Day 184 (of 189) stamped (the remix) by @jasonreynolds83 based on @dribram Stamped from the beginning (so I had to read that too)
*I don’t like some of the language I use in here, it is reflective of the text, so, much as I had to, get over it and focus on the ideas over syntax and word choice.” Also while it doesn’t feel right to say I “enjoyed” the book(s), the remix made me want to read the original…. and has me highly recommending these reads!
Love the introduction starting off right away admitting this is what Dr Ibram wished he learned from history class at a younger age… my connection is the shame I felt about not learning about Canada’s residential school system until my final years at university – even though I grew up in a community hugely impacted by it and took Canadian history courses that did not talk about it. We need to know the past to do better.
A couple paragraphs in and I am adding Stamped from the Beginning to my reading list!
Race. It’s worth talking about. Not the r-word. Not forbidden. And not just for a “special day/month/event”.
And three key words to keep in mind while reading: segregationists. assimilationist. antiracists.
The way-too-simple definitions:
Segregationists are the haters – hate you for not being like them.
Assimilationist “like” you because you’re like them…or could be….
Antiracists like you because you’re like you.
The three identities do interweave as well… can be “both” and … “and”.
And a great call-out (and naming names) of the Worlds First Racist. Who first shared that enslaving people was missionary work to civilize African “savages”. Slavery had of course happened before this, and often included Eastern Europeans, but this guy (not spoiling the name – for that you need the book!) one-upped the competition with his skin colour focus and defending Black human ownership.
More history books need to be written like this…especially as student-used “textbooks”.
Because other books pointed out that black was bad (bible) and that the slave was just a part of the family (1590 Ordering a Familie) it also led to the creation of a human hierarchy – as the puritans who came to the America’s wanted a purer form of Christianity and with the opening of the first school (Harvard) the founders, Cotton and Mather, built off Aristotle’s ranking of Greeks then non-Greeks, to the Puritan hierarchy of: Puritans, Native Americans (sic), Anglican (English non-puritans), everyone else non-puritans, especially last: African people.
Harvard helped this get woven into the education systems of the America’s to parallel the religious shares…all that as needed was more slaves…
Yikes. Pretty rough when it comes right does to it.
Speaking of rough, there are also important add-ons to the highlights I remember from my textbooks. I remember we talked about the philosopher John Locke. His views that Whites had perfect minds while Blacks had dirty brains didn’t make that text summary…
And I appreciate the reminder that this was not a global mindset and many fought against slavery as well. But the opposition made it pretty simple. They needed slaves to make $$
And the shoutout to the Native Americans (sic – ooh, in case you wondered, “sic” is used to cover up word choices as not necessarily the word/tense/term “I” would use, but that the author of the text/quote used. I won’t use it all the timed, but in reference to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation agreement, I feel it necessary here.) is greatly appreciated.
And I can’t even begin to summarize the contradiction that is Thomas Jefferson (except that it is making me think of the real time question in the media about changing the name of some US military bases that were named after generals and leaders of the confederacy….the slave state’s…the rebels) contradictions abound.
An intriguing look at Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Toms Cabin and how it helped be the gasoline needed for a rights fight – empowering the often unmentioned “other group” in inequity stories: women. And I find it interesting that a “story” was more of a catalyst than speeches or non-fiction writings. There is power in story!
Thinking of complex people – Abraham Lincoln was a bit more complicated than being “the great emancipator”. There are some great reflections on the evolutionary road towards the Emancipation Proclamation and the ending is roughly: is it a coincidence that three days after Abe said “Blacks (the intelligent ones) should have the right to vote” that he was assassinated…?
This book is likewise complex: I should not be “enjoying” reading about the slavery process, but Reynolds is a master storyteller – bringing out some good, tough reflection but also feeling like I am understanding the whole process much better than I ever did via textbooks and encyclopedias. It feels wrong to say that I love this book because the story is so incredibly wrong, if it weren’t so true.
Really like the reflection that early rights activists had the same destination in mind, but often varied greatly on the route to take on the journey to get there!
Awkward to really get the bigger message about the USA as a “land of freedom” when so many had no freedom – the WWII call for Double V – victory over fascism overseas and victory over racism at home just further illustrates the depth of the systemic – or really multiple systems, at work to divide people because of race.
Not to mention things like white flight – where I have heard recent podcasts talking about first hand stories of families selling houses and moving in the middle of the night the first time a “black family” moved into a “white neighborhood “.
And then the shift to non-violent protests (sit ins et al) that paralleled the rise of Dr King. Not waiting for a “white saviour” that wasn’t coming, but making points of equality. But not all were content with the non violent protests leading to violent reprisals, which led to an acknowledgement of a split in methods with the rise of Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. Polarizing but after seeing events such as bloodhounds attacking youth in Birmingham, change needed to happen (parallels to the world I am seeing in the after affects of the police killing of George Floyd).
It led to civil rights legislation, the March of Washington and despite a “white washed” (choosing that word deliberately) speakers list, led to the powerful “I have a dream} speech. Mind you, the enforcement of the Civil Rights ACT of 1964 was still in doubt (actually, not doubt – it wasn’t going to be universally enforced).
If we who do not learn from our history are doomed to repeat it…. we need to do some better learning. So many names being persecuted by authority because of their skin colour – and so many more unnamed. At the end, as you reflect on its history/not history book-ness: “it leads back to the question of whether you, reader, want to be a segregationist (a hater), an assimilationist (a coward), or an antiracist (someone who truly loves).”
So of course I had to dig deeper and get into Dr Ibram X Kendis “Stamped from the beginning” to further understand the stray behind a Jason Reynolds “remix”
And wow. From Aristotle holding the Greeks superior to barbarians (all non Greeks…all) there is a cascade of betters get to enslave the others (in Europe starting with the Slavs, before the slave traders noticed that different looks weren’t as easy to hate as skin colour (way over simplification admittedly). And the justifications they used were certainly “fast and loose” and not surprisingly, amazingly made up. Anti slavers were able to be ignored and kept quiet because money talks and slaves were making some people…enough people…rich.
And an interesting tidbit that “race” did not make it into a dictionary until 1606 as “means descent”. And from the first inroads of slavery to the americas, it was clear they were “stamped from the beginning” as racially distinct people and lower than others…
And some looks into the ways of some historical figures that no history book I went in to: I was a fan of Voltaire with his statement “I may not agree with you, but will defend your right to say it”, but his views on “peoples” has me rethinking some thoughts, much as some writings may like to emphasize the words: all men are created equal, but that didn’t mean they agreed that groups of “man” were equal… except for criminalizing “runaways” and silencing women – more of a Declaration of Independence for some….
Oh the complexities of Thomas Jefferson.
Oh the narrow mindedness. The comparison I seem to come to is temperature and measurement. Fahrenheit rather than Celsius and imperial over the metric system, slavery instead of non-slavery because just because the rest of the world thinks that way doesn’t mean “we” (United States) should – just because “we” fought for freedom doesn’t mean freedom should be for all….. It feels juvenile when I type it out, but the arguments of the centuries “for slavery” seem to fit that….
So many “facts” that weren’t/aren’t factual.
Frederick Douglass “Narrative” – that’s my next turn down this rabbit hole!
OMG. The origin of the “hair” topic that I too often see on Twitter – white hair good, black…well, not even hair, but wool…. <— seriously?? 1850…how ridiculous.
How could the land of liberty, the land of freedom… have slavery
Interesting how “land rights” became an issue when land for freed slaves were being discussed more so than it ever did when land rights of Native Americans (sic) had been debated…
Cincinnati Enquirer story about the end of the civil war: “slavery is dead, the negro (sic) is not, there is our misfortune”. ouch.
Turn of the century: “In a poem printed in McClure’s Magazine in 1899, the literary prophet of British imperialism, Rudyard Kipling, urged Americans to “Take up the White Man’s burden— / Send forth the best ye breed— / Go send your sons to exile / To serve your captives’ need / To wait in heavy harness / On fluttered folk and wild— / Your new-caught, sullen peoples / Half devil and half child.” To promote further imperialism expansion of the United States and bring “civilization” to more “barbarians”. Sigh. But then again, his other writings are similarly “white imperialist in nature” and help further racist thinking.
Fabulous (disturbing) shares on the roles of media – initially books – the power of story – both in terms of anti-racism and outright racism. I don’t think I’ll be able to hear the “Tarzan yell” with innocence anymore. And then the turn of the 20th century had “Birth of a Nation” – the shame that it was even shown in the White House – a building by the way, I mis-learned as having been named after the white coating was the only thing that could cover up the scorch marks from the War of 1812, but now find out it is likely Teddy Rosevelt named it such after inviting W.E.B Du Bois for dinner at the house and received huge backlash for inviting a black man to the Presidents House as if they were social equals (I know, right!?!) and to try to appease segregationists, officially named the presidents residence the “White House”. As (and I’m hugely paraphrasing here) the country had been built by white men for white men….
Anyways, the embarrassment of a movie that is entitled “Birth of a Nation” is named after a book called “The Clansmen” – yep, KKK (and why in our own province of BC while I am reading this, the nickname of SFU – the Clan – is being discussed, because even thought it has absolutely no connection to Klan – and is based on Simon Frasers Scottish heritage and the Clan system there…. it sounds similar enough in these times to …. need to be thought about. But it was clear that movies were much more effective ways to expand racist thinking than minstrel shows ever were. Empowered the Ku Klux Klan to be revitalized and terrorize Jews, immigrants, socialists, Catholics, and of course: Blacks.
Ahhh, and then after WW I came and emphasis on eugenics and arguments for maintaining racial purity – led books such as The Passing of the Great Race which emphasized Nordic blood as the key ingredient for the rise of civilizations (or lack of it for their fall….) which of course inspired a certain Austrian who became the leader of Germany…
Oh yeah, eugenics is also what helped popularize things like the IQ Test and many other standardized tests. Racial hierarchy, that’s what they were all about.
And when King Kong came out, it was subtly a remake of Birth of a Nation, bringing in much of the same thinking’s just using a giant ape in place of a black man….without ever saying a word about black people….
It snuck by mass criticism, but Amos ‘n Andy sure got blasted…as it should’ve! Popular as it was with some of the audience laughing at the program, others “with” the program…
Very nice points around mis-education; both in terms of stereotypes, but also about what was not included – if you can’t learn truth in history, you can’t know what you don’t know….
And (a poor but blunt synthesis on my part) it can’t be up to black people to teach white people to be antiracist.
I really appreciate how well Dr Kendi navigates some very triggering language thought the evolution and progression through the years in this book – very skilled to ‘normalize’ some language without being offensive, but also not making it too easy to gloss over.
Because the social media hits just keep coming: Jessie Owens being treated better in Nazi Germany during the Olympics than he was at home. Gone with the Wind redefining and further fuelling inaccurate views of slavery.
And after WWII, by declaring the US as the leader of the free world – an inward look was needed to see if the US was actually as free as it wanted other nations to be….
Desegregation finally was taking hold. In the army. In Major League Baseball with Jackie Robinson (whose #42 is rightly retired league wide)
Brown vs Board though. School segregation. Sigh.
Then Dr King and another book: To Kill a Mockingbird that showed more ways that civil rights was a serious national (international?) topic. That it was not just a “southern issue”.
And then George Wallace and his segregation forever political stance. 😶
Letter from the Birmingham Jail. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_from_Birmingham_Jail
The reminder of Bull Connors reaction in Birmingham on May 3 1963 unfortunately makes me think of recent events around the US (and world) in reaction to the death of George Floyd – and specifically when President Trump wanted to do a photo op at a church and park near the White House. Unsettling.
Angela Davis ♥️
JFK conspiracies? Different book for those – but the timing after some of his statements…. the civil rights bill kinda had huge memorial momentum and couldn’t be stopped though…. even though 57 days of filibustering tried…
Ahhh. Then the “private clubs” to ignore segregation and instill “whites only” rules.
The assassination of Dr King….. and the reaction that had to come from the killing of the non-violent leader of the civil rights movement….
So much turbulence that Dr Kendri weaves – decades and politics and media and how the issue of race kept being kept…being an issue. His sharings on elements like the CIA backed infiltration of drugs like cocaine into the nation remind me of watching TV as a youth and…weirdly in rural BC our cable system provided us with TV stations from Detroit…. watching the heart breaking stories of crack babies – and the assumption that these kids stood no chance in life (1986 crack was time magazines issue of the year) yet few reports highlighted the triumphs of these people who grew up with less issues than those born with alcohol and nicotine impacting them. But that wasn’t a story with a clear enough racial divide I guess…?
And then Dr Kendi shares similar: poverty has more negative effects on kids than being a crack baby did. Like so many myths, crack babies and their lack of humanity was just a myth.
So,e fabulous takeaways and troubling thinking’s from this book. Also making me think about the importance of learning and doing better. Whether the scandal of our own Prime Minister wearing blackface at a Halloween event decades ago, or the coach at Oklahoma State wearing an OAN shirt – there needs to be opportunities to allow people to do better. Not just cast blame, but learn, think, synthesize and do better. Not just lip service.
I freely admit that I wish organizations such as NAACP and affirmative action did not exist – because there is no need for them, much as I wish we did not have job postings “giving preference to people of xx background” because that has not been part of my world – in that I was taught to look for character (what people do when no one is watching) and I realize now that there are systemic pieces that are exclusionary and may have benefited me in ways I don’t even see.
The remix by Jason Reynolds is a fabulous read. And I think accessible for a broad audience. But exploring the Dr Kendi original is like a deep dive down into the deep cuts of an album anthology. The hits are there but likewise so much more. He may not have intended to write this book, but we are all better because of it. Thank you Dr Kendi for opening even more rabbit holes to explore to be a better antiracist.