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“We didn’t need you.”

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment

As many of the blog posts have mentioned, we had an interesting discussion in class today that explored and problematized Galland’s white privilege, and her treatment of it in Love Cemetery. Rather than reiterate many of the concerns many of us voiced this morning, I’d like to look at a specific quote that was discussed, and try to unpack it a bit more than we had a chance to. I didn’t speak up during class, but the ideas that were budding in my brain this morning have had a chance to stew a little bit, and I feel like I now have more to say.

The third quotation that was pulled out for class today, when Doris begins to challenge Galland, haunted me. I feel like there was more behind what she said than one might initially read, and possibly more than we discussed in class. It seems to me that Doris could have been reacting out of fear and anger, and that her sentiments were more heated than rational. But it could be valuable to approach an interpretation of her words from a completely different angle.

My reading of this passage is not one of reactive anger, but rather solemnity and honesty. I was struck especially by her comment, “We didn’t need you.” I imagine Doris saying this to Galland in a calm, matter-of-fact way, rather than as an acidic offhand remark. White privilege is an enormous presence in Galland’s novel, and it seems that this is one of the moments in which it is brought bluntly to light. My understanding of Doris’ comment is that she sought to remind Galland of her own white privilege. It seems that Doris herself was reminded of just that when she heard Galland’s voicemail, and she had no qualms about becoming a mirror for Galland — reflecting back to Galland the truth that she was a part of the system of white privilege, and that in that moment, she seemed to have lost sight of that. I don’t imagine that Doris wanted to exclude Galland from further participation in the project, but it seems as though she felt it necessary to provide Galland with a crucial piece of perspective — that Galland was a servant to the community members she interacted with, that she was there to offer her services and not to offer the Rescuing Hand of White Power.

I would say that Doris was absolutely the voice of reason in this situation. I think she aimed to get the project back on track, and to shift Galland’s mindset in order to bring her back to the heart of their mission, which was personal, community-based, and organic.

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Love Cemetery: believable?

January 24, 2011 2 comments

Like several people have discussed, Galland’s writing in Love Cemetery frequently irritates me with its overwhelming self-righteousness and self-importance. One passage that particularly frustrated and bothered me this week occurred on pages 198 and 199, in which Galland is describing how, apparently, all the women at a retreat suddenly started crying and apologizing together. Galland describes “tears of connection, tears of release. We were no longer trying to act as if this pain was not between us, as if we did not intimately feel the corrosive touch of a past that is still so much with us. It’s the pain of our stitched-together American democracy, torn and unraveling.” (198) On the next page, Galland valiantly declares, “‘This is a rare opportunity for us as white women to apologize directly for racism and to be forgiven by African American women,’ I said to the others, ‘a true gift’ for those who feel so moved.” (199).  I’ve read this passage over several times and its staggering pretentiousness never ceases to inherently bother me and make me feel kind of icky.

We’ve talked a lot about the hangover of slavery which can still be seen and felt throughout the country. It’s practically everywhere – the fact that the accomplishments of African Americans are, to this day, annotated by their race, the fact that there’s a minority cemetery behind Wolf Ranch that practically none of us even knew existed, the fact that Old Georgetown Cemetery is literally divided in two, and the list goes on. These are ways in which the nation as a whole as well as our own personal pocket of Texas are still impacted by the actions of White Americans nearly 150 years ago, and I think we can all agree that there’s no quick and easy way to fix it. This passage from Love Cemetery almost comes across as though Galland believes that she personally has done this wonderful and impressive thing to make progress toward racial unity and the end of racism. It’s almost as though Galland expects everyone to join hands and sing; this passage seems like a picturesque scene, perfectly scripted from a movie as opposed to real life. I have a really difficult time believing that the events played out exactly the way Galland described.

Racism and the hangover of slavery are still running rampant in America, and this is only enhanced by the fact that, for the most part, we all try to ignore the elephant in the room and pretend it’s not a problem. I understand and appreciate the need for people to come together to find a way to help with these issues, but Galland’s self-righteous delcarations of all that she personally has done to improve these problems and her picturesque description of White and Black women crying together and embracing seems a lot like trying to cover a bullet hole with a band-aid.

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Opening thoughts and whatnot

January 12, 2011 2 comments

This is now the second class I’ve had to utilize a class blog and I have to say, I really enjoy them. I think they provide a wonderful opportunity to hear thoughts and opinions of others in the class who may not have spoken during class.

I’m really excited that this class is focusing on slavery in Texas because I think that the fact that Texas was once a slave holding state is often swept over or briefly mentioned without being dwelled upon in school. I specifically remember when I had to take Texas History way back in seventh grade, the issue of slavery in Texas was mentioned in passing, as though to say, “Yeah we did it but we didn’t really want to, it was just that everyone else was doing it. It wasn’t our idea.” Dr. Stockton and I discussed today how ironic it is that Texans continue to memorialize the battle at the Alamo as a courageous stand for freedom and a tragic story in which the good guys all died, and yet we forget that the Texans were fighting for freedom in part because they wanted to keep slaves and the Mexicans wouldn’t let them. Texans seem to have a major tendency to glaze over the less flattering parts of our history in favor of the more impressive milestones.

I started reading Love Cemetery earlier tonight and just wanted to comment really quickly on something which I found super interesting and which I had honestly never thought of before. On pages 14-15, Galland writes, “I knew enough to avoid calling someone a slave. People were enslaved. Being enslaved by someone was a condition, a degraded position, not a category of being. Calling people “slaves” was a way of denying that they were human beings first.”  This passage really struck me because I had never even considered the different connotations and potential meanings of calling someone “a slave” versus saying they “were enslaved.” Obviously I’ve always understood that these were people who were being bought and sold like common household items, but it never occurred to me that referring to them simply as “slaves” which happens so much in literature and conversations about slavery was further dehumanizing them and adding to the horrors of slavery. I hope in the course of this class we have an opportunity to discuss how we talk and write about slavery and how these tendencies and habits impact the ways in which slavery is remembered today.

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