I chose to take a deeper look into the Morrison piece. One idea that this piece highlights is American praise of color blindness in literature. Especially at the time in which Morrison wrote this, and continuing now, American authors often write without acknowledging the history of slavery and racism in American culture. Morrison argues that this is incredibly dangerous, as the enslavement of African people created the foundation of whiteness and modern Americanism. Morrison provides evidence for this theory, stating that literature coming from American authors prior to slavery is vastly different from the literature that came after. Before slavery, Americans wrote about the excitement of a clean slate, but also about their fears, reservations and the sullen nature of living in pre slavery America. The enslavement of African people in America not only violently ripped away the freedom of African people but it gave white Americans a sense of their own freedom. Having an entire demographic of people to treat horribly and hold power over allowed Americans to come into their own freedom, albeit artificially. The language that Americans used to describe African people brings clarity to this. Americans used African slaves almost as a foil to themselves, creating whiteness and the notion of white superiority. This imbalance created what has turned into the contemporary idea of the American dream and whiteness in literature. Morrison argues that allowing color blindness to be encouraged ignores these facts. Ignoring the narrative of African enslavement and contemporary black American culture in literature is problematic as it doesn’t allow progress to happen. I chose this idea because I think it fits in with the other readings we have been doing. Some of the pieces, including Locke’s Second Treatise, helped to allow for this longstanding issue to fester and go untouched for hundreds of years.
The three authors I would choose to have on this panel would be Chiminanda Ngozi Adichie, Olympe de Gouges and Arthur Brooks.
- Including narratives of marginalized identities in works that focus on people of a dominant identity can help to prevent ignoring history. What is one way in which authors can do a better job of this?
2. The danger of telling one story applies to writing about race, but also to writing about many other groups of people. How is intersectionality an important part of acknowledging historical narratives and what is one way in which this can be addressed in modern literature?
3. What role do authors play in ensuring contemporary literature doesn’t erase the use of power to create the modern white American identity?
Option 1: I do not think that the student is right. I don’t think any idea or thought can be saved from refutation, nor should it be. Secondary elaborations are possible reasons for potential inconsistencies in a belief, and can only do so much. Secondary elaborations can strengthen a theory as they respond to gaps in the belief, or in some cases provide examples that prove a belief correct. However, the need for secondary elaborations also describes why they will never make a belief completely irrefutable. Beliefs are prone to questioning, and because there is no limit to how many times a belief can be questioned, or the discovery of information that may test the belief, secondary elaborations are never guaranteed to make a belief irrefutable. A belief may hold true for thousands of years. As soon as a discovery is made that discredits part of the belief, the entire belief may unravel. It can seem as though a belief will forever be correct, but it is important to be critical of this as refutation can act itself as secondary elaboration and add to the belief’s credibility.
Option 3: One question I have from the unit is in regard to the Plato reading. A common pitfall of Western philosophy as it is spoken about in the Appiah is that Western culture promotes superiority and Westernization of other cultures. In our section, we discussed the notion that we may be living in a plato-esque cave of our own. We may one day learn something that revolutionizes our way of thought and forces us to see the world differently. This made me wonder, does America and western culture attempt to act as though it is helping other groups to leave the cave, even if they are not in fact in a cave at all? In cases of colonization, or in boarding schools created to “assimilate” Indigenous American people into American culture, did Americans not use the idea of the cave as an excuse to harm other people?
Chapter 1 Paragraph: This chapter explores different uses and interpretations of war photography, and more broadly photography depicting violence and pain. Sontag delves into different uses of war photography, such as informing people, deterring governments and citizens from allowing war to happen and forcing people to learn about war. However, Sontag notes that these uses do not always have the intended result. It is common for the intended audience of photography depicting violence to view the photography through a narrow lens. Pictures meant to act as a deterrent may be seen as artful by people that are not opposed to war. They may be interpreted simply as a part of history by people hoping to learn from the photographs, and fail to inspire action or critical thought. A danger of this type of photography is that the reaction it incurs may seem grand to those reacting, and they may miss out on the idea that the photograph is simply a microcosm of a larger epidemic of war.
Chapter 1 Sentence: Regarding photography depicting horror, there is often a disparity not only between the intentions of a photographer and the consumer interpretation, but also between the various interpretations of consumers.
Chapter 6 Paragraph: People are drawn to images of violence. Often times, people know that it is frowned upon to enjoy looking upon images of violence and war, and this makes it all the more compelling to do so. Images of violence can seem fascinatingly shocking, and oftentimes provide the viewer with the satisfaction of not being the one harmed. People are indifferent to cruelty, even relish cruelty as long as it is happening to others and not to themselves. People may be upset by or shocked by violent images, but as long as they are not the subjects or potential subjects of violence they may have no further reaction.
Chapter 6 Sentence: People enjoy viewing shocking photography and revel in the fact that they can observe it from a distance.
Chapter 8 Paragraph: It is regressive to be surprised every time you see an image depicting violence or horror. Acting shocked that violence and horror occurs and is perpetrated by people fails to acknowledge the frequency and scale on which violence happens. It is important to remember violent events that occurred, but it is equally important to critically think about those events and the implications they have on humanity and what people are capable of. No, photography is not a perfect way to interact with violence, and no it does not always help solve problems. But it is also unrealistic to have a solution that causes direct and immediate change, and in the meantime interacting with photography and thinking critically about it is productive.
Chapter 8 Sentence: Being surprised by violent photography wastes time that could be spent thinking critically about the implications of the photography.
I selected page 48 to examine closely. This page comes after a bus with freedom riders is attacked upon arrival in Birmingham. The use of art on this page helps the reader appreciate the events and power that allowed the bus to be attacked even though the police were informed that the freedom riders would be arriving. The page is set up to give the impression of watching a television interview. the police chief is introduced in the second panel. The second and fourth panels both show the police chief’s face, framed in the same shape as the television screen. These shots are zoomed in closer and closer. The fifth panel shows the police chief the closest yet, with text over his eyes. At no point can you see the police chief’s eyes through his glasses. Adding to this, he is given the nickname “bull”. This gives the impression that his presence is inhuman and detached. The text tells that even the governor fears him. The third panel, the final text on the page, and the bottom third of the background on this page are darkened. This gives the impression that the police chief is a dark, cruel figure. The third panel shows a man with a satisfied face committing an act of violence from the perspective of the victim. There is a dark cloud in the background. The final text on the page explains to the reader that the police chief gave the KKK 15 minutes with the bus before making arrests. He wrote it off as giving officers time off for mother’s day. The sinister facial expressions and the clouding of his eyes make this statement even colder. This page stuck with me in large part because of the severity and intensifying nature of the art. The use of the zoom-in on the police chief and increased use of darkness painted a vivid picture of the effect that police violence had on the anti freedom rider violence. Racist police forces amplified the violence and hatred that the freedom riders faced. The only legal authority in many of the towns, not just Birmingham, where the riders stopped actively disobeyed the law. Police allowed violent acts to be committed, often times initiating violence. This is communicated clearly and unflinchingly on this page. The line “Everyone was afraid of him- even the governor” particularly stuck with me. This line, coupled with the stern, blank, cold expression of the police chief communicated more than just words could.