Cocking A Snook Too!

Independent, Irreverent Unschoolers – or at least one – Take On the Universe

Washington and Jena September 23, 2007

Filed under: Connections,News to Ponder,Politics — Meredith @ 12:04 pm

Here is what I don’t understand: why is Martin Luther King, Jr. heralded as the first leader of the civil rights movement while we, as a society, ignore Booker T. Washington?

Don’t get me wrong, King was a great man, and a huge and important figure in the movement. He just wasn’t the first.

Dr. Washington was born as a slave in 1856 Virginia, to a slave mother and a white father he never really knew. Freed by the emancipation proclamation at the age of nine, he moved with his family to West Virginia, where he began to attend school when he could, and learned to read and write. He pursued education hungrily, became a teacher, and eventually became the head of the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institution (still around today as Tuskegee University).

He soon became one of the best known representatives of the black community, traveling the country, speaking for and about his race, and using his extensive and powerful contacts to establish new educational opportunities for blacks. His philosophy was that all black people could achieve equality through education and level-headedness, that America’s black community should conduct itself with responsibility, patience, industry, thrift, and usefulness. He held blacks to a higher standard than whites, urging them to be worthy representatives of their race.

His critics included W.E. Du Bois, the founder of the NAACP. “Mr. Washington represents in Negro thought the old attitude of adjustment and submission. …” He said, “[His] programme practically accepts the alleged inferiority of the Negro races.”

While Washington believed that the road to equality was a long, hard one, needing to be planned carefully and executed over time, mostly through good race relations, Du Bois’ school of thought was more aggressive, he wanted to force instant equality through court victories and legislation.

Washington, it seems, held Du Bois’ theory in the same estimation as Du Bois held his:

“There is another class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs….There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who do not want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public.”

It should be noted that while advocating peace and understanding between the races, Washington secretly contributed to the coffers of several notable civil rights cases of the day.

One has to wonder what Dr. Washington would have thought about those six boys in jail in Louisiana.

He wouldn’t have liked that they got themselves kicked out of school, I can tell you that.

My take is that the original mishandling was in not expelling the white boys who hanged those nooses from the tree. That is hate, disgusting, raw hate, and, hey, here’s a thought – aren’t schools supposed to be institutions of learning? If you want to threaten and intimidate your fellow students, then guess what? You don’t get the privilege of an education. Too bad, zero tolerance, no second chances, you should have thought about your future before you decided to display your white-trash-cracker bigotry.

But guess what else? No boys would up swinging from that tree. None of them was hurt. I’ll tell you who was hurt – the white boy they beat the crap out of, six on one, who didn’t even hang the nooses. If they’d seen those nooses swaying in the breeze and immediately thereafter attacked the guys who hung them, they would have had a damn fine legal leg to stand on, and I would have supported them. But people don’t seem to realize that this isn’t the same thing, legally or ethically.

I think both Dr. Washington and Dr. King would have been livid (as lived as they ever got, anyway). This is not how you should represent your race. This is not the peaceful, dignified, non-violent protest that they advocated, this is something low and ugly. Dr. Washington said, “One man cannot hold another man down in the ditch without remaining down in the ditch with him.” Dr. King said that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I’m disappointed that this is being built up in the media as the next wave of civil rights when it seems to me a step backwards in the tradition of the movement.

There’s this amazing musical called Ragtime, based on Doctorow’s eponymous novel, and Dr. Washington has a small role to set the historical context. While I know the following is a fictional quote, as far as I know not even based on anything he said, I feel this line the representation of Washington sings in the last half hour of the show sums up what his opinion of the situation in Jena would have been, and what I think of it.

“For the sum of my life I have lived in hope we might all be Christian brothers.I have worked to persuade every white skinned man that he need not fear our race – what has your selfish recklessness cost us? When I’ve worked so hard to steel the white man’s hate. Look what you’ve done……..And you dare to teach your lessons to these wild, unthinking youths, yet your own son you abandoned to be raised on white man’s truths. Look what you’ve done. Think of your son. Is the lesson you would bestow upon him? Are these the shoulders you would have him stand upon? Let him be the son of a man who had the courage to tell the truth in a court of law. Make your case, and if the verdict is death, go to it proudly, knowing that you have been heard. The truth is all. You do this and you will have the thanks and respect of every decent man of color and of all those children of our race whose way is hard and whose journey is long.”


I Have a Dream September 20, 2007

Filed under: College Stuff,Connections,Edumucation,Funnies,Gullibility,Religion — Meredith @ 3:53 pm

There are a lot of tables in the Student Union of my community college, especially at the beginning of a new year. To the left of the door is a gentleman in fatigues, attempting to recruit me to the Army; to the right of the door is a lady in fatigues, trying to recruit me to the National Guard; by the back door is a woman in a crisp suit attempting to recruit me to the Bank of America. I have learned that it is best not to make eye contact with any of these people, lest they lavish you with gifts of free key chains, pencils, and checking accounts, all while asking you penetrating questions along the lines of, “Would you like to take a test to determine your eligibility to join our bank/army?”, (oddly, everyone seems to pass) and “Would you like our bank/army to pay for your college education? All we’d need is your soul!”

But never, in all my days, have I seen Mormons recruiting in the Student Union. Nor do I recall ever seeing a Mormon sitting still, usually they are best described in verbs: riding their bicycles, hassling me in the parking lot, etc.

But today, there they were.

I recall writing the other day that I try to know as much about the world’s religions as possible. In fact, to quote myself:

 “… lack of any definitive religion makes it possible for me to see all religions without the filter of dogma. I take my irreligiousness not as a free ride to ignore the faith of those around me; on the contrary, I try to know as much about their doctrines and cultures as possible. I think that’s just being responsible.”

So, with that in mind, seeing the two sweet little blue-eyed-well-scrubbed Mormon girls sitting there, I decided to jump in headfirst.
I really got very excited (“Yes! Mormons!”), hung up on my mom, who I was talking to at the time, with what must have sounded like, to her, the phrase “gottagonowiseemormonsbye.”

As far as entertainment value and interesting belief systems go, I’m actually a huge fan of Mormons as they are portrayed on the HBO series Big Love, but I’m smart enough to know that this image probably isn’t very accurate. So, with some time to kill and some handy Mormons right there, I thought, why not ask?

I think I surprised them with my direct approach.

“So, would y’all like to tell me about Mormonism?”

They looked flustered for a second, as if thinking, wait, isn’t that our question? But they recovered well, and asked me what I wanted to know.

“Well, I just don’t know very much about it, and I was hoping you could tell me a bit.”

I did not mention that I was an atheist. (more…)


Don’t Know Much About History. Or Spelling. Or Judaism. September 18, 2007

There was a time – I remember it well – when one could rely upon English and journalism majors to be reasonably literate.

Not so, evidently, these days, I concluded as I read my local university newspaper a few mornings ago. I read this because the one issuing from my community college is dreck (their worst transgression to date: “all the characters kept there clothes on…..”) and the regular grownup paper depresses me. (These people are purportedly college graduates. What’s their excuse?)

Scanning the police briefs (“Smoking male busted in dorm”, “No evidence, no underage drinking charge”, “Man threatens violence over broken cell phone”, etc.), obligatory two articles about professors receiving honors, obligatory article about drinking, seven to ten articles about college sports, and a “My View” column so convoluted that looking at it made my eyes hurt, I stumbled upon this little gem which I reproduce now exactly as it appeared:

Pirates of the Caribbean at world’s end – As the great Billy Joel once sang, “Captain Jack will get you high tonight.” Even though that was more about heroine than pirates….

If you noticed an error, you’re exactly right – there wasn’t a colon between the phrase ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ and ‘At World’s End’, which, as discriminating movie viewers, we all know should always separate a franchise and a subtitle, as in ‘Superman IV: The Quest for Peace’ or ‘Superman XXVII: The Quest for a Viable Script’.

But of course, I jest.

If you spotted the real error in that sentence, you do NOT get a cookie, because you should have gleaned the difference between, say, Joan of Arc (heroine) and a highly addictive opiate (heroin) simply from being alive.

You would think, too, that the average adult citizen would still be aware of the basic concept of Judaism, even if that understanding were blended with bigotry. You would be wrong.

Today was creation myth day in my humanities class, and the teacher – who happens to be Jewish, and in my estimation doing an excellent job of maintaining objectivity and intellectualism – compared the Judeo-Christian creation myth with the myths of Ancient Egypt and Ancient Hinduism. The Rig Veda, in this last category, is truly poetically beautiful:

“Then even nothingness was not nor existence,

there was no air then, nor the heavens beyond it.

What covered it?

In whose keeping? Was there then cosmic water in the depths unfathomed?

Then there was neither death nor immortality

nor was there the torch of night and day.”

Anyway, the teacher mentioned in passing, the Old Testament. “Well, it’s the Old Testament to the Christians,” he amended, “but to the Hebrews, it’s just the Jewish Bible.” This guy in front of me raised his hand, and said, “So Jews reject the New Testament?” (more…)


Billie and Edith Sing the Blues for Music: A Treatise on Jazz and the Blues September 9, 2007

Filed under: Connections,Music — Meredith @ 10:28 pm

When I ride the bus, I do so with a soundtrack, partly to make the scenes out the window seem like the opening credits of a movie, and partly to drown out the other people on the bus, who often sound like a particularly tacky episode of Dr. Phil (“Well, I’m on federal probation right now………I got lucky, the same people who adopted my son adopted my daughter…….”).

Billy Joel, Tori Amos, Joni Mitchell, and Madeline Peyroux are high on my usual list of choices – along with Duke Ellington’s Such Sweet Thunder, which is the Duke’s response to the works of Mr. Shakespeare, so if you have both working eyes and ears you have no excuse to be ignorant of it.

I love Jazz, myself, and not that “smooth jazz”-elevator-music-Kenny-G-crap, but real jazz, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong (although I tend to think of him as Satchmo “Louis Armstrong”), Billy Strayhorn, Wynton Marsalis, Benny Goodman, Thelonius Monk – that’s what I’m talking about.

Jazz is perhaps the only truly American art form, rather like Mormonism is the only truly American religion – although I imagine that tap dancers will take me to task on the first count and Scientologists on the second.

Also, “jazz” is just a great word, incorporating both the letter J and the letter Z, which, if you’ve ever played the alphabet game on road trips, you know are two of the hardest letters to find.

So, a few days ago, in search of a soundtrack for my current bus ride, I clicked to Billie Holiday on my iPod. I love Lady Day, and have from the first time I heard “Strange Fruit” played on NPR on a Sunday afternoon (does anything beat Sunday afternoon jazz?) (more…)