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Tag Archives: James Baldwin

Not Essay, Nor Fiction, But Prose: Of Narration

In his manifesto Reality Hunger, David Shields uses assemblage to curate a dialogue about the limits of The Real. The voices he appropriates and sequences implicitly argue that our increasingly urgent twenty-first century desire for reality is compromised by the fact that our storytelling mechanisms are growing further from it. As Shields notes (without acknowledging in the text proper that he is parroting E. L. Doctorow), “There’s no longer any such thing as fiction or nonfiction; there’s only narrative.”

Observing Black History Month

* A.L. Major *

So far 2014’s Black History Month has elicited the familiar feelings of dread and anticipation I often experience during this time of year. An all-girls school in Northern California created a Black History Month menu of fried chicken, cornbread and watermelon. Nick Cannon protested a Harriet Tubman Google Doodle all by himself. George Zimmerman, a murderer who refuses to cower away into obscurity, claims that he fears for his life yet agreed to participate in a celebrity boxing match, goading on the only famous black men he could think of, rappers Kayne West and DMX. American cultural values are deeply confused when women become famous for making sex tapes (Kim Kardashian, Paris Hilton, etc.) and white men become famous for murdering black teenagers. Something is insidiously wrong if I’m expecting the worst during a time that’s supposed to be celebratory and contemplative.

Every Halloween

* A.L. Major *

I’ve come to expect offensive portrayals of blackness during Halloween, but this past year’s trend of impersonating Trayvon Martin seemed unusually cruel. I’ve never understood why certain white people love black face. I can only imagine those who love blackface or find the use of “blackface” funny enjoy dehumanizing blackness. Blackface has been used for racial parody since the early 1800s, and slowly over the years Halloween has become a season for racial parody within a larger social framework that thrives on dehumanizing blackness for its own survival. Blackness as monstrous. I’ve been thinking about this as a concept more and more, especially this Halloween as I perused photos of people who could not have possibly seen and understood Trayvon Martin as a human being.