Tuesday, April 5, 2016
A Race Against Time
One thing I had to keep in mind throughout reading these critiques and commentaries about Black and Black Feminist literature is that I am neither Black nor a woman. Though I can appreciate the historical struggle that has surrounded these people, I can not fully relate to what they have undergone. It seemed to me that through these articles there was a clear argument between the importance of telling the "only 'truth'" (duCille, 560) and the "obligation to tell the truth" (Gates, 4) while appreciating that "people's truths differ" (Gates, 4). I disagree with the sentiments of DuCille in suggesting that "One can be black or a woman, but claiming both identities places one on shaky familial ground" (duCille, 560). Instead, I feel this is just another crucial side of the story that should not be ignored and which Alice Walker tries to depict in her work The Color Purple. Just as she suggests it would be a crime to walk through a field without noticing the beauty of the color purple, so too would it be an injustice to only depict the struggle of African American people as only a race while ignoring the role being a Black woman has played in the history over over 50% of the African American population. To answer W.E.B. Du Bois' first question, I do not think there should be "limitations as to the sort of [Negro] character [an author] will portray" (Gates, 3) as long as the character portrayed is true. It is futile as an author, especially one trying to propagate the motives and goals of an entire culture, to present important characters in an unrealistic or inaccurate light. However, the injustices and cruelties suffered by specifically African American woman in terms of sexual and physical assault is part of the greater truth that needs to be depicted. However, it is important not to take these individual transgressions, regardless of the number, as an overall indictment of all Black men which seems to be what many critics take it as. It is important to appreciate that these authors "motivation in revealing what we have experienced is not to downgrade the image of the race, but simply to tell the truth" (Gates, 6). If Alice Walker only told her story from the perspective of a Black person, as opposed to her true identity as a Black woman, she would be foregoing the depiction of her true experience in favor of promoting a falsely idealized depiction of all African Americans. There are issues and problems within all race, cultural, genders, and religious interactions and to ignore these in literature would be a grave sin since literature has such a powerful ability to express a truth in as loud a voice as possible that may have only resided in shadows and whispers before, especially the plight of sexual and physical abuse. Jack White explains it well saying that "people are best served by freedom, not restraint; by open debate not self imposed limitation" (Gates, 21). In literature, the author and characters must be free to be who they truly are and must create accurate depictions of what is happening in the world without fear of censoring important aspects of themselves or the truth.