Monday, November 28, 2016

Sethe Makes Lemonade

In Beyonce's Lemonade, the visual album draws together music, visual elaboration, and spoken lines. The contrast between the spoken poetry and the thriving beats that lay behind the music amplifies the effects of both; the gentle, eerie, music box-like background to the poetic elements served as a powerful antithesis to the smooth, often vivacious music that preceded and followed it. This magnified intensity of the two elements coupled with powerful imagery that follows the tone of the background pushes forth an unabashed exhibition of raw emotion.
Similarly, in Toni Morrison's Beloved, Morrison uses starkly contrasted imagery to convey the discordant humanity and inhumanity that follows slaves throughout their whole lives. For example, the scars on Sethe's back are described by Amy Denver as a "chokeberry tree". The natural beauty of a tree contrasts between the unnatural perversion of humanity that couples with slavery and beating another human being, Furthermore, chokeberries are a very sour fruit and are usually made into jam, tea, or syrup before consuming. This ties into Sethe's healing process. She needs to process the sourness of slavery into something sweet enough to look back on.
When life gives you lemons (or chokeberries), make lemonade (or jam). Perhaps both Beyonce and Sethe need medium to process their emotions, despite the varying severity of their woes.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Beyonce and Beloved

While watching Beyoncé's Lemonade, in the subsection of “Anger,” Beyoncé said a line that had striking similarity to Toni Morrison’s, Beloved; specifically when Paul D, was using trees to navigate north to find the fleeting reality of freedom, that existed for a black person.

Beyoncé’s line, “I don't know when love became elusive. What I know is, no one I know has it. My father's arms around my mother's neck, fruit too ripe to eat. I think of lovers as trees ... growing to and from one another. Searching for the same light,” has extreme parallels to Paul D's Escape. They are both trying to find something that doesn't exist in there world-freedom and love. Beyoncé uses trees to metaphorically to say that, people go through relationship and relationship, or tree to tree, trying to find love. While Paul D, is using Beyoncés metaphor physically, going tree to tree to find freedom. Both being almost impossible to catch.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Stamp's Indecision

"Six times in as many days he abandoned his normal route and tried to knock at 124" (203). I find how Stamp Paid cannot bring himself to knock on the door of 124 peculiar. We learn that for his services, he is allowed to freely walk into a home without having to knock. It is something that he has done before many times and has never knocked. However, he feels a need to knock when he goes to Sethe's home after the attack.

After finally going, he begins to feel that he stayed away from 124 for too long. If he knew that he should have gone and visited Sethe, why did he have such a hard time going back. The text says that he went several times after trying to knock the first time.

Beyonce's Lemonade

We have started to watch Beyonce's Lemonade during our english class yesterday. I definitely understand why it was a controversal album. It was very explicit, very raw, and it picked the brain a little bit. Before each song there was a poem that she read. Before that there was one word put on the screen that was sort of the theme of the poem and the song. The music was outstanding and the poems were very well written. Each song felt like it touched a different genre which is genius on Beyonce's part. Under all of the music and acting and speaking in the album there seems to be an underlying theme. One is Black women empowerment. During the album a playback of Malcom X's speech that talk about black women oppression was played. Malcolm X stated that the most oppressed group of people in america is the black women. I can definitely agree with that statement. I agree because let's look at the chart of inequality for a second. At the bottom of the list which is the group that is most oppressed are black people. Because the most oppressed group are black people that automatically makes the black women the most oppressed group. That is because women are definitely more oppressed then men so any group that is oppressed at all by default the women in that group are more oppressed. I like Lemonade and I believe what Beyonce has done was raise awareness of this social problem. With everyone talking about LGBT rights and black lives she wants to remind everyone that gender equality is still a major problem in America. Left unaddress this problem can continue for generation which is unacceptable.

When life gives you lemons

In class, we have been watching Beyonce's Lemonade movie. Throughout the movie, Beyonce has many quotes which reflect the stance she takes on race and gender stereotypes. Beyonce's movie is interesting to watch, because personally I have never watched a full movie of an artist's album. The movie breaks down many stereotypes by the way that Beyonce talks, and the way she acts while the song is going on. She is obviously trying to show her true beliefs while showing them in a captivating way.

I was captivated by the quotes she meticulously thought of and placed in the perfect places. The first quote that struck out to me was, "So what are you going to say at my funeral now that you've killed me? Here lies the mother of my children both loving and dead. Rest in peace my true love who I took for granted." Beyonce is stating the thoughts of many women who have been betrayed by their husbands. Beyonce is trying to say that women need to be able to stand up against their husbands if they are not being treated the way they should be.

Lemon Kids

Beyonce's Lemonade is filled to the brim with abstract images and intricate color themes. Aside from being a part of the imagery what do they mean? Lemonade is an exploration of feminism, career and self across varying times and places.

Much of the visual album is based on Beyonces generational link to New Orleans, Louisiana. Fort Macomb is featured and used to display the persistence of history on the issues brought to light. Even the tunnels of the fort represented a part of history, the underground railroad.

However even with these ties there is no real divider between past and present or what is real or fake. However, there is no divider in the video that divides past from present, and what is real or fake. The visual-album flows from imagery of the bayou, to the colorful streets of New Orleans, then to Fort Macomb. In this way it portrays a dream Beyonce has to begin to solve the issues.

The Conflict of Being Unrespected: Representations of African Americans in Beloved and Beyonce's Lemonade

Despite the theme of this post having to be about Beloved, I feel like not mentioning some of the connections I found between this work and Lemonade would be doing it a disservice. While I understand that there are many people who believe that both Beloved and Lemonade are stories meant for black people alone, to me, miss the entire point of what their mission is in the literary world

Stamp Paid's internal monologue on page 234, to me represents one of the main struggles that Beyonce sings about during lemonade - the conflict of fighting against racism and racist ideals. Black people, according to Paid, have been seen as metaphorical "jungles" to white people, who more often than not liken them to animals or monsters. As a result, as Stamp describes the phenomenon, "the more coloredpeople spent strength trying to convince [white people] how gentle they were, how clever and loving, how human ... the deeper and more tangled the jungle grew inside." That is to say, the more black people try to justify and humanize themselves, the more people view them as rebellious and angry, halting any form of progress towards equality; perception is reality when it comes to race for many people. However, the imagery in Lemonade evokes a need to break through this harsh reality by providing meaning to anger. While it can be argued that the imagery of Beyonce smashing cars on the street is meant to symbolize the rage that black people feel against society, other imagery, such as the underwater mansion, the train car with the black girls in face paint, and the clips of Blue Ivy with her grandfather, equally show black people under stress, feeling isolated, and having empathy, effectively giving definition to why black people are angry with society: these feelings and more are the feelings that go unnoticed by people. Activist groups like the Black Panthers and the modern day Black Lives Matter movement are viewed as baseless or destructive by both the media and the public because no time is taken to define why these feelings are expressed instead of how.

The empathy crafted by both Beyonce and Morrison in their respective works is what ultimately breaths life into them, and makes accessible to everyone and not just black people. Emotion's key role  in storytelling is to give meaning to a character's motivation and make it understandable to anyone. Lemonade and Beloved were never meant for a single group of people - they were meant to showcase the internal and external struggles of African Americans to the masses.
I've been watching West World, a TV. show produced by HBO, grappling with the idea of artificial intelligence and what separates us as humans from things we deem inhuman. Its an incredible show with twist and turns that leave the head spinning in anticipation and wonder. In West World the AI's (Artificial Intelligence) or the robots, act as slaves for the humans, or the guests who visit the park. The guests are allowed to have full access and domination of the AI's and can do and take whatever they want without resistance. The AI's however are updated constantly to continuously keep them as realistic and possible in order to please the guest and make the park seem real as possible. However, as the robots are updated they seem to lose the part of themselves that makes them robots and they seem to become more and more human. So the robot slaves start to be more and more conscious of their reality, they begin to understand that they don't have any control of their surroundings. This begins to trigger something in them some begin to break off and manipulate a system that has worked so hard to control them. They begin to act out over time trying to find a sense of control in an oppressing environment. While watching the similarities to the actions or the AI's in West World to the the struggles for control of their being, that are evident throughout the novel, Beloved. The characters in both books are desperate to feel some sense or feeling of control, as they consciously realize their environments.

Waiting in "The Line"

I've recently been reading (and enjoying) the book “The Line” by Olga Grushin. The book centers around a group of people in Soviet Russia who, throughout the course of changing seasons, wait in line at a continually closed kiosk. As I progressed through Beloved, I noticed that the same sense of patience and waiting permeated both novels.

I found myself especially drawn to the way the characters processed the need to be patient, and how they imposed the need to wait upon themselves.

Sethe is waiting at 124 for a sense of closure with the ghosts (both real and imagined) that haunt her, and the members of the line are waiting for some distraction to alleviate the grimness of the reality in which they currently reside. This self imposed waiting gives strength and hope to the line members, allowing them an illusion of productivity and connection. Sethe, on the other hand, is drained by her self imposed exile.

Black Lives Matter

As soon as the Lemonade video began, it struck me. It's obvious that Beyonce references African culture and portrays the role of African Americans in today's society but I admired the way she did it. The video began with Beyonce wearing a black hoodie. Now, I'm not entirely sure whether or not Beyonce meant to reference Trayvon Martin in her video but that's what I thought of. Then later in the video, Beyonce shows the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Erica Garner holding pictures of their deceased children. By doing so, Beyonce, someone with fame and influence, showed the world why the Black Lives Matter movement is so important. It was also important that Beyonce only had African American dancers in her video because she shows how the Black Lives Matter movement is a movement for black led by blacks and it also shows how blacks have united through the injustice they have been facing. Overall, Beyonce's Lemonade video does a great job at depicting the reality African Americans face everyday.

Do the Right Thing

Reading through the passage where Sethe kills Beloved as an infant, I was immediately hit with shock and disgust. But as I thought about it more, was Sethe purely in the wrong? Did she do the right thing?

It's an interesting question, because one must first assess the value of a human life in slavery. Clearly, Sethe does not think that Beloved will live a life worth much. And to an extent, I agree. As a slave, Sethe was subjected to truly awful and dehumanizing things (obviously), and all slaves do. Being a slave by its very definition is dehumanizing. One of the fundamental principles of human life is free will, and as a slave, one wouldn't have it. 

But, at the same time, attempting to kill all of your children and successfully killing one of them is still pretty messed up. I do think, however, that it was justified, and she was merely doing it out of love and protection for her children.

Agency in Django Unchained and Beloved

This past weekend I watched Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. The movie depicts the struggles of a freed slave - Django - to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner. While watching the movie, I couldn't help but compare it to Beloved. One thematic difference I noticed between the works centered around the agency of black women. In Beloved, Toni Morrison develops the theme that black women possess significant agency, even through the most difficult situations. Two of the novel's main characters - Sethe and Baby Suggs - demonstrate this theme. Sethe, through grueling circumstances, escapes to the north by herself. After settling in the north, Sethe maintains/provides for a stable family-life as a single parent. After being freed by Halle, Baby Suggs cultivates a sense of community (especially spiritually) among blacks living around Cincinnati. Baby Suggs is depicted as a very generous character. Baby Suggs helped anyone and everyone, even when she herself was in need.

In stark contrast to the identities of these characters, Broomhilda in Django Unchained is presented as a character without agency - an object to be acted on by others. Slaveowners abuse her. She is caught attempting to escape from the plantation multiple times. Perhaps most critically, Broomhilda compromises Django's attempt to rescue her. In this way, Django Unchained denies black women any responsibility in determining their own future. They are presented as entirely dominated individuals.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The P's and Q's of Slavery

A slave owner cannot possibly be a complete human being: one of the questions on the survey we took at the beginning of the book. I disagreed, not because the existence of slave owners and the institution itself isn't indescribably terrifying, but because I usually don't buy into broad statements such as that. But there is so much inhuman about their actions that I find myself agreeing with the aforementioned broad statement.

Of course, everybody is a product of the society that they live in, but the lack of human empathy knocks the wind out of me. I know how easy it is to lose empathy and shade the world through your eyes only, and I will never say being holistically empathetic is easy (or even possible) in any way. But what the hell? There were hundreds of thousands of slave owners IN THE UNITED STATES ALONE and most never thought, "what if that were me?"

Then again who am I to look back on a high pedestal? As I said, they were just products of their time. Humans are born with an almost complete absence of empathy; it grows as they grow, but if a child is born into a slave-owning family in a racist society, it is highly unlikely they will challenge tradition as that is all they have known. Children are so malleable at that age. For example, Schoolteacher teaches his students to see slaves, like Sethe, as people who have predominantly animal characteristics. That kind of environment doesn't leave much breathing room.

This is complicated further by the Garners in Beloved. They are slave owners, but they have a abnormal attitude towards it. They don't allow corporal punishment. They share their food with their slaves. They listen to their slaves' concerns. They also happen to take away the freedoms of other humans.

"'What you want to know, Sethe?'
'Him and her,' I said, 'they ain't like the whites I seen before. The ones in the big place I was before I came here.'
'How these different?' he asked me.
'Well,' I said, 'they talk soft for one thing.'
'It don't matter, Sethe. What they say is the same. Loud or soft'" (30).

They may be nice about it, but the Garners are what they are: slave owners, oppressors, and racists (even if they listen to the slave's thoughts, the Garners are the ones with the control). It does not matter to me that they talk soft. The Garners cruelties may be less so, but they do nothing to challenge slavery. Their slaves' freedom is still nonexistent and that is their doing.


Today we were watching Beyonce Lemonade album. It features some great visual as well as great musical creativity. A lot of people how have seen this on the big screen may only tell you how great the music was. It was terrific don't get me wrong but I wonder did anyone else see anything about Beyonce specifically in each song.

In each song she wears different clothes and her actions and movements are completely different. She even shifts her body language depending on how she feels in a particular song. An example I notice was when she continues to change her hairstyle. Each one has to do with African culture. Everything she did is based upon her own culture an African American. She even acts like it because in some scenes you see her walking down the street looking happy but than in a matter of seconds she smashes a car in. I believe what she is saying that Black Women can look happy and beautiful but they can get mad and angry to. I also think that is another way of her oppressed anger as well so she is showing how black people tend to have two different sides to them.

There tend to be many hidden things in each of her songs but instead of listening to just the music we have to look at everything in order to understand the true message she is trying to give us.

Springsteen and Sisyphus

The other day, I stumbled across a quote from an article that brought together two topics we discussed briefly in class: the myth of Sisyphus, and Bruce Springsteen.

You might recall the mentioning of Jungleland by Springsteen in an interview between Louis C.K. and Conan, which we watched in class. Without directly discussing Sisyphus, Louis C.K. talks about the "forever empty" that we all have inside of us, which leads to the conversation about Springsteen.

Springsteen recently released his autobiography Born to Run, and was featured in a Vanity Fair article, stating:
It was perfectly Sisyphean for my personality-lifting something heavy up and putting it down in he same spot for no particularly good reason. I've always felt a lot in common with Sisyphus. I'm always rolling that rock, man. One way or another, I'm always rolling that rock.
When I saw this, I found it pretty funny that this similarity was drawn, and by Springsteen himself. I guess it shows that Camus has a point; we must imagine Sisyphus happy, and if we all have a bit in common with Sisyphus, then we must imagine ourselves happy as well.

Trayvon Martin in Lemonade

In Beyoncé's visual album Lemonade, the first song featured was Pray You Catch Me. In this number, Beyoncé wore a black sweatshirt with the hood draped over her head for a majority of the song. At the end of this scene, she removed the hood off of her head and falls from the roof of the building. I find the significance of this article of clothing striking and not unprecedented.

 Similarly, on the cover of the book Citizen by Claudia Rankine, there is a floating image of a black hood. The repetition of this symbol cannot go unnoticed, especially in the conversation about the treatment of black lives in America.

To me, this hoodie alludes to the slaying of Trayvon Martin in 2012. When he was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, he was said to have appeared "suspicious" because he was wearing a sweatshirt with the hood up. This excuse for racism did not go unnoticed and has become a symbol of the Black Lives Matter movement.

I think that in the video for Pray You Catch Me in Lemonade, Beyoncé was also alluding to this symbol of the black hoodie. Although Lemonade was mostly focused on the struggles of black women in America, the struggles of black men did not go ignored. I think that Beyoncé's utilization of this symbol in the beginning of the visual album showed her support for the Black Lives Matter movement and her support for young black men in America.

The Plight of Motherhood

I have no idea what it is like to love something with every fiber of your being. To exist in a cognitive state that tells your brain there is truly nothing you would not do for this other human. I cannot imagine the anguish that accompanies such profound desire to protect something so entirely and yet being able to control a fraction of what you feel you need to. On the other side, I also have not yet experienced the pure elation that comes from witnessing the child you gave birth to enjoying and growing in the world around them. I cannot envision the pride one must feel while watching what they cherish most in the world achieve his or her dreams and turn around to face you and thank you for making it all possible. I cannot imagine what it is like to hold your newborn baby to your breast for the very first time and by looking into their eyes instantly discover that you are holding the star that keeps your heart beating.
The expression of motherhood within Beloved is one of profound sacrifice and longing. Mothers deprived access to their children; mothers pushed to the point of murdering her babies - seeing it as the only way to truly save them. This is not the relationship that any young girl envisions for herself as she grows into a woman, and yet it was the fate of millions of women in our country and it happened on the very soil from which our lives flourish. We must face this fact. My heart bursts with sadness and anger but only in the forms of empathy. I sit from my detached, privileged throne and simply learn about racism rather than having to experience it every single day. Though - because I am fortunate - this is not my own battle, I have made the decision to lean into this new understanding of the struggle of black women and already I am touched to my core. Thank God for leaders like Beyonce and Serena Williams who pave the trail for the uncovering of all the hurt and pain and yearning with no response that has become the mantra of black women in the U.S. and all around the world. It is now our job to continue their work until every single young black girl feels validate and significant. We must ensure the chance for black girls to become the mothers they desire and deserve to be.
We must listen to the cries of women that roll throughout every goddamn purple mountain majesty and linger above every fruited plain.

Motherly Love

After reading that Sethe had killed Beloved at first I was saddened and disgusted. That a mother could kill her child, especially Sethe. I thought that she of all the characters would stand by and do anything she could for her children, I honestly looked down on her as a mother.
But after I kept reading and let it sink in I feel like it had to have been a hard decision and maybe the best option.

I really had to envision myself as Sethe for a moment. A black enslaved woman, but above all she is a mother. After enduring all the hardships of slavery and more I feel that her motherly instincts kicked in, and she realized she had to do what was best for children. It makes sense that she felt the best way to save her children was to kill them.

While in such a drastically different world currently, it is hard to understand however, if I had children while a slave, I could not imagine raising my children to live a life of slavery. I am confident that it was not easy for Sethe to kill Beloved, but she did it to in a way save her children from the trauma and monstrosity that her life as a slave was. It was one of the strongest things Sethe has done, it was purely selfless and for the 'safety' of her child.


Paul D’s stinging insult certainly left me wide-eyed, but at first I was a bit perplexed by it.

“You got two feet, Sethe, not four.”

Of course, he is comparing Sethe to an animal - saying that her reaction to seeing Schoolteacher was no more humane or intelligent than what a cow or horse’s reaction might have been.

At first, this insult seems fairly biting, but possibly forgivable. Maybe something that would be thrown out in the heat of the moment and apologized/forgiven for later. But it takes on a stronger meaning when Sethe and Paul D’s histories are taken into consideration.

Sethe, for instance, was prompted to leave Sweet Home when she overheard Schoolteacher asking students to observe her animal characteristics. He perceives Sethe, who has so much love and resilience and humanity as a mother and woman, as something wild and beastly. She is later abused as an animal might be, and treated sexually like the Sweet Home boys treat the cows. The parallel between Sethe’s presumably being raped and her milk being taken from her, and the milk the Sweet Home boys took from the cows alongside having sex with them, is harrowing and tragic. Sethe was an animal to the Schoolteacher and his nephews, and in her final argument with Paul D, she becomes an animal to him as well.

Being treated as less-than-human is not an experience lost on Paul D, either. He has been chained to other men and shut away as if in a stable, forced into hard labor all day. More obviously, he had to wear a bit in his mouth. Not only are bits made for horses, but Paul D’s made him feel at the social level of a rooster. He understands what it’s like to face physical pain, emotional exhaustion, and mental trauma as a result of being perceived as an animal.

Thus, the insult takes on an even more degrading, repulsive connotation. Paul D is aware of the beastly qualities projected on him and Sethe throughout slavery, and by commenting on Sethe’s legs, he knowingly threw them in her face. Never has it been so clear that he should not, and cannot, be a part of 124’s family.

A Beloved Citizen

Beloved by Toni Morrison is a piece of literature that is written very poetically, and I think there are some parallels between Beloved and Citizen by Claudia Rankine. Citizen is more strictly poetry, but the there are similar themes and literary techniques in both the works of literature.

 For example, in
Beloved, when Sethe and Paul D are sharing their stories of their abuse at Sweet Home, Sethe says "Feel how it feels to have a bed to sleep in and somebody there not worrying you to death about what you got to do each day to deserve it. Feel how that feels. And if that don't get it, feel how it feels to be a coloredwoman roaming the roads with anything God made liable to jump on you. Feel that" (80). The repetition of the phrase "feel how that feels," with some variation, evokes Claudia Rankine's writing style. Specifically, the Hurricane Katrina passage in which Claudia Rankine repeats the phrase "Have you seen their faces?" (83). In both sections of text, the repeated phrase short and powerful, and to me, the phrases appear to be aimed directly at the reader. Also, I believe that both the phrase "feel that" and the question "Have you seen their faces?" demand that the reader search for a better understanding of the context of the excerpts, which is slavery and Hurricane Katrina respectively. In general, the poetic nature of Beloved makes it easy to compare it to Citizen, especially given the fact that both works of literature explore the experience of black people in America, at vastly different points in time. 

The Click Had Clicked

Allow me to be completely honest: I did not enjoy reading Toni Morrison's Beloved for the first 200 pages. The writing style frustrated me because it threw its reader into a story where the characters already knew what was going on, but the reader could only grasp at the strange tidbits given to them. The lives of the characters would move forward, occasionally punctuated by a ghost sighting or with one character experiencing some sort of flashback. It was infuriating.

Thankfully, my viewpoint was changed on page 207, with Sethe's internal monologue about Beloved:
"The click had clicked; things were where they ought to be or poised and ready to glide in."
At this moment, I realized the brilliance of Morrison's writing style, whether or not it was intentional. Everything was where it ought to be, which I was well aware of, but I was not giving her writing the benefit of the doubt that everything else was "poised" and ready to come in later. As I went back and reread sections of the novel, I understood better Morrison's intention of what she chooses to reveal at certain points.

I've found a fantastic example of this to be why Sethe is stigmatized by her community. At first, Morrison only tells us that she is shunned, insinuating that it's only because of the house she lives in. However, the pieces slowly come together, and we find out that it's not just the house, it's the ghost --> it's not just the ghost, it's her baby --> it's not just her baby, it's her baby, who she killed! How brilliant!

Morrison's extraordinary technique for building up suspense over the course of 200+ pages is one that I have finally learned to appreciate, thanks to Sethe's happy realization that her baby had come back to her.

Beloved vs History Textbook

Growing up today, slavery is just an awful part of american history we just simply learn in history class. We know it was a horrible experience but we never truly understood the individual's pain, until the book Beloved. In the book the institution of slavery is expressed in a completely unique manner. Toni Morrison brought the facts of slavery and transform it into a life experience. This is seen through the eyes of her characters, especially Sethe. In beloved she is this ex slave with love too thick for her children. Her experiences as slave pushes the limit of her children's protection. Attempting to save her children from the horrors of slavery the readers are brought into the true reality of Sethe's maternal love. Sethe believes the amount of pain throughout her experience of slavery is much worse than death itself. This is because during slavery all freedoms are taken away from the individual, leaving only pain. To escape such fate death is the option Sethe pursued. It struck a cord with the audience because  the readers now sees the true depth of love and horror exemplified from slavery. The book, Beloved, highlights the perspective of slavery that provides the readers a deeper understanding of what slavery was and how people reacted to it, which was never fully illustrated in a history textbook.

Motherhood: Analyze the Motherhood of Sethe, Baby Suggs, holy, and Sethe's Mother

One of the Themes through out Beloved is motherhood. What is true motherhood? What is the right way of motherhood? How can a women be a mother when she is denied even the right to love something and be in the company of her children?

Sethe's first experience with motherhood is when her own mother took her behind a building and pulled down her shirt saying "...know me by this mark, this here mark..." while pointing at the brand below her breast. A, almost, distant type of motherhood. Later in the book we learn Sethe's mother was brought over from Africa, and later hung for a reason Sethe never knew.

Was Sethe's mother's distant motherhood the only type of motherhood a slave could express? Obviously not because of Sethe's protective motherhood that drove her to escape after her children instead of "squatting by the churn... with not a care in the world" and later try to kill all her children when Schoolteacher came to 124 (84, 190-195).

Are there only two extremes of motherhood? Un-involved and Protective ("putting all her love in one place" as Paul D calls it).

Baby Suggs, holy I believe showed another type of motherhood. Less to an individual person but instead to a community. During the meetings in the clearing, as I interpret them, Baby Suggs, holy both acted as a "Caller", she would not call herself a priest or priestess, and, I feel, as a mother. Sorta like a Virgin Mary figure, just without the virgin, untouched part.

Suggs, holy's motherhood was to have her 'children', the people that came to the Clearing, "Love it." It being themselves (103-104). It was not an intimate motherhood but rather a leading motherhood. Someone to look up to, with who you can express your innermost feelings, someone you can lean on. That was Baby Suggs, holy's motherhood.

But are these motherhood? And which is the right motherhood? I believe their is no right motherhood, but there also is no wrong motherhood within such an extreme and dehumanizing situation as slavery. I also think that All the forms of motherhood within my examples above are justifiable.

Sethe's mother was probably forced away from Sethe, unable to care for her because of the work and position forced on her by the institution of slavery. Also it is revealed from Sethe's memories that her mother had had other children which she abandoned. In my mind Sethe's mother was trying to protect herself and Sethe by not getting to close but she also wanted Sethe to know who she was by the fact Sethe's mother showed Sethe the brand on her chest.

Sethe's motherhood also makes sense to me. Sethe, as Paul D says, "put all her love into one place", which was a dangerous thing for a slave to do especially when putting that love into her children. Throughout the book Sethe also says things like "She was my best thing" (321). Sethe seems to define herself by her children. This is especially evident with the amount of pages spent on describing the children and Sethe's relationship with them. Therefore to me it is not surprising that Sethe would do something as drastic as killing her children to keep them out of slavery.

Sethe loves her children above all else, almost obsessively, because they are what helps define her, and they are part of what makes her human. Sethe trying to take the lives of her children, is her trying to protect them. Although drastic and probably not the only option, Sethe would not have wanted even a chance of her children going through what she had as a slave. The best way to prevent something from happening, especially in such an uncertain time, is to prevent the conditions for creating that something from existing, in this case Sethe takes the life of her daughter to prevent her from becoming a slave. A not as extreme example would be you don't leave out food in the kitchen if you don't want mice in the house.

Baby Suggs, holy by contrast loves her 'children', her people, by "putting them in her big old heart", but not necessarily getting completely involved with all of them. Suggs, holy was an important figure in the community, acting as a guider and a pillar of support. She is neither as distant as Sethe's mother, or as protective (obsessive) as Sethe, but she seems to love her people anyhow. But with so many people it would have been nearly impossible to know all of them with the attention and memory a close mother who has know a child from birth would know her children. Still, I'd say Baby Suggs, holy acts as a mother within her group.

What do you think is Motherhood? Do you think the types of motherhood (above) are justifiable? Would you agree with the actions of the characters? Or would you condemn the characters for their actions?

Choking on a Mothers Love

The horrifying circumstances surrounding the killing of Sethe's daughter adds to the deep complexity of Beloved. Her crushing choice to see her daughter dead rather than in chains has made the reality of slavery even more horrifying than ever before. Understanding the existence of slavery is far different than understanding the individuals within it. Sethe's decision to kill her children provided a realization in which the reader is forced to see her more human than ever in an act that is described as beastly by onlookers. Her love for her children, an incredibly human emotion, leads her to a place so dark that the reader begins to understand the full ramifications of slavery, not as a whole or as an institution, but on a more intimate, individual basis.

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Beyonce's Lemonade is a work of art and a work of literature. Most believe that the inspiration comes from her relationship with Jay Z, but it is clear that the album goes much further than that. It speaks to black women, acknowledging them more than anyone else ever would.

After reading an article by Ijeoma Oluo, the larger meaning of Lemonade became very clear to me. I used to also believe that the visual album was a message to Jay Z but I was basing my opinion off of what I had heard from the media, and not actually seeing it myself to make my own decision. After seeing the first 45 minutes of the album, I still had some belief that it was about Jay Z. Though I knew there had to be another meaning, I couldn't quite figure it out on my own. I read one article and the ideas became crystal clear.

Lemonade is a message to black women across the country. It is acknowledging them and their struggle, and giving them the recognition they well deserve. Beyonce draws a Malcolm X quote: "The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman." Beyonce addresses this directly in her work and makes it her mission to change this in Lemonade. She wants the black female to be a more important and recognized figure, and does so by empowering her through strong visual and lyrical art.

What Does It Mean To Live?

What does it mean to live?

To some, living might simply be put in terms of having a constant heartbeat and being able to fill your lungs with air at any given moment, but is that really enough to define and fulfill a human life?

For many, this is not the case. Freedom is an intangible and fluid concept, yet to truly live, one must have some form of it. If you indeed have a constant and reliable heartbeat, but no way to achieve your dreams, be with the person you love, or keep your owner/s from selling your dearest family members away, then what type of life is that? Similarly, if you constantly get flogged and assaulted for the slightest mistakes, then is that a life worth living?

From this perspective, we can assume that:
Death = No Freedom = Being a slave

So can we really judge Sethe for making the decision to kill her children rather than watch them suffer through one of the worst types of lives one could possibly live? To her, death is comparable to being a slave- maybe even better because of what the "other side" may have to offer. If truly living does indeed include the concept of at least a minimal amount of freedom as described before, which is not granted to a slave, is Sethe killing her children really unconstitutional, especially when the "other side" may offer them a better life?

A Mother's Love

Throughout Beloved thus far, we have seen Sethe struggle with trying to put her past behind her. On page 86, she describes "beating back the past" as a daily job. Sethe's deep fear of slavery becomes clearest in chapter 16. The four horsemen- Schoolteacher, his nephew, a slavecatcher, and a sheriff- at the beginning of the chapter allude to the four horsemen of the apocalypse. This allusion is so significant because it demonstrates the meaning slavery holds for Sethe- to go back to a life of enslavement would essentially be the end of the world for her.

This paralyzing fear of slavery is why Sethe kills her own child, an act that many have controversially referred to as an act of motherly love. This action leads the reader to question, "does maternal love have ethical limits?" While of course we can theorize about what we would do in Sethe's situation, we can never know for certain unless we know for ourselves what its like to love your own child so much that you would do anything for them. Sethe's action also demonstrates the true horrors of slavery through the fact that she equates murdering her child with saving her.

Stamp Paid's History

Beloved slowly traces Paul D, Baby Suggs, Halle, and Sethe through their time as slaves to their time at Baby Suggs way station. All of these characters having gotten out of slavery begs the question of how Stamp Paid's role in their former slave lives plays into the present relationship between Sethe and Paul D.

Stamp Paid has been seen previously helping slaves out of slavery, yet we do not know where he has come from and why he helps. Stamp Paid could have a connection to Sweet Home or he could just be part of the underground railroad system.

Stamp Paid's story has started in Part 2. His memories show his thoughts when he told Paul D the "secret" about Sethe killing her baby. These memories continue to flow while we witness Stamp trying to go to Sethe's house and reinsert himself in her life to somehow help her like he used to. He also attempts to find Paul D and thereby reestablish the communal feeling the town had while Baby was alive. Stamp's investment in the community of slaves he freed has probably made him want to continue to better the lives of all of the slaves he rescued. However, Stamp seems to be interfering quite a lot by trying to bring together Sethe and Paul D once more. Throughout Part 2 I believe we will see the true reason why Stamp Paid helped slaves become free and why he cares about what happens to Sethe and her family.

The Power of Lemonade

Lemonade made me feel ignorant. It made me feel ignorant because I have never seen this before. I understand women in America, especially women of minorities, have a much harder time in the United States then men, but I've never seen it up close and personally. I've heard stories of women rising to power and through this current election it showed me how much people, people I mean men, are scared of a strong independent women. I feel ignorant because up until these past couple weeks, watching the film Lemonade and keeping up with our presidential election, I realized what women go through. I realized how hard it is to be a women in America, just like it is very hard to be a black, Hispanic, or Asian. I never saw what it was like for women, and now my eyes are open.

In the household I am growing up in my mother raised me with a strong iron fist. She was the ruler, and her children were her subjects. She wasn't so strict that she was doing too much, but watching her be as strong as she is just in everyday life made it seem normal to me. Especially because I live in Oak Park as well, a very equal and accepting community, I thought every women was like this. That they were strong, independent, and worked just as hard as any man would. With my father having a great amount of respect for her I thought every man respected women and thought of them as equal. She raised me not knowingly that she was blinding me because I never realized the hardships women go through. I had to sit down and talk with her about it because this is not the case. Men still treat women like they are second class to them, I just never realized it.

She makes it look so easy. She is a natural born leader. When I was younger I was confused. I always thought why does mommy have final say with our family? Watching television and being the general norm I was programmed to think that fathers ran the house, went to work, and paid the bills, while mommy stays at home and takes care of the children, cooks, and cleans. In the household I live in this is not the case. My mom has worked just as hard as my dad has, my dad just makes more money. Some nights my mother cooks and cleans, other nights my father. Some days my mother stayed home and cared for us if we were sick, some days my father.They are so in sync with each other that there were no social norms that I could see because they both did everything.

Through the past couple weeks I have seen how afraid people can get. A strong woman is out of there comfort zone. They're not used to having women in charge. I act like it's normal because all my life I have watched my mom walk around with power and how she isn't scared of any task put in front of her. She just knows everything. Watching Lemonade so far has really opened up my eyes into new light. America is supposed to be equal, equal opportunity for all. Equal for every race, immigrant, belief system, and gender. This is a dream, and through evolution of the human, it seems impossible. I thank Beyonce for opening up my eyes when I didn't even realize they were closed.

Surviving vs. Living

"If there had been sadness in her eyes he would have understood it; but indifference lodged where sadness should have been."

To me, Beloved is a story about whether we can truly live again after experiencing something unthinkably horrible. Not merely survive, but lead a life worth living. Each character's struggle between hope (and thus a life worth living) and despair (and thus a life meant to be survived, not enjoyed) is symbolized through the motif of eyes.

The quote above describes Baby Suggs's eyes after "The Misery" happens and she gives up her community life. Sethe is also described as having cold "iron" eyes in the beginning of the book, presumably because of the horrors she has witnessed throughout her life.

Thus the true mark of a life not worth living is not sadness, but cold indifference. Indifference means you have been beaten down to the point you no longer expect anything good to happen - you have lost hope. Indifference caused Baby Suggs to spend the rest of her life laying in bed.

The story of Beloved seems to be a story about whether Sethe can move past this indifference and find a life truly worth living.

Maternal Love

In the end of the first part of Beloved, we learn that Sethe was responsible for the death of Beloved. The mysterious baby that had haunted 124, had her throat slit by her own mother.

Paul D is horrified when he learns the truth about the death of Sethe's eldest daughter. He is unable to grasp or understand the reasons behind Sethe's motives. By telling her that she "got two feet...not four" (194), he is calling Sethe a beast for murdering one child and traumatizing her other children. Paul D fails to realize that Sethe actions were justified. Sethe killed her daughter and attempted to murder her other children once seeing the "four horsemen" approach her home. Sethe acted the way she did out of love; she knew that anything was better than being taken back to Sweet Home to live forever as a slave. The only option she could think of in that moment was to protect her children by killing them herself. She is putting her children before herself and risking being taken back to slavery. Sethe's behavior demonstrates her bravery and strong maternal love.

During the Progressive Movement in the U.S. in the early 1900s, there was an influx of immigrants. Many of the immigrants were late teens who came over without their parents, due to financial restrictions. While not as extreme as Sethe's actions, the parents sending their children to the U.S. by themselves in the early 20th century is comparative to Sethe's motives. The parents of the immigrants wanted a better life for their children and were willing to risk losing them forever for the sake of their well-being.

Mothers and fathers will go to extremes in order to protect their children and at the end of the day just want what is best for them.

A Mother's Love

The full story of Beloved's death that was revealed at the end of part one was shocking and horrifying. This scene I think was one most important in the book in exploring the themes of maternal love and the unending consequences of the horrors of slavery. The gruesome nature of the scene forced the reader to try to find some justification for Sethe's actions. But I don't think that we can understand what she was truly feeling that made her decide to kill her children. I cannot imagine how complex love for her children was that made her believe the best way to protect them was to kill them. This complexity of the love between a mother and her children continues throughout the story and is best shown in the relationship between Sethe and Beloved when she comes back to 124.

A Mother´s Love is Always Thick

A mother´s love is stronger than any love on this earth.  However, love itself has its flaws and the actions made from it can be quite questionable.  In Toni Morrison´s novel, Beloved, her protagonist, Sethe, kills her own children to save them from the hardship of slavery.  Now, with this situation I believe it can be looked at a couple ways.

1. Sethe wanted to spare her children the horrible life of slavery by ending their life entirely because after being enslaved your whole life it is impossible to even try and have a life even if you are fortunate enough to be granted freedom.

2. Sethe selfishly killed her children so they would not endure a life of slavery but completely destroyed any chance of them having a real life since she could not have one of her own.

In the novel, Paul D claims that Sethe´s love for her children is, ¨too thick" (194).  He believed that what she did was wrong and that there could have been another answer to the problem.  Sethe then argues that, ¨thin love ain´t love at all¨ (194).  That then brings up the question of how much love is too much love?  And what is the proper way to spend all of the love that you have?  Especially, that of a mother´s which is infinite.  Paul D then claims that Sethe is a beast by stating, ¨You got two feet, Sethe, not four¨ (194).  He continues to shame her and nearly dehumanize her for killing her children even though she was trying to do the right thing.

A mother will do whatever she can to protect her children.  But which solution protects them more?  Trying to keep them alive but having them live a life of torture or killing them before any of it happens?  Through this detailed, violent, and heartbreaking novel Toni Morrison exposes the extreme challenge it is to be a mother, even more so in a time like this.


The final chapters of Part One, as I would imagine, left many of our mouths dangling open in awe. More specifically, Sethe's desperate rampage. I mean come on. I always took Sethe for a fighter, but slashing her own baby's throat and butchering her sons? Lets just say I didn't quite see that one coming...

Of course I can't completely blame Sethe. She witnessed the injustices of slavery first hand, and to watch her own sons and daughters get pulled right back into it? No way. These children were just too bright to be forced into the darkness. This gives Sethe some sort of rationale for her actions, making it semi- understandable.

At the same time, however, it isn't understandable. Her children's lives, had they not been slaughtered, would certainly be dreadful. They would be trapped inside of the horrors of Sweet Home, their lives tarnished, just as Sethe's had been. But at least they would have lives. At least they would be given the small opportunity to be free again, to be who they so rightfully deserve to be. With Sethe's onslaught, however, they never stood a chance.

The question of whether Sethe's actions were justified or not simply can not be determined. It can not  necessarily be approved nor criticized. In all of its ugliness, Sethe made a decision of what she knew was best for her family.

Either way, I enjoyed the exhilarating end to Part One, and I can't wait to find out what lies ahead.

Baby Denver

Reading the most recently assigned chapters I stumbled upon a comment made by Sethe that mentions Denver's age as around 18 years old. This completely shocked me as I have pictured Denver in my mind as a young girl, certainly not a young adult. As I wondered why I had never thought to create Denver as an older character in my mind, it occurred to me that her behaviors and mannerisms in the story lead us to believe Denver is much younger than she is. The horrors of 124 and Sethe's past have made Denver far more dependent on the place and her mother than most 18 year olds. But I do not think that is of any fault of Denver. Sethe's need to overprotect her children because of her past and not being able to be a mother when she was a slave has made her baby Denver. She protects Denver in a way that has not allowed her to be an independent adult. Sethe fears the outside world and what it might do to her daughter, so she keeps her close and safe while at the same time not allowing her to grow up. This is in no way a conscious decision made by Sethe. This is a part of the horrible life Sethe has had and it is part of her way of coping.

Re-Memory and Identity

The idea and essence of identity is a tricky thing to define, and is, of course, the basis for many philosophical questions. Is our identity comprised of a soul inside of us or does our sense of self come from our experiences and memories that we gather over our lives? Throughout Toni Morrison's novel Beloved, both the ideas of soul and memory and how they can compromise identity are discussed, and perhaps even an intersection between both of these ideas. 

The idea of the soul becomes apparent with the discussion of ghosts and spirits throughout the novel. The characters in Beloved clearly believe there is some sort of "life after death." Nowhere is this more exemplified than in the emergence of the character Beloved. Although it is unclear where exactly Beloved came from, she did move from being a ghost to becoming a physical being once more. This transition signals that there is something other than just a physical body that compromises a person, but perhaps something intangible. However, what is it that gives shape to Beloved? It is here where the ideas of a soul and memory intersect. Beloved is greatly characterized by her memories when she was young such as the knowledge of Sethe's earrings, the song she hums that Sethe recognizes and even her awful memories of when she was in the "other place." 

In addition to that of the soul, the idea of memory is especially important, in particular the idea of re-memory. Sethe remarks poignantly about how re-memory causes something to be transfixed in time, trapped no only in the mind of the person who experienced that memory, but also permanent for anyone else to see. This idea of re-memory demonstrates how our experiences are truly beacons of ourselves, and while they might seem mere shadows in the present, they will always linger on, defining us. The haunting ability of memory has a great effect on Sethe especially, as she is constantly being drawn back to the awful and traumatic experiences at Sweet Home. In many ways, Sethe is attempting to flee her memory, although it seems in vain. This does not mean to say that Sethe's identity is trapped within the confines of her past, but rather, there is of course another side to the coin. When Sethe begins to acknowledge the past instead of running away from it, there are moments of true, sometimes hidden, happiness that demonstrate the beginning of an process. These moments include when Sethe spoke to Paul D on the front porch, or when Sethe finally realizes Beloved's true identity. In this moments, Sethe and others can work through the past, leading to new memories and experiences. 

Land of the Free?

Beloved describes life for black Americans post slavery. Although Sethe, Paul D and many others are no longer slaves, many black Americans were still susceptible to violence and unfair treatment by white Americans. America, today, has made some vast improvements from the Beloved era, but racism is still very prevalent in modern society. America tries to pride itself on being the "land of the free" and tries to describe itself as such a progressive country, but as recent news of racism in the media show, America may not be so free. Events, such as police brutality in Ferguson, Donald Trump (who has made racist remarks about people of color) being elected, and the mere fact that the KKK is still a group being supported. Although slavery may have been abolished, racism did not disappear.
I think learning about the time period presented in Beloved is critical for Americans to read because learning about history let's us learn from our mistakes, and I think America needs to needs to start to be honest about the racism shown in our country.

As thick as love gets

"Too thick."

When Paul D condemns Sethe's motherly love as being "too thick" the reader cannot help but wonder what that really means.

At what lengths would a mother go for her child? The answer to that question is apparent in our every day life. Motherly love is often described as the deepest type of love, which is felt with every fiber of one's being.

Not being a mother myself, I cannot pretend to relate to that type of undeniable love of another. I have also never experienced the horrors of slavery, which strips one of their very person, dehumanizing to a point of no return.

So yes, when I think of a mother killing their child, slitting their throat in a split second decision, I am rather repulsed.

But who am I to make a judgement?

Maybe the definition of love can be manifested as those lengths you would take for another, to ensure that they can never be hurt. Maybe love does come in varying definitions.

I do know that Sethe thought she was doing the right thing. As she heard the men tread down the lane, she did not think, she acted.

If she could it back, would she?


The four horsemen were not originally debuted in Beloved. They were first mentioned in the bible as "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse". God opens one of his seven seals and four men riding different horse emerge from the seal. Each horseman represents a different trait of apocalypse. The first is conquest, the second is war, the third is famine, and the fourth is death. The four horsemen in Beloved are the sheriff, nephew, schoolteacher, and slave catcher. I believe that conquest is represented by the slave catcher because all he cares about is capturing slaves and returning them to their owners which is very similar to conquest. War is portrayed by the nephew because he had always been over beating slaves and creating a violent environment for the slaves. The school teacher represents famine since he is seen as a little threat, much like famine at the beginning (thinking you can grow crops still). But when Sethe is raped the schoolteacher just watches and writes it down in his journal, when famine truly kicks in and lets people starve. Lastly, the sheriff represents death because sheriff's represent the law at the time and that law was to return any slaves on the run. When a slave saw anyone from law-enforcement coming towards them, they knew their short-lived freedom was over.
The four horsemen in the Bible are meant to set a "divine apocalypse" on the world. I feel that the four horsemen in Beloved set their own apocalypse in their own way. When they came they stunned the smartest and wisest of the escaped slaves, Baby Suggs and Stamp Paid. The four horsemen ride in which is peculiar since no one was warned that four men were coming towards their camp. The four horsemen sort of appear from a "seal" just like in the Bible. The four horsemen apocalypse is Sethe surrounded by her bloody children and swinging her child around. While it's not a complete apocalypse, it's Sethe's very own apocalypse.

Is Killing Justified

In Beloved, Toni Morrison brings the conflict of what motherhood means in slavery. It highlights some of the extreme conditions that families, and more specifically mothers, have to go through while in slavery. They can be driven to make extremely difficult decisions, that can be viewed as immoral or even insane by somebody who has not gone through the same experiences as them. In this chapter Sethe, is forced to make one of these choices. When she begins to think that there is no hope of escaping the teacher, she decides that she would rather kill her children than to give them to him. She realises that if he catches her kids, they will have just as horrible of life with him as she has had. It was this moment when she decided that the best course of action would be to kill her children so that they would never have to live through the same horrible experiences. 
So is killing her children was justified? No doubt it was wrong, but slavery is also wrong. As a mother would we do the same? What would we do to protect our children from the horrors of slavery?

Paul D vs. Beloved

Paul D from the Beloved by Toni Morrison strongly disliked Beloved. He did not like the way she was "shining".
Women did what strawberry plants did before they shot out their thin vines: the quality of the green changed. (pg. 76)
Paul D feels that the Beloved's shining will affect him emotionally and open up his secrets and heart that he wants to hide so desperately. Paul D enjoyed the time before Beloved. He does not want to leave but afraid he will be forced out by Beloved. Her shining is a threat to his happiness with Sethe.
You had new shoes. If you walked so long why don't your shoes show it? (pg. 77)
He started doubting Beloved's story. He was also jealous of her because she did not go through what he did. She has new shoes without working to get them how Paul D had to.
Sethe is protecting Beloved as her daughter. She let Beloved stay over for so long without asking her any questions. The slave community drastically varies in their willingness to help and accept the other slaves. One might be jealous of the other's better life, and the other is willing to help without question.
What does Paul D has expressly against Beloved? Why does he think Beloved has the power to open his heart and reveal his secrets?

Paul D's Stranger Moment

Throughout Beloved, Paul D has had his doubts about Sethe and his relationship with her, but he never voiced them or did anything to hurt what they had. It was only when he sensed Beloved's presence through the floor above that he cannot control himself and told Sethe: "You got two feet, Sethe, not four"  (194) and left, never to return. He wasn't sure why he said it, but he believes it was because of Beloved, watching him from above.

His motivation to leave Sethe, with whom he was so happy, is questionable, but familiar. It's a motivation we have seen before. Beloved acts more as a figment of Paul D's imagination than an actual being in this scene. The thought of her built tension and hostility in Paul D's mind spranfg up the forest between him and Sethe the same way the sun drove Meursault through the door of unhappiness.

Neither Paul D nor Meursault acted alone. They both had help in the form of a mysterious external force driving them to commit life-changing deeds. They had been working their way inexorably toward these moments, but could not take action without a little help from their mutual friend Dues Ex Machina, the god that watches them from above and whispers encouragement into their ears as they pull the trigger or open their mouths.

In Memory of James Craig Anderson

For me, the most memorable story in the Citizen by Claudia Rankine is June 26, 2011/In Memory of James Craig Anderson.
In my opinion, this story does an excellent job portraying the relationship between some white and black people.
It makes a dark subject. You mean a black subject. No, a black object. (pg. 93)
The quote above is an example of Benjamin's subject/object theory. The Citizen is meant to show how the blacks are still treated as objects. They are trying to become subjects back again but forced back to be objects.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Myth of Sisyphus in Westworld

I recently took to watching the show West World and while I have only seen the first couple of episodes I have already noticed that the show has a bit of a sisyphean tone to it. For those who don know the show tells the story of a resort park set in the old west. The park is inhabited by AI controlled ¨hosts¨ who form the story lines of the park. However, guests are free to do what ever they want and they often abuse the hosts. So at the end of everyday the hosts memories are wiped so that they can continue living in the ideal world that has been set up for them. I thought this was interesting because later in the show the creator of the park say that the hosts are the only ones who are truly free because all they have to do is live out their day over and over again. I thought this was an interesting new take of Camus´s argument on the Myth of Sisyphus and on how we as people will act with no perceived restrictions.

Another Behated Part of Slavery

Along with the many obvious reasons to hate slavery is one that I, personally, never even thought of: the lack of gender roles. What are these "gender roles", you may be wondering? In today's society, while we may try to deny it, we still have very distinct perceptions on what a true man or woman is. The men are the ones who are supposed to be strong and tough and protective over the females in their lives. The women, on the other hand, are thought of as being daintier and eager to be mothers. 

These characteristics that we subconsciously pair up with each gender are stripped from the enslaved people in Beloved. Paul D. tells Sethe that Halle was there when she got her milk stolen from her. She is immediately in disbelief and wonders why he would not say or do anything to *protect her*. Here is where things get horribly sad. 

Halle knew that he could not speak up for the woman he loved, even if it was what society would expect, because of the consequences that would come with such an act or rebellion. So, he turns into a complete mess, rubbing butter on his face. He has no ability to be the "man" he wishes to be. 

On the other hand, Sethe cannot be a true woman. Earlier in the story, she is told that she cannot have a wedding. And, in the part of the book mentioned above, she is forced to accept the harshness from her masters instead of have control over her actions and sexual desires. 

As if slavery couldn't do any more... It's truly a shame that Sethe has to find out that her husband, the man in her life, was forced to be cowardly. Does she feel pity for him since he was not able to be the "man" and help her? Or is she angry that he simply wasn't the "man" in that situation and she had to suffer all alone? It's very hard to know. 

Motherhood: It Destroys.

So far in Beloved, the mothers Sethe and Baby Suggs are two characters who are both empowered by  and eventually brought down by their children. Baby Suggs is literally freed when Halle buys her freedom and Sethe is partly driven to run for her children's sake. Later, however, they are also both emotionally destroyed because of their children and their love for them. When Sethe tries to kill her children, she does so because she thinks it is the only way to protect them which, along with Halle's disappearance, leaves Baby Suggs devastated.

Despite dealing with the extreme hardships of slavery, it is eventually these mothers love and emotional connections to their children that destroys their lives. Baby Suggs tried to avoid this by not becoming emotionally attached to her children, but she couldn't not love and care for Halle. For Sethe and Baby Suggs the strength of love for their children outweighs, in a fashion, the power of the sadness and anger of a life of slavery.

Ask the Mothers

I wonder if my mom would have made an autopsy of my neck. Dangled my ankles like a pendulum, swung me to the wooden wall until it was painted. I wonder if any mother would. 

There is tragedy in that scene of Beloved; It is a scene people will try to look at superficially and just label as one of the horrors of slavery. They wouldn't be wrong, but this scene goes far deeper than that. The absolute terror a mother must feel in order to see no option other than murdering her own child astounds me.

There is a reason maternal relationships are held so dearly. We come literally connected to our mothers and have to be sawed from her. We all come out screaming, bloody, as if tearing us from our first home was a massacre. Maybe Sethe just wanted to bring her children home, bloody and screaming.

So the amount of horror that must be overcome in order to murder your own child is one that I will not know until I am a mother myself, if I am a mother myself. Sethe had to overcome instinct, history and physical biology in order to kill Beloved.

I had originally wrote "murder" in the previous sentence, but I don't know whether I think Sethe murdered her daughter. That word carries a connotation of a cold-blooded, animalistic execution that is not what happened in the barn. Tragedy happened there, not only for the innocent child, or Baby Suggs who watched her daughter-in-law transform into someone unfamiliar, but also for Sethe herself.

And I am left here, writing a blog post about something I will never understand because I will never experience it because I live in 2016 white suburbia. So how can any of us pass judgement on Sethe? How can we rule whether her actions were justified because slavery was just that horrible? None of us know. So let us ask the mothers.

Beloved Are Those That Are Different

As Americans, we claim to be the land of the free and the home of the brave. We say that everyone is welcome to inherit the inalienable rights of an American citizen. The Civil War was supposed to end the dehumanization of those who are non-white, yet I feel like the racial divides in our country have never been more evident to me than this year. I have seen our President-elect create an anger in American citizens as he tells us that those who look different have no right to live in America. I have seen my dance team be judged differently because we are the only mixed-race team at our competitions. We supposedly pledge to be indivisible and to have liberty and justice for all. I wish I could say that I lived in a world where it was true.

In Beloved, Morrison illustrates Sethe's struggle to live a normal life after enduring the trauma of slavery. Sethe was laughed at by Mrs. Garner because she thought that she could officially get married. Mrs. Garner seemed to think that Sethe was crazy for even thinking that. I mean, Garner seemed to imply that it would be a crazy world if Black people could get married. Why? Because they were different. As readers, we live Sethe's journey through Morrison's words. We learn that the differences between the Garners and those in 124 are the difference between being treated humanely or inhumanely. Lives are clearly impacted based on simple differences.

Beloved are those that are different, because our lives would be so much less without them.


One of Beloved's themes is maternal love. We get to see some controversial actions that Sethe believes is based on her love for her children. Sethe kills her first born daughter and attempts to kill her other children. She couldn't deal with her children being slaves, so she had to try her best to avoid that situation. By sacrificing her children, she sacrificed her meaning to live. What Sethe did was purely for the betterment of her kids' lives, however controversial it may be. Paul D couldn't understand this because of his lack of maternal love and his lack of understanding of Sethe's situation.
Additionally, her anger at the men who stole her breast milk stems from her love of her children. Sethe's milk was one thing that Sethe could provide to feed her kids. When the men stole that from her, she was unable to give her children the best possible food they could get. Her anger was probably more because of her inability to take care of her kids rather than the men assaulting her.

Saturday, November 19, 2016


From what has happened in beloved and what is happening nowadays. Its safe to say that all Americans have come a long way especially blacks. Although blacks still experience struggle from other whites in the media, overall times have changed dramatically. What was discussed between my group and our passage to present in class was very interesting to all of us. We had to get together and really breakdown the characteristics of Baby Suggs in the passage assigned  In Beloved Baby Suggs tells other slaves for the pain and suffering to no get to them and instead cherish what they end up already having because that is good enough. She explains the struggle is only  bump in the road to freedom. She reminded them of what to use and what to think about while they struggled from highly strict whites. Its as if it was a coming together to listen to what Baby Suggs had to say which was a scene of positivity that they needed.

This relates to the struggles that most blacks have today and how getting together and forming any kind of community can really uplift any sort of movement. It is because of people in real life like Baby Suggs who can uplift a movement in American society. Most, if not all of them relate to the same subject. Stuff like this has been used in society to better connect the treated with the mistreated. Occurrences of this may be peaceful/angry protest down the streets of big cities, rallies, public events, fundraising and so on.  It shares hope with those that can relate to one another and to build trust with society especially the media.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

50 years of Stagnation

2016 has been a wake up call to many americans. For many americans the idea of racism has been seen as more of a historical blemish in american history. For the past couple years the idea of a racist america has been becoming a reality. 2016 has only solidified my suspicions of a racist america. Now let me be clear. I am a large african american male whose size alone is enough to scare some people. I have plenty of personal stories of being racial profiled. I have even been called the N word in multiple occasions in many points of my life. I knew that america was racist for a long time but what is going on now is troubling and scary. My grandpa used to tell me stories of the civil rights movement. He used to tell me how he was afraid to go to certain college when he played football because he knew that they were racist and he would be discriminated. When I heard that story I was overwhelmed with grief because it seemed like during that time life was horrible for african americans. I am also relieved because after 50 years we do not have to deal with a problem like that... or do we? I worry about picking the wrong college and goind to a racist school where I will be profiled and being discriminated against. Recently a football player from the University of Nebraska was faced with racial discrimination by students from the same university. The students said that he should be hung before a game. He was also told by his fans that he is a clueless, confused n*gger. What did he do to make them say that to him you may ask. He decided to exercise his 1st amendment right by kneeling during the national anthem. That is it. In the novel Citizen by Claudia Rankine many social issues such as racism is discussed in the book. At the end of section 7 of the novel she says that "because white men can't police their imagination black men are dying". I think that is one of the main reasons why there is still racism in america. The fact that americans ( not just white people) falsely believe that racism has been erradicated is a key factor that racism still exist. If americans can stop living in their fantasy world where everything is perfect because america is perfect then we can attack and resolve these social issues such as racism. This goes way beyond racism though because I believe that if americans educated themselves more and were more honest with themselves then we can resolve gender inequality, islamic phobia, and many more social issues plaquing america today. If we do not try to resolve these issues then we are due to have another 50 years of stagnation which would be really sad and detrimental to our motto of freedom and equal rights for all.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

It Feels Like Someone Died

There seems to be a great deal of confusion in the world today. People everywhere have got it in their heads that there are different 'races of the world' and these ethnic backgrounds provide the bases for clear separation and division. Oh, how naive we are. There is but one race: the Human race.

The classification of people based on the color of their skin was introduced as a way to implement a system of hierarchies within society. It was an easy way to categorize people as the human form takes many shapes across the face of the earth. Over the years, such systems grew incredibly successfully. We see people's complexion before anything else about them. Race has effectively become the dominant color of our lives.

I don't mean to say that I personally naturally 'rise above' and exclude myself from contributing to these systems. I'm not sure anyone can say they truly do not see color. However, we do not have to be true to our humanity by trying to mesh everyone into one type of life or existence. We are called to embrace our own individuality and celebrate those of others'. We are called to bring forth the best in others by living the best lives that we can.

We are a long, long way from the mutual recognition that Jessica Benjamin brilliantly described as the key to true harmonic coexistence. It seems we are even farther than some of us had thought prior to the election of Donald Trump as president. To all black, female, Hispanic, immigrant, Muslim, disabled, poor people across the nation and the world, know that you have an ever-expanding village of support behind you. As citizens of this country I implore you to grow and expand and never give up hope because you are what makes America great again, and again, and again.

Everything will be alright in the end. If it's not alright, it's not the end.


The book citizen talks about hate and racist language towards African Americans. What they go through and fight through every single day. I myself am a African American male who everyday has to worry about simple things in life that would be easy for some but extremely difficult for others. I have to worry about going into stores and people following me around and the usual black stereotypes. The one thing that I don't even think some African Americans even know is that we have to work almost twice as hard than people of other races. Now I'm not saying that all other races are privileged because that is certainly not the case but I think it is so dumb when you treat a certain group of people one way even though you would never want to step a minute in their shoes because you know how much hate they receive. These last couple of weeks in English we have talked about race a lot and I think that it has had a deep affect on me because I just start to think how is everyone else is thinking about this compared to me.

Citizen: "By Any Means Necessary"

A line that struck me as being particularly powerful in Claudia Rankine's, Citizen, comes out of the situation video "Stop and Frisk":

"In a land drawn from an ocean bed, you can't drive yourself sane - so angry you can't drive yourself sane - so angry you are crying. You can't drive yourself sane" (p. 105).

Initially, this line stood out to me for being extremely involved and ambiguous. I had no idea what it meant. To begin to comprehend this line (and most of the book as a whole) I employed Nabokovian reading techniques, especially the technique of rereading. I read over the passage as a whole three or four times. Through Nabokovian techniques I found that "In a land drawn from an ocean bed" makes reference to the United States and how, for blacks, it often seems to be a foreign, unfair, and intolerable environment. The United States can appear so foreign, unfair, and intolerable that many blacks are driven to un-controllable rage and insanity. This line was powerful to me because it serves as call to action. Reminiscent of the ideas of Malcolm X, the line reflects Rankine's larger message: that black individuals should embrace and accept their blackness and the anger/insanity that results from racist interactions.


Whenever I think of prejudice or hatred, I can't help but get angry. Seeing-red and steam-coming-out-of-my-ears angry. Yell-it-from-the-rooftops angry. But I realize that because I'm white, getting angry over that is a privilege, because I don't have a stereotype based solely off of my anger.

That being said, one of my favorite quotes from Claudia Rankine's Citizen appears in her James Craig Anderson situation video:
"James Craig Anderson is dead. What ails you, Dedmon? What up? What’s up is James Craig Anderson is dead. So sorry."
Perhaps I am not interpreting it the way Rankine intended, but I took this quote to be full of anger. I took it that in just this one moment, the author's anger got the best of them and they unleashed this from inside them (akin to the stop-and-frisk situation video's narrator's "Go ahead hit me motherfucker" outburst).

I imagined yelling this quote in the face of Dedmon after he ran over Anderson in his truck, as his friends yelled about "white power," and that felt good! However, it doesn't do anything to bring Anderson back to life or to actually change Dedmon's racist mind.

I realize that ultimately acting out of pure anger isn't helpful or good for anyone. But anger is just passion, and it takes passion to ignite change. I'm glad that Claudia Rankine, amidst her more serious and somber pieces, left room for moments like this in her situation videos, where she let anger show through just as much.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


In these last two weeks of English, class has been less of reading novels that I cannot relate to (Jane Eyre among the many that come to mind) and more like watching artists paint pictures with their words, twisting hidden messages into poetry-like pose that leaves me wanting to hear more.

I thoroughly enjoyed Claudia Rankine's novel because she was not trying to shove anything down my throat. She wrote to convey her feelings, and although some lines left me bewildered, there was definitely a sense of beauty that kept me turning the pages.

Reading The Citizen showed me that I cannot relate to what African Americans go through on the daily. But that is okay. Sometimes it is most important to take a step back and bear witness to the fact that just because it is not happening to you, does not mean it is not important.

Lastly, one line particularly gave me hope. It challenged me to push harder, to realize there is always a way to create change, and to better evils that create desperate situations. Rankine teaches us that, "...then the voice in your head silently tells you to take your foot off your throat, because just getting along shouldn't be an ambition." So let's find our voices, and realize it is up to ourselves to see difference in the world.

Serena's Triumph

This isn't based off of a specific passage, but more a whole section. To me, Serena Williams is the embodiment of athletic dominance. While she is probably past her prime, she has won 22 Grand Slam singles titles, 16 Grand Slam doubles titles and 3 Olympic Gold medals. She is the most dominant athlete of her era, not just in tennis, but in any sport.

And to get there, she had to battle her way through a white dominated sport. If you turn on the TV to any given tennis match, chances are you'll see not only white players, but white line judges and white spectators, too. It's not just opponents. It's the whole package. And that is what makes her so special. She had to overcome far more than most, in addition to working and dedicating herself to perfecting her form and her mechanics. Sure, Michael Phelps has more medals, and sure Lebron James is in the running for the greatest of all time, but no one can top Serena.

I'm (Not So) Proud to Be an American...

As time goes on, we like to say that we, as a nation, are moving towards a more equal society. This concept applies to race relations, gender, sexuality, and every other controversial topic we can get our hands on. We seem to think that with each new day comes a new chance to stand on a stage with bright lights and claim victory that us Americans are better than everyone else for being such forward thinkers.  But, alas, we have faults. It seems as though with each step forward we take two steps back.

In Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric, Rankine emphasizes the racial problems she has faced throughout her lifetime as an American. While talking about stop-and-frisk, she writes, "And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description" (105). We tend to do this as a nation, and let's face it, as a world. We constantly try to reprimand others for being so racist or sexist or any other kind of "ist" that goes against our morals as humans, yet we continue to make assumptions based on physical appearance. Why, you might ask?

It is far easier to blame others for our problems than to accept responsibility ourselves. After reading Rankine's writing, I was shown a glimpse into the discrimination that minorities face everyday in our country. While I love America and think that we do have the intention to be fair and equal, I think that we tend to tell ourselves that we are more progressive than we really are. Who wants to hear that we're failing as a country?No one. But it's about time we opened our ears to those who are so often silenced.

Silver-Backing Mirrors: Racial Identity and Cultural Definition in Citizen

One of my favorite lines in Citizens, for me, projects a clear idea of how people should combat racism, while also exploring how racism came to be in the first place. The line is as follows:

¨It is the White Man who creates the black man. But it is the black man who creates.¨ (128)

The first half of this line accurately represents how many of the figureheads of convential racism were engineered by white people, for white people. It was used to prove genetic superiority by many early European scientists, despite many of them not holding scientific degrees, and justify the use of slavery in plantation colonies for the profits of the already wealthy. That is to say, white men effectively insinuated the elements of modern racism for their own idealogical and economic gain. However, what is undermined in this analysis is the self-definition of black people despite white efforts to portray them in ways to somehow benefit themselves. Going back to the idea of dominant and recessive members of relationships that my class and I explored earlier in the year, modern racist idealogy can be traced back to the binary engineered by whites to supress the black identity and artificially increase the value of the white identity.

However, in modern times, the second half of this quote seems to hold more power than the first does. With racism a much weaker social force than it was in centuries prior, people nowadays push more to undermine the fundamentals of racism while also avoiding the skewed goal of a raceless society. Today´s mindset encourages people to craft their own identities outside of their racial identities, which is reflected by the revolution for many African American women to care less about their hair, which has become a social stigma for them. Ultimately, this quote represents the direction that the black identity has taken over the years and will most likely take in the future.

Blue Black Boy

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"When I was four or five I can remember my father sitting me in his lap and saying, 'Carrie, you are the equal to anybody, black, brown, green, yellow."' Carrie Mae Weems, the author of this extremely powerful picture, knows social injustice more than most.

Weems, in my mind, is attempting to display all the ways in which this boy is scrutinized. Is he blue? Is he black? Is he a boy? The answer to all these questions, however, is irrelevant. What he truly is, is a human being, just like the rest of us. No matter what shade his skin reflects, what size, or what age, this is a living, breathing, beautiful piece of nature, which should never be judged.

How can so many sit there and view this precious creature as black? Is that all he is and all he will ever be? Why can't we just accept this person as equal? Why does color matter?

These are all questions that Claudia Rankine, author of "Citizen", attempted to solve when she inserted this compelling image into her book. Injustice is present in our country just as much as it ever has been, but maybe one day people will begin to see all human beings as equal...