The (Re)Birth of a Nation

I’m not sure if anyone has posted about a certain film that premiered during this semester and carries massive cultural implications in our current, racially charged climate. Since we’ve somehow not mentioned it in class, I’ll post here.

The Birth of a Nation is considered the movie that invented modern cinema.  The filming techniques it pioneered revolutionized the way films were produced.  Its huge release and marketing made it the first blockbuster film.  The Birth of a Nation is also famous for being horrifically racist, a fact that film experts have to dodge around when discussing the film, much to the delight of those who support racism.  For those who don’t know, the plot centers around two families who fought on opposite sides of the civil war uniting to end reconstruction in their corner of the south, by killing black people and preventing them from voting on election day.  The film features horrific racist caricatures, and portrays the violence perpetrated on freed slaves in the south, including lynching, as heroic actions.

This movie I want to showcase is The Birth of a Nation 2016.  Written, produced, directed, and starring Nat Parker as Nat Turner, the black priest who led the most violent slave revolt in the US, preaching a vision of ending slavery.  The birth of the nation was made with the goal of re-appropriation.  That is, taking a piece of pop-culture and stealing it back from the signification of racism.  The idea is to replace the image of the classic Birth of a Nation and the white supremacy it stands for with that of Nat Turner leading an uprising with the fury of a people locked in chains for two-hundred years by the old order.  Doing so will re-appropriate the cultural meaning of the image, and by doing so, alter American culture to a more tolerant standard.

Jericho Brown Talks Paradise/Paradiso

I honestly don’t know what it is, but I keep finding connections between the stuff that we talk about in class and the things that I’m reading on the side. To be more specific, I’m currently reading a book of poetry called The New Testament by Jericho Brown, a well-known contemporary poet who talks about race.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates on Reparations

I just read “The Case for Reparations” by Ta-Nehisi Coates… it’s such a well-written, informative piece about what our next steps should be as Americans. It goes deep into our history and highlights specific examples of how we have neglected rights that our Constitution grants. The reading isn’t tough. It moves back and forth through time often, but it feels more like sitting on a rocking chair and being swayed.

I’ve pasted some quotes that shook me. Give the article a read, please. It’s long, but powerful. I must warn you that some images and statements are triggering. Tread thoughtfully.

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Scapegoats, Morrison, and how a paradise can be ruined.

Today I read a pair of blogposts and attached articles analyzing Toni Morrison/Paradiso that I felt would go together wonderfully.

The first was by Hannah, and included this article describing in Zhizekian terms how tyrants create their oppressive regimes.  To summarize: the tyrants create an evil other, which they give responsibility for all their nation’s problems, (problems usually caused by themselves.)  they then set about violently destroying that other.  I feel that Toni Morrison’s application of this methodology within Paradiso is blatant and twofold.  first, the obvious assault on the covenant.  Second, 8rock’s ostracizing of any family or person with lighter skin, up to letting a pregnant woman die with her baby for that reason.  “Even with their wives begging they came up with excuses because they looked down on you,” (197.) Continue reading “Scapegoats, Morrison, and how a paradise can be ruined.”

Forward then backward

Please take the time to read this essay, “Making America White Again,” by the author of our class’s readings, Toni Morrison. She talks about a push and pull: the whitening of America. The topic she discusses makes me think of the progress that we have made in recent years. Morrison writes “These sacrifices, made by supposedly tough white men, who are prepared to abandon their humanity out of fear of black men and women, suggest the true horror of lost status.” It makes me question if I have taken much of what the United States has given to me and my family for granted.

 

Drawing Parallels through Oral Histories

I found the fact that Morrison includes Patricia as a kind of oral historian in Paradise to be jarring considering the fact that I worked at a museum which created a project that recorded the histories of people who are of mixed descent. I wanted to do some work addressing the parallels between Patricia and the work that Brooklyn Historical Society did using the blog post that I wrote about Lacy Shwartz, a mixed-race woman whose Jewish family never told her that she was half black.

Shwartz, whose story is documented in her short documentary, Little White Lie, talked about the sentiments she garnered as a biracial woman. She said that being mixed was a category of being black, “When you are defaulted into the black student union, even though you have black pigment in your skin, there is also a white privilege that you have to let go of. I’m aware of it and I definitely certainly embody it.” Shwartz talked about how as a light-skinned black woman, she at times had a “passing privilege,” which she had to let go of. The same idea is built upon in Morrison’s Paradise.

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What Scholars have to say about Lesbian People in Entertainment Media

My main question entering into this project was about discussing the effects of a lesbian character’s death on viewers, especially viewers who identify as lesbians or bisexual. In finding articles, I did not necessarily find much about the effects of lesbian character death on viewers. What I did find were numerous articles on the general topic of LGB representation in entertainment media.

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Jamelle Bouie’s “White Won.”

For those of you who might not have seen it, I just wanted to share an article that Dr.McCoy alluded to in our class the other day and had retweeted on twitter. Jamelle Bouie’s “White Won” is both a look at some of the initial emotions following the results from Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning and is an attempt to discuss our nation’s “long cycle of progress and backlash.” I think that the article provides an interesting dialogue to the currently ongoing and expanding conversation, as well as relates to the topic of churning that we have seen throughout Morrison’s works.