Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Miss Amy's Witness

The first paragraph of chapter four, "Miss Amy's Witness,” has a powerful quote from James Baldwin that truly caught my eye. Tyson is recounting a lesson he learned from him in the first grade, that "the realization that a civilization is not destroyed by wicked people; it is not necessary that people be wicked, but only that they be spineless," (61). This is a theory explored much more when it comes to the German support, or indifference to the rise of Nazi power, as Baldwin later mentions on page 63. I had never thought of it in terms of slavery and racism, though it is obviously incredibly applicable. The basis of spineless support might stem, like mentioned in class, from a basic selfish economic need. Without the slave trade and subsequent free labor, it is undoubted that our country would have never become to economic power it became; and without the rallying behind a common voice and singular leader in Germany who subsequently installed his own free labor system with the Jewish population, Germany would have had a much more difficult time coming back from the economic depression post World War One. The economic draw for the wicked acts of the spineless people, once essentially used up, evolved into a hatred and superiority complex that still exists today, and it is this blind hatred that Baldwin spoke of.
It is truly a selfish decidedly ignorant attitude, which provides the basis for the spinelessness that Baldwin either equates to, or thinks lesser of, then wickedness. By choosing to “go with the flow,” of the society or culture, we are making a conscious decision to NOT decide. It is along the same lines of citizens of the world not making an effort to buy non “made in China” products and in effect support the Sudanese genocide. By not choosing to buy local or other worldly goods, it is not an innate wickedness that is being perpetrated, but a spinelessness to do anything different. The culture of the South that Tyson writes about is one that decided to stay segregated, and ignorant. What social revolution that still needs to happen everywhere, not just in the South, is the idea that Tyson was raised on, that, “if you didn’t take a stand at all, you weren’t much of a man..” (64). I admire the parenting Tyson received that gave him such a strong basis in basic humanistic respect in, at his time, such a backwards town and region of our country. His father’s reasoning, that every man, woman, and child is equal in the eyes of God, is interesting in the sense that racist white preachers of the same era used the same bible, yet were able to come to completely different rhetorical ideas about race. As Dagny spoke about in the previous post, it is really through education that people become empowered and can hopefully overcome their own ignorant and hateful spinelessness syndromes.

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