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Election Results and Wayward Lives

By Blog Master
Posted: 11/10/2020
- Thanks to Sharon Jarrett -

Meeting November 6, 2020

Before the reading was discussed, the election was of interest to the group and briefly discussed.  Some thoughts included the use of infrastructure projects to build unity or finding another common purpose to bring people together.

The article for discussion was "How Saidiya Hartman Retells the History of Black Life" by Alexis Okeowa from The New Yorker, October 19, 2020. Hartman’s latest book is entitled “Wayward Lives”.

Many of the group were unable to access the article and the discussion focused on reflections on 3 questions that were suggested by the content:

1.   Has slavery really ended?  The discrimination and exploitation that characterize slavery has continued to the present day.

2.   Is this where you're staying?  A question that asks where someone is staying without conveying permanence, ownership or belonging.

3.   Water has memory.  A river returns to itself...The author has a similar quality in her writing.

It was noted that the Huntington Library has sponsored a number of lectures related to slavery as a commercial practice.  A recent lecture discussed maritime law and slavery including the meaning of water to those individuals being transported by sea.  The lecture can be viewed on the Huntington website.

The program "Enslaved" featured on Amazon Prime was recommended as it addressed some of the issues incorporated in the questions.

It was noted that the impermancy implied by the question, "Where you stayin?" Had an additional consideration.  For a period of time only property owners were allowed to vote.

Relative to the question of if slavery has ended, multiple examples of discrimination such as red lining were mentioned.  It was noted that the working class poor could be viewed as being exploited. Additional examples included the manner by which insurance rates were determined.  Reviewing these practices led to a discussion of the idea that people "are paying for your skin color".

Focusing on the question "Are attitudes shifting?" The following points were made:

1.  A member noted that 60 years ago, there was one African American in their Harvard class, at a recent re union the demographics were very different.

2.   There is an increase in the number of African Americans in all aspects of politics.

3.   The increase in the number of conversations about "isms" is positive.

4.   Fifty percent of voters selected Trump suggesting that racial inequality is not an important concern for many voters.

5.  It is unclear what people fear, if a loss of status is a factor or are other factors also in play.

6.   It was noted that studies have been done suggesting there may be brain based processes leading to "us/them" thinking.  Self awareness and reasoned thinking could be helpful in eliminating these ideas.

7.   The use of fear as a mechanism of control, tribalism and belonging and insecurity were noted as possible factors in discrimination.  A final suggestion for reflection was that discrimination may be a class rather than a racial issue.

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