Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Response to Blood Done Sign My Name

In response to p. 39 of Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson

I am still thinking about when Tyson talked about the “sex-race complex.” It took me few readings to understand James Baldwin when said to conservative James J. Kilpatrick “You’re not worried about me marrying your daughter—you’re worried about me marrying your wife’s daughter. I’ve been marrying your daughter since the days of slavery,” (Tyson 39). He was talking about the rape of black women since the period of African enslavement, the imagination by the dominant power structures of black women as the mule of society and white women as the coveted carriers of the white race. It is fascinating that Tyson couples this with education. It was a “crime” punishable by death to educate an enslaved African American in the antebellum South and considered completely “useless” to educate a woman. Prior to reading this, I thought of this system of oppression in very specific terms. From my view, the reason to deprive people of education is it is dangerous to the ruling class to educate women, people of color and poor folks because with education comes power. When a person and community can write and read, that is an incredible tool. When studying with Professor Paul Ortiz, he always stresses the link between reading, writing and social justice. He makes in explicit in his courses that if we, as University students want to contribute to social justice it is imperative that we get in the practice of constantly reading and writing. These are invaluable tools. When I read Tyson’s explication of the “race-sex complex” my field of thought broadened to thinking about the physical space of a school and intellectual common ground. Now, with integrated schools the white supremacy is threatened not only by women and folks of color become educated, it is threatened by the physical space and intellectual commons that people are starting to share. When the relationships between blacks and whites are taken, even partially, out the control of white male supremacy and put partially in the hands of children, the dominant ideologies and stereotypes are challenged and potentially broken every day. This possibility terrified many whites when Tyson was growing up. He talked about how whites were resisting integrated education not because they were afraid of people getting the same education (which clearly whites/blacks/men/women did not regardless of whether classrooms were integrated or not) but of white women and the white race being contaminated by black men.

The more I read and think about the paragraph on page 39 of Blood Done Sign My Name the more it turns my stomach and pisses me off. When I think about the segregation that Tyson describes in the book, I cannot help but think about the segregation I have experienced in schooling. I think it is interesting that so many people relegate segregation to the South, when I have seen the same actions and the same result from my schools in California. As a woman, I have been frustrated by the level of respect and rigor offered me in classes and as a white person, I am constantly finding new ways in which I receive privileges that add to the oppression of people of color. And now, I am thinking about all this in terms of white male supremacy protecting and insuring their survival by depriving the minds and bodies of people who look different than them from so many rights- only one of which is education.


awolf said...

When reading these first chapters of the book I was surprised to read a book based on a white boy/man growing up in a racially segregated town. I have read many books about race issues but I do not think have read a novel based on a white person’s perspective of race since fourth grade when I read Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli. While reading these beginning chapters I also honed in on the “sex-race complex.” Not only do people who can be considered as clear “Racists” worry about this “problem,” even civil rights movements found conflict over this complex. In previous classes I have learned about civil rights movements who dealt with this exact issue. Members in SNCC were extremely possessive over women and men of the same race. Male white members and female black members were very upset when white women would have relationships with black men. On the white side the men thought that the girls were being taken away and taken advantage of, they considered the female white members who hooked up with black men to be sluts. The female black members thought that the white women were taking the “few good black men” from them and visa versa. I have even found this “sex-race complex” in my own life. I went to a Jewish high school for junior and senior year of high school and when we had dances a few of the ultra religious teachers would want to exclude non Jewish people from the dances because they did not want the Jewish students to become attracted to the non Jewish students. This “sex-race complex” can easily be scene in today’s culture in many different aspects of everyday life.

Radical South said...
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Radical South said...

I remember reading about the "sex-race complex" that Tyson refers to in regards to SNCC as well, but I did not remember until you mentioned it here. Great example- especially considering a lot of the white folks that were participating in SNCC were from the liberal, progressive North. Though our course study of the complex is rooted in Southern history it is not a phenomenon exclusive to the region.

Your comment reminds us that discrimination and prejudice are not limited to the South nor to race- both key themes we will be focusing on throughout the course.