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Just thinking about stuff....

Sunday, August 14, 2005

I was reading one of my favorite blogs, and he'd posted about slavery. It just made me start thinking about one of my classes in college. As an English Major, I had my share of classes devoted to poetry. However, one class, in fact one session sticks out in my mind. I may have forgotten a lot of the others, but this one, well, to put it lightly, just will never leave my mind. The class had around 15-20 students. Classes were smaller in the upper level courses. I'd say it was 75% female and about 50% white and 50% black. The professor decided to assign different female poets for her students to read a selection of their work, she picked about 5 examples, our responsibility was to narrow it down to 2 works we really liked. The professor assigned the poet she chose for each of us. Of course, Emily Dickinson was represented, Emily Bronte as well, but she also included Sylvia Plath, Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Gwendolyn Brooks and many others. I was assigned Ms. Gwendolyn Brooks. And one of her poems I was given, was one I chose to read, The Ballad of Rudolph Reed. I really admired this work, however, I was not ignorant of the fact that Ms. Brooks made no secret of the fact that she could have cared less if I, as a white person, liked it or not. She was not coy about the feelings she held about white folks, and her dislike of same. However, I did have admiration for her. She did not merely talk the talk, she walked the walk. When offered a book deal with a predominately white publishing house, she chose a lesser known one, run by black folks. So, kudos to her for sticking by her beliefs. Anyway, here I am, in front of the class, prepared to give my spiel and I read my poem. And yes, it has the awful, "N" word, and not one of my "N's" you know, that horrid name for black people we are supposed to die rather than say, out loud? I read the poem, I read HER work, I read HER words and then I gave my presentation on the poems, on how I feel she didn't write for me, but I admired the talent anyway, and respected her love of the written word. I finished, I sat down. And then, here we go.....This one African-American lady stood up and she was about 10 years older than myself, I would say around 36 or so. I was 25 or 26 at the time, a non-traditional student, and this woman proceeded to try and ream me a new butthole or something. "How dare I use that word," "Did I have any idea what it projected?" "Had my peoples,"(yes my peoples, hmmm..this was an upper level class, correct?" "had my peoples been enslaved?" "Had I ever been an object of prejudice that stretched back hundreds of years? Did I know where my peoples land had been that hers had helped cultivate?" In other words, I heard the biggest bunch of bullshit I'd ever heard in my life and being the loudmouth argumentative bitch nice person I am, I wanted to clear up any misunderstanding between the two of us. So, I stood up and said, "Dr. C, (my professor) I would love to address this, if I may?" Dr. C, knows me, so I could see the trepidation in her eyes, but she nodded her head and so, I walked up to the lectern (if you piss off easily about these matters, you may not want to read any further) I'd just vacated and proceeded to say the following:

" I was under the impression this was a class in a University, and
as such, we were all of reasonable intelligence. However, I see now, that
the only thing that one does when one assumes is makes an ass of
oneself. Much like my classmate. So, let me address your concerns now.
And if anyone else feels this way, by all means, listen closely. I was assigned
this poet to make a presentation on. All of you were assigned ones as well. I
did my assignment in a knowledgeable manner, I read the works presented and
chose the ones I liked. I did not write the work, a black woman did, and so,
if she had managed to put that dreaded "N" word on paper, I felt obligated
to not treat her work as pornography and censor her words. The word was put in
there for a reason. The word, nigger, is not one I use in my daily life, in fact
I do not now nor ever intend to use it as a part of my conversation. But, it
was in this body of work, so therefore I said it. On a more personal level, I would like to say this, your attitude, your very elementary attack on me in front of this
class was total bullshit, and I am sick and tired of getting called to the carpet
for something that happened so long ago. I do not know where my family was during slavery, I would be willing to bet that you do not either. However, in the interest of fairness, I will offer this. Just as soon as you show me the scars that
you have on your body from the "whoopings" my "peoples" gave you, I will gladly hand over all money that I have from all that cotton your "peoples" picked for them. Until then, we can either all shut the hell up about all of this and get back to college or you can walk around with this enormous chip on your shoulder, while I will go skippy-ah-doo-dawing throughout the rest of my life with a clean conscious and a great outlook on my future."
Okay, sorry, but I had been thrown this shit so many times as a Southern woman that once and for all I wanted to say something definitive on the matter. And majority of my classmates agreed, and showed they agreed by applauding. And one of the few males, he was black, said in a very comedic voice, ala Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?" Later on in the semester this lady and I did not become bosom buddies, but we did manage a truce, and she did tell me, that "I never expected you to get up there and let me have the hell you did!" Does anyone ever expect anything I do?