Quiz 1 (225)

General remarks on the Quiz:

Here is gradesaver.com‘s description of Jerry:

“Jerry works for Major Carteret at his newspaper. He is an African American who is servile to the white ruling class in order to ensure his own economic gain and survival. He is depicted as being cunning and conniving.” 

This passage will be very familiar to some of you. I want to emphasize once again that your grade is based entirely on completing an activity on time rather than “being right.” The course policy is that if there is evidence a student has cheated they will receive a zero on the assignment and be referred to the Dean of Students. 

The only way to really understand The Marrow of Tradition and its significance in US American literary culture is to read it. Learning about the role of race and racism in US American history is a form of anti-racist practice. In the longer term it actually helps.

Back to Jerry. Racism deforms people. It cultivates hatred. It limits life chances. It creates physical, psychological, and structural violence. In different ways both oppressor and oppressed are damaged. Jerry is clearly a degraded figure, yet his servility is a strategy for survival. 

Think about Jerry in relation to other characters such as Josh Green, Jane, the young nurse, Sandy, and the Millers. If they are all members of the same race they differ in terms of experience, motive, education, and class. One of the things Chesnutt wants us to attend to is the ways that Jim Crow flattens out these differences. Part of the Nadir is this refusal of personhood.

If you’re unclear on what factors contributed to the Nadir of the Negro please read the assigned article.

I wouldn’t call race a cultural value but a category of social identity. In a strict biological sense it doesn’t exist.

Look at this statement by the American Association of Physical Anthropologists:

“Race does not provide an accurate representation of human biological variation. It was never accurate in the past, and it remains inaccurate when referencing contemporary human populations. Humans are not divided biologically into distinct continental types or racial genetic clusters. Instead, the Western concept of race must be understood as a classification system that emerged from, and in support of, European colonialism, oppression, and discrimination. It thus does not have its roots in biological reality, but in policies of discrimination. Because of that, over the last five centuries, race has become a social reality that structures societies and how we experience the world. In this regard, race is real, as is racism, and both have real biological consequences.” https://www.physanth.org/about/position-statements/aapa-statement-race-and-racism-2019/

The motto for the course is “Don’t freak out, man.” “E pluribus unum” is on the money in your pocket. It means “Out of many, one.” “Make one day equal twenty years” is a slogan from the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Nobody chose “Welcome to Flavortown.”

Finally, a word on terminology. “Colored” was a polite term used to describe people of African descent. Nobody uses it any more so it sounds weird. Current accepted usage is Black or African American or “of color.”