Saturday, November 05, 2005

James Baldwin Posted by Picasa

Any Fool Can Have A Web Site

The other day a friend of mine asked, "When did you ever eat a ground hog?" I'm not sure how it came up, but the context was a bunch of vegetarians talking rabbit recipies and that Bugs Bunny wouldn't be good eating because he's so scrawny. The last time I ate ground hog was when I lived in Large. I was over at a neighbor's when a police car pulled in the drive and the policeman gave my neighbor three freshly killed ground hogs. I guess he felt he had to invite me for supper because I watched him skin them.

Living at Large was quite an education. In the School of Life, it seems I should be more careful about course selection. Large is a coal mining Patch town south of Pittsburgh and about a mile from Clairton. It's a ghetto with Appalachian flava. Many people have commented their first impressions of me are of a hillbilly. Yeah Ha. Maybe lessons learned at Large.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette ran an article the other day about the Pew Internet & Ameircan Life Project. It's nice to finally have a link to an article I read in the paper.
"Nineteen percent of American teens -- that's about 4 million -- have created their own blog and 38 percent read them, compared to adult statistics of 7 percent and 26 percent respectively. Teen bloggers use the Internet voraciously, checking e-mail and instant messages, reading news and shopping...

Older girls, aged 15-17, are the most likely group to be expressing themselves online: 38 percent are posting blogs or other content online, compared to 29 percent of boys."
I don't really come across many blogs made by teenagers, at least that I know are made by teens. I think it's a good thing they're making them. What I really wish is that I had more contact with teens so they could show me how to do stuff with the computer. The article points out that kids are really good at showing adults what to do, at least that they do a lot of consulting about computers for their parents.

If I can make a blog, anyone can. But if not blogs there are so many other ways of putting stuff--providing content--online. This article in The Finacial Times (Via Atrios) points out that it was a strange confluence of circumstances that allowed for the openness of the Internet, and that it surely wouldn't happen that way today. There's lots of evidence of stupidity online. The danger I've found in providing content is laying out my stupidity for the world to see.

I was participating in an online discussion in a thread about the use of the term African American and how the many African immigrants to the USA put the term in a new light. I'm not sure how stupid my comments really were, but they did cause offense. I was a little startled to hear how they sounded from a different perspective. In a single paragraph of a rather long reply to my post in the thread, the writer wrote:"You're white" three times. Was he talking to me?

This sort of reaction is why I haven't posted this blog address in certain quarters of the online universe I frequent. My fancy Afro-wig hat just won't do.

I really do believe that racism is an utterly foolish philosopy. The poster in response suggested I check out How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev. I haven't read the book but I was already familiar with Race Traitor a Web site Ignatiev is involved in. Race Traitor makes a distinction between anti-racism and being a race traitor, in that the former still holds fast to the notion of race. I see something like the problem that Atheists encounter; i.e. they're often too darn religious in their anti-religiousness.

I don't think I'm white. Maybe I once was, although attending a private school in the south as a boy, it was clear my peers didn't think me white, for the most part. Living at Large rather confirmed my doubts about being white. Large was a mixed community when I lived there. One day, hanging with a group of my neighbors, one of them, an apparently white guy, said, "I don't know what they've got against us colored people." Nobody in the group, including me, had any problem with that; I mean it sounded exactly right.

The reaction to my post in the discussion about the term African American did upset me. Even with my tin-ear for things, I knew that saying I'm a colored person would be like finger nails across a black board. My intent was never to antagonize.

In my offending post I had quoted from James Baldwin's famous essay "My Dungeon Shook: Letter to My Nephew on the One Hundreth Anniversery of the Emancipation." In thinking of my response I read "A Stranger in the Village" published in 1955 the year of my birth. I had read both essays before.

Maybe part of my being so easily misunderstood has to do with my age. Some of the language in Baldwin's essays is dated, for example, using the word "Negro" and his normative masculine usage. But the ideas seem current, even precient. Here's a brief background page about Baldwin. Here's an old Time cover which remined me how important a public intellectual he was. His bibliography is extensive, and the number of magazine articles he wrote impresive.

"My Dungeon Shook" was first published in The Progressive and included in the book The Fire Next Time. In that book Baldwin called on:
"relatively conscious whites and the relatively conscious blacks […] who must, like lovers […] create the consciousness of the others [… to] end the racial nightmare and achieve our country, and change the history of the world.”
In his later years Baldwin's approach seemed too American, too integrationist. I'm going to read him some more. His ideas maybe old-fashioned. I'm coming to discover how old-fashioned I am. But Baldwin's words speak to me. If you've got a dusty copy of one of his books consider pulling it from the shelf, or print out one of his essays from the Web. I suspect you'll be glad to discover a great American author again.


pingting said...

thanks for the link to the PG article.
we were discussing blogs the other day at my MF class. interestingly
enough only 3 of my 15 students have a blog.
we decided to create a group blog together & one of my students is
setting it up so that we can all log in & blog together. one student
suggested that everyone use alias's and fake composite pictures.
so that no one knows who is actually writing what & that it would be
interesting to try & figure out the idenity of each blogger.
like a blogging game of clue, perhaps.


mark said...

The troubles in France are a facinating reflection of our situation.

I wonder if it will bring elements of our populations closer together ...


Kaunda said...

Wow my first reaction to your question is to cringe. The reactionary response maybe something Americans and the French will agree upon. I hope not.

mark said...

Oh shit ... didn't think of that.
Silly me.