Home

Ignorance is a Cure for Nothing

5 Comments

I cried in my car today. I was alone, tears streaming down my cheeks creating rivers in my morning makeup.

No, the cause was not familial – the kids, husband, home and hearth are fine. I am still employed – all is well on that front. I am in good health.

So what caused said downpour? It stemmed from The Souls of White Folk, by scholar-activist W.E.B. Du Bois. The Souls ...is a collection of essays written in-part from an academic point of view on race and being African American in America at the turn of the 20thcentury.

I say in-part because of Du Bois’ personal story in Chapter 11.  The previous ten chapters lay the foundation of his thesis that Negros, as they were called then, of the South need the right to vote, education, and to be treated as equals in order to strengthen the people and the nation. Du Bois uses the metaphor of the veil. He shows the reader how all African-Americans wear it because their view of the world and its potential economic, political, and social opportunities is so vastly different from that of white people. The veil is a visual manifestation of the color line.

A white woman in the West, 110 years after it was first published, I understand the premise, hear the history, value the heritage, and enjoy the research and approach. I’m cognizant that time, strife, determination and sheer will have brought about changes in our culture. Things are different – many things better – but race relations still evolve. Prejudice is pervasive.

Through the Libravox audiobooks app I eagerly paced through Du Bois’ seminal work the past week or so. The writing style is both descriptive and didactic. Due to his narrative I see the red earth of Georgia, the sweat of the sharecropper, the expanse of the color line. Each chapter begins with a classical quotation followed by several measures of an African American spiritual or tune to lay the foundation of the them of the chapter.

So Chapter 11 begins (you can listen here, and I recommend it because the narration is very good):

O sister, sister, thy first–begotten, The hands that cling and the feet that follow, The voice of the child’s blood crying yet, WHO HATH REMEMBERED ME? WHO HATH FORGOTTEN? Thou hast forgotten, O summer swallow, But the world shall end when I forget.” (Poem by Swinburne)

The song is the spiritual:  “I Hope My Mother Will Be There.”

Until this point, Du Bois is narrator and traveler through the south telling the reader what he has witnessed and solutions he recommends, but here he bears his soul.

Unto you a child is born,” sang the bit of yellow paper that fluttered into my room one brown October morning. Then the fear of fatherhood mingled wildly with the joy of creation; I wondered how it looked and how it felt–what were its eyes, and how its hair curled and crumpled itself.

This beautifully written soliloquy to his son, Burghardt, so personal, so filled with wonder, disappointment and heartbreak. He shares feelings for his own life, the south, a futile life of being born under the veil of racism in a crescendo of sorrow after losing his firstborn. I felt his sadness and rage as he plead to God for just this one bit of happiness in this life. He asked to save this one innocent human being, his son.

I am not any of the things that Du Bois was: sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, Pan Africanist, author and editor. But a thing we do share lo these years apart is the love of a child. It’s universal. It’s colorblind.

Ignorance is a cure for nothing, says Du Bois. This is why he wrote and why we read. Books – be they non-fiction or fiction – when written with humanity, help us to have a shared experience. Thank you W.E.B. Du Bois for teaching me today.

Care to read other books by African Americans? Here is a list of 50 to get you started.

Hello world!

7 Comments

Welcome to Playful Meanderings, a new WordPress blog to chat about life, books, travel, recreation and whatever else may come up.

Ok, blogging itself has been a longtime coming — but what inspires me to push away from the shore and wade into the blogging surf is that I’m at the halfway point of the year and I’m checking in on my New Year’s Resolution. Year 2012:  read 75 books in one year. Why did I make this goal? Well, after so many years of saying I’d get in shape, lose some lbs and trim back the calories, I thought to myself “You aren’t making the most of your mind.”

It’s so true. I live in this body and I need to take care of it — all of it. My mind needed stimulation outside of the routine. It needed refreshment and the exposure to new ideas, old ideas, points of view and everything that books bring to the reader. Invigorating the sponge upstairs to learn — or re-learn — history, discover the power of deeper thinking, and reshaping my spirit by diving into the written word were among the positive points to taking on this project.

Why 75? The seed got planted by an article a friend sent to me in which the author was expounding on the number of books he had read the previous year. I mistakenly thought my friend had written the article, not just forwarded it to me, and I thought, “He is challenging me! If he can read 75, then I can read 75!”  I made my resolution (and I had to come up with a plan to accomplish this ambitious number) and embarked on the project.

Funny thing is, I brought up his momentous reading to this same friend two months back, and he really didn’t know what I was talking about: “75 books. No,”  he replied. “I’m lucky to read 15.” Turns out I failed to note the author — something I’m bound to do again in this life. But what the heck, that mistake got me to get on with my journey into books.

So, 75 books.

Number one: Sounds expensive. Not so much. Turns out I have at least that many that I’ve never read around my house that I’ve been meaning to read. Also, I have a library card — fancy that —  and the library near my house has many, many more than 75 books that I’ve never read and been meaning to. Speaking of my library, they have a club,  friends of the library, that sells books twice a year- Lots of great books that I’ve been meaning to read. You get the picture. Then there’s this: when I said that I was going to read 75 books —  and only to a few people because what if I don’t do it? — they gave me some books. Folks, I am swimming in books right now!

Number two: Time. I don’t know about you, but I always think of myself as busy. Much too busy to read. Turns out I can bring a book to wherever I am waiting. Yes, I do a fair amount of that, for I am a mother, a worker, a consumer, a patient and a person. I wait for daughters at piano, at guitar, at church, at sporting events. I go to the dentist ( more than I would like) or doctor or places where you wait in line and I get out my book. I just have made it part of the routine to bring the book I’m skipping (or plowing) through currently. Ok, and I’ve given up most of my television watching. That alone created several hours in the week. I also cheat. What? Yes, a few people have called it that, and judge me if you will, but about 1/3 of the books I have read are during my commute. I am read to through the free audiobooks app. They are (http://librivox.org/ ) all books are in the public domain and read by volunteers into my car stereo. More about all of this in a later post, but I don’t call it cheating. I listen, learn and put the time into hearing these “books on tape” just as I would if holding a book in my hand and taking in the words on the printed page. And final note about time. — the more I read, the more I want to read. I’ve been known to read a little later into the night, forgo the morning paper in favor of my book, shoot out the garden door and read my book in the backyard instead of cleaning my house. Oh the joys of reading!

So where am I now on the delicious journey? Books #42 and #43. What? Yes, because I have the power of the app on audiobooks (which is free, by the way) I am always reading two books at once. No, the two books don’t always mesh together, but what the heck, I read two and three books at once when I was in college and I’m an American multitasker at heart.

No, this blog won’t be solely dedicated to books and the goal of reading 75 in one year, but the next few posts will certainly be about  the topic. I welcome your comments, suggestions and humorous stories about your own goals — be they new years resolutions or some other scheme to change your own life in a positive way.