Monday, June 11, 2012

On Our Dignified Doorstep

I found a very intriguing newspaper article the other day, one penned by a woman named Deidra Parish Williams. This is what happened afterwards. 
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To Kill a Mockingbird
This book's Goodreads page
This book's Shelfari page. 
In the United States, there is a wondrous system of pushing our own shit into somebody else’s face to tell ourselves we don’t have it anymore. This phenomenon is seen on a grand scale as societal norms are used to preserve one’s own dignity by crushing that of another, to emphasize that one is superior, whether through use of racism or general bullying. Authors Harper Lee, William Blake, and Deidra Parish Williams have meditated on the aforementioned with their respective pieces, To Kill a Mockingbird, “The Human Abstract,” and “Turn the Target on Entrenched Racism.”
            The horrors of racism in American history are filled with friction between societal norms, racism that both To Kill a Mockingbird and “Turn the Target on Entrenched Racism” directly express.  The white, American population has historically preserved its sense of superiority by asserting that its societal norm is better than that of the African Americans. In To Kill a Mockingbird, child Scout Finch is continuously faced with this conflict, what with her father’s court case drawing her into direct contact with the Ewell family, some of the most expressively racist people in all of Maycomb. The family thinks racial superiority can reinforce the only small amount of dignity a severely impoverished family can have. Bob Ewell will even falsely charge Tom Robinson with the rape of his eldest daughter, Mayella, to be superior. Similarly, Williams’ husband was asked as a child to leave Garden City Streets because of his apparently inferior skin color—by police, no less. The horrors of how far humans will travel to protect their own dignity cannot be hidden even from innocent childhood; Williams is correct in stating how many whites of this time infer that the educational gap between minority communities-a major part of the African American societal norm- and W.A.S.P.-y areas of Long Island-the Caucasian societal norm- is due to the inferiority of black minds. Overall, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and “Turn the Target in Entrenched Racism” by Deidra Parish Williams show how racism is an example of friction between societal norms, friction whose goal is to maintain dignity. 
William Blake
Mr. Blake's Goodreads page.
            William Blake apparently believes that humans can go as far as forcing poverty on certain individuals in order to protect their dignity. Blake addresses the issue of racism more vaguely in his poem, “The Human Abstract,” starting with a mention of poverty and depression:
            Pity would be no more
            If we did not make somebody Poor;
            And Mercy no more could be.
            If all were as happy as we. (1-4)
Through a statement about the stamping on others to make ourselves superior, to make ourselves the not-pitied individuals of society, we see how every member of the black population can easily be thrown into the traditional norm of African Americans—the dirty, immoral, and inferior nigger. Next, he extends beyond the traditional tensions of the past and into what the majority of Americans feel today: a tree of “humility [taking] its root”, a growth of conviction to ensure that every bit of racism is erased from society.  However, Williams proves in her essay that this desire is unfulfilled. Nevertheless, we can see that William Blake’s “The Human Abstract” depicts both how friction between societal norms is a way of maintaining dignity as well as how people generally exemplify the aforementioned concept. 
            Look in the newspaper. I’m daring you. If you don’t find a single article that concerns one societal norm oppressing another, one societal norm trying to hang onto its dignity by enforcing its superiority, I’d be immensely surprised. The phenomenon is and has always been a prevalent quality of human society, as  
represented by the human racism exemplified in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird as well as Deidra Parish Williams’ “Turn the Target on Entrenched Racism.” Said phenomenon is also evident in “The Human Abstract” by William Blake, which targets the issue and how people deal with it more generally. Fearing this shit apparently doesn’t work, then, so society might as well just grow a pair and face it. There’s nothing to lose except our dignity.