Some great connections...
Friday, August 8, 2008
Taking a break from our discussion while I dip into nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word by Randall Kennedy as well as The Construction and Representation of Race and Ethnicity in the Caribbean and the World by Mervyn Alleyne. Alleyne's is the more substantial tome but they're both good books, well worth having. One discovers from Alleyne (p. 50), for example, that the famous line from the Song of Songs (1:5) "I am black but comely" in fact reads in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament, dating from about 270 BC), "I am black and (kai) beautiful." Most of the early commentators on the Old Testament book also read "and", not "but". It's The Vulgate (fourth century AD) that advances the reading, "black but beautiful". So why would God allow the perversion of his anointed word? He's a funny one, God – to hark back to the previous post, a very interactive teacher. Which brings me to the second item from the grab bag, courtesy this time of an observation from Professor Kennedy's book. He reminds (p. 43-4) that the word nigga pervades lyrics and song titles in rap music, and has done so ever since. He identifies "Niggaz with Attitude" as one of the seminal influences in gansta rap. So that one must wonder about the furore concerning Nas's album title. Assuming that it wasn't all just a PR stunt, might the brouhaha have anything to do with the fact that the Democratic Presidential candidate is a black man? Without doubt, Senator Obama, by insisting on keeping race out of the presidential campaign has, paradoxically, focussed the issue in a very particular way, or set of ways. There is a concern, not just with "a black man running for President" but with "racism", "race relations", "the impact of being a person of colour in America". (I am reminded of a Walcott poem, "Missing the Sea", in which the absence of the sea becomes a palpable presence.) The strategy has enlarged the discussion and, to a not inconsiderable extent, invested it with sobriety, gravitas. Cool move, Barack! The third item in the grab bag is a bit of medical business, an alert, if you will. It seems that many people afflicted with diabetes and celiac disease go undiagnosed for years, during which the body suffers damage caused by the two diseases. There are tests for both. Have a look at the symptoms online or in a reliable medical book. Ask to be tested. And finally, a reminder that we'll shortly be taking a look at the Preface to Jamaica Woman, in particular the first paragraph. Our interest is to identify the criteria according to which poets were chosen for inclusion in the collection, since one or two people appear to have missed it. More on this in our next post. Be well. Enjoy the cooling temperatures.