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Black Lives' Burdens

"For as long as I can remember, certain relatives of mine were always dismayed and often enraged by the daily headlines and nightly news stories of crime," Khalil Gibran Muhammad writes in his New York Times' review of Black Silent Majority.

"As a kid I heard countless tales of the terrible outrages visited on black people by other black people: burglarizing homes, pulling guns and shooting at one another, too often claiming innocent bystanders in the crossfire. Some of these stories were personal testimonies of victimization. In my '70s childhood on Chicago's South Side, I was taught that some black people behaved despicably."

You'll have to click through to see where he's going with that.


By contrast:

"In her new memoir, Margo Jefferson, a former critic at The New York Times, chronicles a lifetime as a member of Chicago's black elite, a world she celebrates and problematizes by christening it (and her book) Negroland," Tracy K. Smith writes for the Times.

"'Negroland,' she writes, 'is my name for a small region of Negro America where residents were sheltered by a certain amount of privilege and plenty. Children in Negroland were warned that few Negroes enjoyed privilege or plenty and that most whites would be glad to see them returned to indigence, deference and subservience. Children there were taught that most other Negroes ought to be emulating us when too many of them (out of envy or ignorance) went on behaving in ways that encouraged racial prejudice.'

"That warning - that manner of instilling in children the understanding that with privilege comes responsibility - strikes me as the true impetus for Jefferson's book. For once we become accustomed to delicious glimpses of Negroland's impeccable manners and outfits, the meticulously orchestrated social opportunities and fastidiously maintained hairstyles, what we begin to notice is the cost and weight of this heavy collective burden."


Here's Jefferson on Fresh Air:



"U.S. medical schools typically send out books to their incoming first-year class to give students a glimpse of the profession they're about to embark upon," Virginia Linn writes for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

"Rush Medical College in Chicago, for example, mailed to its class of 2019 The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, the true story of a poor black woman whose cells - taken without her knowledge in 1951 - have been used to develop everything from the polio vaccine to gene mapping."


Here's Lacks author Rebecca Skloot on WKNO-TV, public broadcasting for the Mid-South:


Comments welcome.


Posted on September 22, 2015

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