Skip to main content

An Important Conversation about an "Idle Notion"

Once again, Bill Moyers brings us a voice that needs to be heard; that of linguist, professor and author John McWhorter. The starting point for tonight's conversation on Bill Moyers' Journal was Eric Holder's comments on needing a "conversation on race" and on our being a "nation of cowards." Holder's statement does a grand disservice. It labels, it assumes, it presumes. And it ignores the thousands of Americans who have fought for civil rights and racial equality, Americans of all "colors." I thought the new Attorney General was smarter than that.

Fortunately, John McWhorter is smarter than that. In his conversation tonight with Bill Moyers, he stated, "Conversation about race, I think, is an idle notion." It is becoming, in fact, a meaningless notion. I believe that we might even be reaching the point where such a "conversation" may recreate "racial" problems that were on their way to being resolved. McWhorter emphasized the need to uplift communities and recapped a key fact: This country just elected an African-American president--by a very large majority. Let's take this as a next starting point, keep moving ahead, keep working to fix whatever needs a fixin'.

You owe it to yourself to listen to this insightful and intelligent conversation with this African American scholar. Watch the video here. Read the interview transcript here. But don't stop there. Take a cue from McWhorter and pay more attention to what you say, how you say it, why you say it, and just what it is you take and make from the alphabet soup we call English. Language is the tool with which we make our lives work, with which we explore and resolve differences. McWhorter's latest book on language is:

His books on African-American (emphasis on the word American--they apply to all of us):

Why Hip-Hop Can't Save Black America

Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America

Automatically Black: Essays for the Black Silent Majority

Links to his articles are here.


Popular posts from this blog

Life without Television, Part 2

I began life without television with relief, which was consistent Monday through Friday. The first few weekends, though, felt awkward, anxious, lonely. When PBS has good programming on Saturday nights, it is extraordinarily good. Father Brown, Phryne Fisher, New Tricks... Extraordinary acting, high production values, and I fantasize about the pudgy, brilliant priest just perhaps having an innocent crush on one of his special parishioners, which would be moi. 

I called a friend one Sunday. "Maybe television helped with my anxiety more than I realized," I said. She told me about her aunt who, after her husband's death, kept the television on in his "man cave" 24/7. He has been gone years now. The television goes on, everlasting, in his absence. I don't blame her. Much of my frequent and prolonged television viewing began with grief.

After my sister died, I would watch almost anything, especially late at night when sleep eluded me. I even watched Convoy with …

Our Texas, My Texas: "Memories we carry like scars and diamonds"

This post title includes a quote from Hermine Pinson's poem, "Four Sisters and the Dance." As you read, it will become clear why.

I was 7 when my father earned his Ph.D. from Duke. He then accepted a teaching position at a small private college in a rural Texas town in the 1960s. Population was 5,000, give or take a few. Our Texas roots ran deep, and we saw this return to the Lone Star State as a homecoming. So, I left the lyrical landscape of the Carolinas and the small private school where I had become nearly fluent in French. Then, I entered the hot, dry world of that small town. 

We did not yet have a place to live. Our family of five, including our infant brother, camped out in the girls' dorm for several weeks. Our furniture was stored on the university theater stage while my parents searched for a home. I was riding in the car with my dad and a member of the university administration and overheard their conversation. My father wondered where he could find help …

Whose day?

Years ago, I made some collages using pages from a desk calendar from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The image that leads this post is one. Inside the hearts and flowers is a picture from the MMA collection of  a Japanese screen made in the 16th century. It is titled Tagasode, which means Whose sleeves?  The title comes from a 10th-century poem:

The fragrance seems even more alluring than the hue, Whose sleeves have brushed past? Or would it be this plum tree blossoming here at home?
Iro yori mo ka koso awaredo omohoyure tagasode fureshi ado no ume zo mo
The word haunts: tagasode. Whose sleeves? The question floats in my mind like a cloud on a still day. The sleeves materialize in my mind's eye. I hear them move through hushed air. I can imagine, though not name, the scent of the person to whom those sleeves belong. It's not unlike smelling the scent of your infant's clothes, or holding the perfume bottle that belonged to your don't need to open it... you know tha…