hate mankind.

I have met girls in the schoolroom [-] they have been thoroughly kind and cordial to me, – perhaps the next day met them in the street – they feared to recognize me; these I can but regard now with scorn and contempt, – once I liked them, believing them incapable of such meanness. Others give the most distant recognitions possible. – I, of course, acknowledge no such recognitions, and they soon cease entirely.

These are but trifles, certainly, to the great, public wrongs which we as a people are obliged to endure. But to those who experience them, these apparent trifles are most wearing and discouraging; even to the child’s mind they reveal volumes of deceit and heartlessness, and early teach a lesson of suspicion and distrust.

Oh! it is hard to go through life meeting contempt with contempt, hatred with hatred, fearing, with too good reason, to love and trust hardly any one whose skin is white, – however lovable, attractive and congenial in seeming.

In the bitter, passionate feelings of my soul again and again there rises the questions “When, oh! when shall this cease?” “Is there no help?” “How long oh! how long must we continue to suffer – to endure?”

Conscience answers it is wrong, it is ignoble to despair; let us labor earnestly and faithfully to acquire knowledge, to break down the barriers of prejudice and oppression. Let us take courage; never ceasing to work, – hoping and believing that if not for us, for another generation there is a better, brighter day in store, – when slavery and prejudice shall vanish before the glorious light of Liberty and Truth; when the rights of every colored man shall everywhere be acknowledged and respected, and he shall be treated as a man and a brother.

– Charlotte Forten, 1855.

My heart felt like ashes after I read this – at how little some things have changed.

Forten was 18, then at Salem Normal School, now Salem State University, becoming its first Black graduate in 1856. She is better known by her married name, Charlotte Forten Grimké.

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

528

 

White Rage

“White Rage” (2016), a book by Carol Anderson, documents the anti-Black racist policies, laws and court decisions of the US government from about 1865 to 2015. Racism goes way beyond the Klan or the N-word or rude people on escalators – it reaches to the highest levels of government and is right there in the public record for all to see. Anderson is a professor of African American Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

Recommended for anyone who believes in respectability politics, bootstraps, or clueless White people.

Blacks do not suffer from benign neglect or bootstraps unpulled – but from White rage: White public officials who go out of their way to hurt Black people, to prevent them from voting, getting a good education, living in a nice neighbourhood, etc. Even when it means hurting fellow Whites or the nation as a whole. It is no accident that ordinary White people do worst when and where the US is at its most racist.

Hood not required: Anderson:

“White rage doesn’t have to wear sheets, burn crosses, or take to the streets. Working the halls of power, it can achieve its ends far more effectively, far more destructively.”

Here is but a taste:

“For example, almost five times as many black college-bound high school seniors as white came from families with incomes below twelve thousand dollars [circa 1980]. The [Reagan] administration reconfigured various grants and loan packages so that ‘the needier the student, the harder he or she would be hit by Reagan’s student-aid cuts.’ Not surprisingly, nationwide black enrollment in college plummeted from 34 to 26 percent.”

It goes on and on like that, for 150 years, through Reconstruction, the Great Migration, the Civil Rights Movement and the first Black president. On and on. And on.

And just as she is finishing the book in 2015 – Dylann Roof is gunning down a Bible study at a Black church (June 17th). And Trump is coming down the escalator to run for president (June 16th).

“Not all Whites” – She does not say how many Whites are afflicted with this rage or why, and leaves White allies out of her account. But except for brief periods, the enraged somehow always manage to have a lock on Congress or at least the Supreme Court, so that it is always two anti-racist steps forward, 1.95 racist steps back. She calls it “backlash”, but it seems more like just Tuesday.

Respectability politics if anything only makes things worse:

“Black respectability or ‘appropriate’ behavior doesn’t seem to matter. If anything, black achievement, black aspirations, and black success are construed as direct threats. Obama’s presidency made that clear.”

Blocking Black advancement, after all, is the whole point.

Anderson:

“The truth is, white rage has undermined democracy, warped the Constitution, weakened the nation’s ability to compete economically, squandered billions of dollars on baseless incarceration, rendered an entire region sick, poor, and woefully undereducated, and left cities nothing less than decimated. All this havoc has been wreaked simply because African Americans … were unwilling to take no for an answer.”

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

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Programming note #43

I will be on hiatus for a week, till June 10th. I will continue to moderate comments, however.

Books I was made to read at US public school in the 1970s, listed in order of publication, rated from 1 to 5 stars like on Goodreads:

Shakespeare: Hamlet (1601) – I had to read this over Christmas Break. Ugh: 1 star.

Shakespeare: Macbeth (1606) – my English teacher adored Lady Macbeth, but she seemed like a terrible person to me. 1 star.

Voltaire: Candide (1759) – this is the only book I can remember reading in World Lit, though there must have been others. Right? 3 stars.

Herman Melville: Moby Dick (1851) – I only got halfway through this. NR.

Charles Dickens: Great Expectations (1861) – I hated this!!! My introduction to the dreary Victorians that my teachers seemed to so love. 1 star.

Thomas Hardy: The Return of the Native (1878) – I hated this too. All my friends read the Cliffs Notes version and went to parties and laughed while I slogged through the Original Text at 60 wpm (= 45 hours). Back then I subvocalized and read at a third of the average speed. Now I do not and read at half speed. 1 star.

L. Frank Baum: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz  (1900) – I liked this, though it is one of the few books where the movie is better. 4 stars.

Kenneth Grahame: The Wind in the Willows (1908) – I liked this too even though I was kind of shaky on English wildlife. 4 stars.

Agatha Christie: Ten Little Niggers (1939) – a murder mystery, then known as “And Then There Were None”. 4 stars.

Esther Forbes: Johnny Tremain (1943) – the history of the American Revolution painlessly learned by way of its boy hero. Unlike at Catholic school, the Revolution was pounded into our heads. 3 stars.

Arthur Miller: The Crucible (1953) – also set in colonial times. About the McCarthy Hearings by way of the Salem Witch Trials. I would probably love this book now. I should reread it to see. 2 stars.

Pat Frank: Alas, Babylon (1959) – the world after a nuclear war. Not exactly science fiction in the 1970s during the Cold War. My father said the Eastern Seaboard would be vaporized – there was no “after” for us. I remember looking out the window at school and thinking, “All this could be gone in 45 minutes.” 5 stars.

William Gibson: The Miracle Worker (1959) – Helen Keller, born deaf and blind, is taught to speak. Teachers loved it. I did not. 2 stars.

Elizabeth Kata: A Patch of Blue  (1965) – also about a blind girl. This one is White and falls in love with a sighted Black man. I remember asking my mother what “whore” meant. She told me to look it up. 3 stars.

By century:

  • From Gilgamesh to 1600 AD: 0
  • 1600s: 2
  • 1700s: 1
  • 1800s: 3
  • 1900s: 8

By nation:

  • France: 1 – “World Lit”!!
  • UK: 6
  • US: 6
  • Australia: 1 (Elizabeth Kata)

No Black authors. One of my English teachers gushed about “Roots” (1976) by Alex Haley but she never assigned it.

Even back then I understood what a terrible list this is – because my parents and four siblings had hundreds of books and my mother took us to the library every Saturday.

The cynic in me whispers that my teachers wanted me to hate reading.

– Abagond, 2021.

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575

Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Black investigative reporter for the New York Times, spearheaded “The 1619 Project” in 2019 and won a Pulitzer Prize for it a year later. In 2017 she won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant. Even by White standards she is one of the best journalists in the US – but many on the right oppose “The 1619 Project” for showing how the US was built on slavery and racism.

In 2021, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) offered her the Knight Chair in Race and Investigative Journalism – but would not give her tenure! Most schools of journalism would jump at the chance of giving tenure to a White person even half as accomplished. Without tenure protecting her from being fired, she would have little academic freedom.

Enter the donor: Walter Hussman, Jr., (UNC ’68), heads his family’s media empire in Arkansas. In 2019 he promised to give UNC’s journalism school $25 million. So now it is called the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. And, when you walk in, you now see his Statement of Core Values. But for the pandemic, it would have already been carved in stone. Here is #4:

“The pursuit of truth is a noble goal of journalism. But the truth is not always apparent or known immediately. Journalists’ role is therefore not to determine what they believe at that time to be the truth and reveal only that to their readers, but rather to report as completely and impartially as possible all verifiable facts so that readers can, based on their own knowledge and experience, determine what they believe to be the truth.”

Elizabeth Eckford in Hussman’s home town of Little Rock when he was 10.

He said “The 1619 Project” was not objective. For example, it says, “For the most part, black Americans fought back alone” for their rights – but left out the Freedom Riders and other “courageous” Whites. To preserve the school’s objectivity he emailed and called the dean and trustees, opposing her appointment.

Note: He has yet to give the whole $25 million.

Note: According to the Five Rules of Racial Standing, which holds sway in the US, most Black people lack objectivity about race.

The dean, Susan King, stood up for Hannah-Jones:

“I was the first woman in every newsroom. I brought my perspective … to the table. I argued that women’s voices needed to be in the stories that were told. White males ran the newsrooms when I joined the business. Their experiences and judgments ruled the day.  Women made a difference in the newsroom 40 years ago. Journalists with different world experiences make a difference now and must continue to do so.”

Or, as Hannah-Jones herself put it in 2020:

“[Mainstream media] has long tended to operate as stenographers of power, and we’ve taken that to be non-biased, objective reporting. So when white Americans say to me, ‘I just want factual reporting,’ what they’re saying to me is they want reporting from a white perspective … with a white normative view, and that simply has never been objective.”

Hussman seems to miss the irony that he is only proving her point.

– Abagond, 2021.

Sources: mainly Google Images and my one free article at The Assembly.

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578

A hundred years ago today the Tulsa race riot began, killing 75 to 150 and destroying Greenwood, a Black part of Tulsa, Oklahoma known as Black Wall Street. The Tulsa World (pictured above) called it a race war. Today is also Memorial Day in the US, fka Decoration Day, a day to remember fallen soldiers.

Requiescat in pace.

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The Police: Invisible Sun

Remarks:

My favourite Police song by far. In 1981 it went to #2 in the UK. It was never released in the US, but MTV, starved for videos, played it a few years later.

Sting was writing about Northern Ireland during the Troubles, then ongoing, as shown in the video. Years later, in “Lyrics by Sting” (2007), he said:

“‘Invisible Sun’ is a dark, brooding song about the lurking violence of those streets, patrolled by armored cars, haunted by fear and suspicion, and wounds that would take generations to heal. I’m happy that the glimmer of hope in the song’s title was somewhat prophetic and pray that the sectarian violence that destroyed so many lives is well and truly over.”

I had completely forgotten about this song, but back then, in the early 1980s, it had a huge effect on me: it put words to my sense that there was more to life than what my parents and friends were saying. Looking back I can see that my parents were trying to keep me alive and out of poverty. My mother was afraid I would be dead by 30. But their vision of life was so narrowly survivalistic and dream-crushing – “Keeping out of trouble like the soldiers say” – that it left me nothing to live for.  So much so that the-sky-is-blue words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25 came as a revelation: “Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?”

See also:

Lyrics:

(One, two, three, four, five, six
Oh oh oh oh oh oh)

I don’t want to spend the rest of my life
Looking at the barrel of an Armalite
I don’t want to spend the rest of my days
Keeping out of trouble like the soldiers say
I don’t want to spend my time in hell
Looking at the walls of a prison cell
I don’t ever want to play the part
Of a statistic on a government chart

There has to be an invisible sun
It gives its heat to everyone
There has to be an invisible sun
That gives us hope when the whole day’s done

It’s dark all day and it glows all night
Factory smoke and acetylene light
I face the day with my head caved in
Looking like something that the cat brought in

There has to be an invisible sun
It gives its heat to everyone
There has to be an invisible sun
That gives us hope when the whole day’s done

And they’re only going to change this place
By killing everybody in the human race
They would kill me for a cigarette
But I don’t even wanna die just yet

There has to be an invisible sun
It gives its heat to everyone
There has to be an invisible sun
That gives us hope when the whole day’s done

(Oh oh oh oh oh oh…)

Source: AZ Lyrics.

Cinderella is Dead

“Cinderella is Dead” (2020) by Kalynn Bayron is a teen novel that takes place 200 years after the death of Cinderella. The palace-approved story of Cinderella, what in our world is known as the Disney version, has become a kind of holy book used to keep girls and women in their place, a fairy tale turned into a handmaid’s tale. Because you know that is just how it would go. But it gets worse: the Disney version is not even true! Everything is based on lies! The book ends with the true story of Cinderella.

The heroine, Sophia Grimmins, a 16-year-old Black girl, begins to question the lies she has been fed all her life when she is forced to marry a prince instead of a princess! While on the run from the king and the king’s men, she discovers the truth bit by bit until she finds herself in Cinderella’s old room in the castle and discovers her – journal.

The book ends with Bayron’s main point:

“Be a light in the dark.”

Bayron:

“When I sat down to draft Cinderella is Dead I started with a few questions: What effect do the fairy tales we are told as children have on us? What happens to our view of the world when the characters in these stories don’t look like us or love like us? When do we get to be heroes of our own stories?”

Bayron herself appears to be Black but not lesbian. There is a PG-13 lesbian love story in it, but the book is not so much about homophobia as sexism:

Sexism: In the palace-approved text, Cinderella met Prince Charming at a ball and lived happily ever after. And so every year the palace holds a ball attended by girls from ages 16 to 18 so that they too can meet their own Prince Charmings and live happily ever after! But if by 18 they are not married or engaged, they are “forfeited” and sold off into forced labour ~ or something ~ never to be heard from again. But even married, a woman can be beat up by her husband or even forfeited. And fathers can forfeit their daughters. This gives men all the power, with predictably disastrous consequences. This leads even Well-Meaning Parents to tell their daughters to be realistic, to play it safe, to shrink themselves down into almost nothing for the benefit of men.

Racism is not brought up, but then again Cinderella’s kingdom is even less racist than Bridgerton! But it is imagined as Black-majority. Cinderella herself is White, for example, but Prince Charming and the Fairy Godmother are not.

Evil: Even though some characters are cartoonishly evil, as you might expect, and many others go along with evil because they personally benefit (male privilege), most people are simply too afraid to speak up or stand up, to “be a light”. Thus all those parental lectures of “We just want to keep you safe.” By far the most realistic part of the book.

– Abagond, 2021.

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“Race in America” (May 22nd 2021) was a Special Report in The Economist, marking one year since George Floyd was killed by police. This post is based on that and their editorial in the same issue. Their guests articles on reparations and critical race theory did not appear in the edition I received (US/ Kindle).

As The Economist tells it (click on the links to get my own take):

Black middle class – the Black middle class in the US is the biggest in the world! Not affected by racism apart from personal slights that Black professors like to whine about.

Racism – outlawed in the 1960s, with personal racism in steep decline ever since, as shown by views on mixed-race marriage. Trump supporters, apart from, you know, a neo-Nazi fringe, are not so much anti-Black as pro-White – just like how Blacks are themselves pro-Black. With ongoing racism now so rare, it can no longer be the main thing holding Black people back. The “legacy” of slavery and past racism, though, remains:

Black ghettos – despite a large Black middle class, millions of Black people are still stuck in the ghetto. These were shaped by racial covenants, White flight, deindustrialization, putting public housing in poor neighbourhoods, etc. Redlining? What’s that? Ghettos lack good schools and employment opportunities. They were made yet worse by:

Black-on-Black crime – no one knows why, but from the 1960s to the 1990s there was a “spree of lawlessness” in Black neighbourhoods. This made them a bad investment risk. Again, nothing about redlining or even mass incarceration, the criminalization of cannabis, heroin and crack, etc. The Economist, now context-free!

Black fathers – in the past, The Economist had pointed to these beings as a greater scourge on the race than White racists. No word on them this time.

Reparations – the racial wealth gap is caused by differences in income compounded over time. Reparations, as a one-off payment, will not change that. Just look at Native Americans: despite all their casinos (= reparations), they are still in a bad way.

“Critical Race Theory” – in quotes! Airily dismissed as so much overwrought wokery beloved by professors. But there is something very dangerous about it: it pushes:

identity politics – this could seriously destabilize the US. There has never yet been a large, rich country where no one race, religion or ethnic group was in the majority. It is not certain the US can pull it off. Instead of sinking into the tribalism of identity politics, Americans need to pull together! Cue the MLK Quote about “character not colour”. And:

James Baldwin – in 1967 he asked Black Americans:

“to do something unprecedented: to create ourselves without finding it necessary to create an enemy.”

Policy recommendations: Fighting racism would get little long-term White support – and is besides the point (see above). Far more practical ways to help Black people:

  1. Fight poverty in a colour-blind way. Example: Obamacare.
  2. Rein in the police. Example: Limit qualified immunity.
  3. Help poor people move to middle-class neighbourhoods. Examples: Chicago and Seattle.

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

576

Speech at the Melodeon

Wendell Phillips, circa 1850.

In “Speech at the Melodeon” (January 27th 1853) Wendell Phillips defends his mentor William Lloyd Garrison and other fellow abolitionists against the charge that they lacked “Christian courtesy” and were only hurting their cause by saying not-nice things about, gasp, slave owners.

Wendell Phillips was in favour of the “immediate abolition” of slavery in the US “without repatriation” of Black people back to Africa. An extreme position that will become US policy in 12 years.

What others said about Phillips:

  • Charlotte Forten, a 16-year-old Black girl, saw him speak in 1854 and told her diary that he spoke “eloquently and beautifully, as he always does”.
  • George Lewis Ruffin, the first Black person to graduate Harvard Law School, said Phillips was “the one white American wholly color-blind and free from race prejudice”.

The Melodeon was a concert hall in Boston. In 1852 it featured Professor Anderson, Wizard of the North, and Donetti’s Comic Troupe of Acting Monkeys, among others.

The US in 1853, as Phillips tells it:

“The South is one great brothel, where half a million of women are flogged to prostitution, or, worse still, are degraded to believe it honorable. The public squares of half our great cities echo to the wail of families torn asunder at the auction block … The Press says, ‘It is all right,’ and the Pulpit cries, ‘Amen.'”

and:

“We [abolitionists] are weak here – out-talked, out-voted. You load our names with infamy and shout us down. But our words bide their time.”

Phillips lays out the charges he argues against:

“Ion’s charges [in the London Leader] are the old ones, that we Abolitionists are hurting our own cause – that, instead of waiting for the community to come up to our views, and endeavoring to remove prejudice and enlighten ignorance, by patient explanation and fair argument, we fall at once, like children, to abusing everything and everybody.”

You know the type: frothing fanatics.

Phillips says the Garrisonians have been at this for 22 years and know what works and what does not:

“We have facts for those who think – arguments for those who reason; but he who cannot be reasoned out of his prejudices, must be laughed out of them; he who cannot be argued out of his selfishness, must be shamed out of it by the mirror of his hateful self held up relentlessly before his eyes;”

He notes:

“There are far more dead hearts to be quickened, than confused intellects to be cleared up”

In the battle for hearts and minds, it is mainly the hearts that have to be won. But either way:

“We expect to accomplish our object long before the nation is made over into saints, or elevated into philosophers. To change public opinion, we use the very tools by which it was formed. That is, all such as an honest man may touch.”

Phillips saw himself as being on the side of God, truth, justice and history. Therefore the abolitionists would win and the next century blush.

– Abagond, 2021.

See also:

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