Sunday, April 14, 2013

"Gal, You Better Know Your Place": Harper Lee, Jim Crow, and Racism in 2013

This week, my Freshmen and I will be reading Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird.  In order to prepare for this journey, I have been reviewing information regarding Jim Crow.  Also, I saw 42.  While in the theater, I asked myself the following question:

Does Jim Crow still exist?

My response:  Yes.

Last week, I asked my Freshmen what was the relevance of teaching Lee's novel in 2013.  Surprisingly, the majority of my students stated that due to America's issues with race, the book must be taught.  Inwardly, I agreed.  Despite the fact that President Obama was re-elected, racism is alive and well in 2013.   As a woman of color, who holds a Ph.D., I am constantly having to "prove" myself.  I've had to bite my tongue so hard that I am surprised that I have any taste buds. One of the worst incidents of racism that I have experienced occurred two years ago.  A former colleague said, "Dr. Cobb, would you please "water down" your vocabulary?  It makes others feel somewhat inferior." 

How does one even begin to respond to a comment of this nature?  

Yesterday, I sat back and watched the depiction of Jackie and Rachel Robinson's life.  I watched as Hollywood attempted to share Mr. Robinson's ordeals with his teammates and America.  It was the "salve" that I needed.  For, if he could handle adversity of this nature, then my so-called problems are minuscule.  I said, "Cicely, as your mother told you every day last week, you are authentic.  Remember that."  

My 2nd hour class stated that America's new racist is their age group.  I cringed.  This is the first generation where interracial marriages and biracial children are the "norm"; however, they contend that this same group should be society's most feared.

What can be done to change this?  Whitney Houston urged us to "teach the children" in order for them to "show us the way."  We are doing that; however, my friends, who take public transportation, recently heard a group of children repeatedly saying the N-word.  Across America, are children simply wearing masks while in school, and once the bell rings, their true self emerges?

Freshmen, in order to understand Jim Crow, I encourage you to see 42.

Oh, Harper Lee, if you were to write a novel in 2013, what would you have to say about America and race?  As my friend, Dr. Gwen Tarbox, would say, "Cee, it's time for you to begin where Lee left off and write. that. book."