Greetings, 2016 bloggueurs! You’ll find that the website is changing a bit this semester. All posts should be made on the front page. Course-specific pages will now be dedicated to class announcements, syllabi, and other materials that won’t merit commentary. Instead, look at the articles and conundrums that I’ll post here weekly, and throw in your two cents. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope, but don’t stoop to ad hominem, either. Be respectful to your peers, even when—especially when—you disagree with them.
I am optimistic that this semester’s entries will be much more engaged than those of past semesters. I will do my best to find issues that you must address as citizens and thinkers in our nascent twenty-first century. I’m enough of a romantic to hope that our conversations will help us make connections between what we read and the world around us; enough of a realist to anticipate that there will be the gasp of hurt feelings and the effervescent joy of rhetorical victories, however slight; enough of a teacher to believe that all of this will do the participants some good.
I must also tell you that I am intensely interested in the issue of race, specifically the issue of race in Mississippi. To paraphrase Faulkner, if you want to understand the world, you have to understand a place like Mississippi. Of course, you can’t understand Mississippi without examining the shibboleths of race. Unlike people in other parts of the country, I don’t think many of us ever believed that we had arrived safely in a post-racial society where race meant nothing. I’m curious: should we hold the color-blind society up as the ideal? This seemed to be the ethos of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. swayed hearts and minds of all races when he proclaimed that he looked forward to a day when all Americans would be “judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Yet in 2016, claiming color blindness offends many because it insinuates that past struggles are unimportant, and because race forms an integral part of identity.
Other than cautiously, how should we proceed? There are so many extremists regarding race and identity that it is difficult to find a broad, truthful middle way. Look at the ranchers’ standoff in Oregon, or at the motivations for the Charleston, SC church shooting last year. Closer to home, look at the things a Jackson City Councilman has to say.
Better still, look at Langston Hughes, who may just give us the clearest insight on the issue in terms everyone can understand.
And tell me what you think.