Slavery and the Prison System

Ever since we read the article in class, and made the connections between the prison system and slavery, I’ve been interested in reading further into this. And so in the process of researching, I found this awesome article detailing how slavery and prison can not only be described in like terms, but also how the two two institutions are directly historically connected.

Following the Emancipation Proclamation, the South was a violent and turbulent place for people of color, particularly because of the various laws, such as Jim Crow Laws, that were enacted to virtually halt all reform that might have been possible. Reformation following the Civil War was a failure. Technically slavery was abolished, but the oppression that previously supported the institution remained, making it nearly impossible for freed African Americans to exercise their rights to the same political, social, and economic freedoms as their white counterparts. The article discusses how, while the African-American population went from one situation of intense oppression to another, a new institution replaced slavery as the hands on the plantations- the Convict Lease Program.

The Convict lease program brought a new way for freed slaves to be once again taken advantage of. The incredible and terrible influx of new oppressive laws in the South brought mass imprisonment to a new level, and as the article explains- “mass imprisonment was employed as a means of coercing resistant freed slaves into becoming wage laborers. Prison populations soared during this period, enabling the state to play a critical role in mediating the brutal terms of negotiation between capitalism and the spectrum of unfree labor. The transition from slave-based agriculture to industrial economies thrust ex-slaves and “unskilled” laborers into new labor arrangements that left them vulnerable to depressed, resistant white workers or pushed them outside the labor market completely.” And so thus, many victims of Jim Crow south went from one form of slavery to another, and those who didn’t had almost an equally difficult time assimilating.

Here’s the article if you’re interested in reading and learning more:

http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/gilmoreprisonslavery.html

Jazz music and “Jazz”

I like the connection Daisy (http://morrison.sunygeneseoenglish.org/2016/10/19/jazz-and-listening/) makes between the reactions based on listening made between musicians on this bandstand and between the characters in Jazz.  Harris highlights that this conversation between artists on a bandstand sometimes stems from what some people perceive as “mistakes”.  He asserts that “the only mistake is if… each individual musician is not aware and accepting enough of his fellow band member.  If we don’t allow for creativity”.  This creativity results from individuals’ ability to listen and react to people they are with.  Violet’s decision to stay with Joe is, in part, a response to a (violent, harmful) mistake he made.  Through her interactions with Alice, she gains awareness and accepts her fellow band member, Joe, resulting in the creativity in their relationship that the reader sees at the end of the book.  I wonder what other meaning we can make if we see Jazz and Jazz as a conversation between musicians (lovers?) which invites creativity.   Continue reading “Jazz music and “Jazz””

Relationship Violence in a Culture Obsessed with Property

This weekend, Geneseo’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee–of which I am a member–received training on relationship violence prevention through the One Love Foundation. That this seminar took place the very weekend following our completion of Jazz was purely coincidental–but my recent analysis of Violet and Joe’s possessive dynamic added greater depth and context to the seminar.

The theme of the seminar was escalation, and it generally focused on a more reactive approach: recognizing the warning signs of an emotionally abusive relationship and preventing it from intensifying to the point where it could be dangerous. In this regard, I felt it was an appropriate response to the fact that many college students might not know exactly what signs of domestic violence look like. However, a large component I felt was missing from the session was the entire cultural aspect of it: the idea that relationship violence is, to an extent, normalized in a culture obsessed with property–something we have discussed in depth with regard to Morrison’s Jazz.  Continue reading “Relationship Violence in a Culture Obsessed with Property”

Foucault’s “Panopticism” and Morrison’s Individuals

Image result for panopticon

I have been unable to shake a connection I made between the Foucauldian reading of the Panopticon and the ways in which Morrison, through internal character dialogue, examines systems of power and domination, which from my readings so far are overt and important themes across Morrison’s work; each novel explores in different times and places that various ideologies that perpetuated and continue to perpetuate anti-blackness and other forms of relegating oppressed groups.  I am not the first to make this connection, but I still think there is some potential insight to be discovered from more close reading with this theoretical perspective in mind.  Continue reading “Foucault’s “Panopticism” and Morrison’s Individuals”

Life Advice From Louis C.K. ?

In reading Maya Schenwar’s chapter from Locked Down, Locked Out in class the other day, the line “Hurt people hurt people” stood out to me in particular.  I do believe that it is a line that is meant to grab people’s attention and get people thinking further about the topic of abuse, but when I read this line I could not help but think of Louis C.K. Continue reading “Life Advice From Louis C.K. ?”

Claudia Rankine: “‘I don’t know. I don’t know.’”

Lots of you have probably heard of/read Claudia Rankine’s Citizen. Recently, Rankine earned a MacArthur genius grant. Here, Steven W. Thrasher interviews the artist about her plans and about the need to study whiteness, “its paranoia, its violence, its rage.” The conversation carries echoes of the ways Jazz deploys “The Thunder, Perfect Mind” and attends to “the Beast.”

GOLD / GRAY

“Golden” as copied, pasted, and defined from Wiktionary.com:

Please note that all of the blue words can be clicked on and take you to a more detailed and specific definition of that particular word.

Adjective

golden ‎(comparative more golden or goldener, superlative most golden or goldenest)

  1. Made of, or relating to, gold.
    She wore a golden crown.
  2. Having a colour or other richness suggestive of gold.
    Under a golden sun.
  3. Marked by prosperity, creativity etc.
    The Renaissance was a golden era.
    the Golden Horseshoe
  4. Advantageous or very favourable.  [quotations ▼]
    This is a golden opportunity
  5. Relating to a fiftieth anniversary.
    It’s not long until our golden wedding.
  6. Relating to the elderly or retired.
    After retiring, Bob and Judy moved to Arizona to live out their golden years.
  7. (Britain, slang) Fine, without problem

Continue reading “GOLD / GRAY”

Idea of “Choice” in Jazz

Something I’ve noticed come up in the assigned readings thus far is the emphasis Violet and Joe both place on choice. What’s ironic is that Violet talks about choosing Joe, while Joe talks about choosing Dorcas. It gave me an image in my head of a sort of circle– as Violet pursues Joe, Joe pursues Dorcas. It also brought me back to the whole concept of churning that happens in Toni Morrison’s novels.

The first mention of choosing that caught my attention was when Violet was describing the funeral and attempting to explain why she did what she did. On page 95 she says, “That’s why it took so much wrestling to get me down, keep me down and out of that coffin where she was the heifer who took what was mine, what I chose, picked out and determined to have and hold on to. . . ” (Morrison). I’ve bolded all the words here that I believe have relevance to this concept of choice. Initially I thought this language was bizarre. Nowhere does Violet use the word “love.” Instead, all of her language points to possessiveness.

Continue reading “Idea of “Choice” in Jazz”