Unit 1, Assignment 3, Virginia Adams

Toni Morrison’s central thesis of her piece “Black Matter(s)”, that Africanism has influenced American literature through its presence, addresses the absence of black characters and authors by maintaining that this population shapes the body of work even without a direct appearance. The omission of this racial group is, in itself, telling of a larger, racially-biased trend in American culture and politics and demonstrates the caucasian emphasis and power therein. Morrison remarks that writers write about different versions of themselves for others like themselves and, when writers choose to portray other racial groups within their own work, it almost always reveals more about the author than the subject. The fascinating element of the complexes Morrison presents, the ideas of absences in the narrative communicating just as much to the audience as the actual work, connect back to discussions of the archives during sapere aude on how to best account for the holes and missing voices in Davidson’s story and bring in more new voices. Nonetheless, more so than specifically at Davidson, Morrison views these empty spots in the narrative less as hindrances to understanding and more as additional evidence to a history of subjugation of difference. She claims that prevalent themes in literature, the constitution, the establishment of the public school system, and even the notion of freedom as a pillar of American identity all stem from the majority caucasian group’s ability to extend its control over the black presence. Consequently, this dynamic informed the ways humans existed at the time and thus their writings and work. Morrison’s ability and tendency to read literature with a mirror held to the face of the author, using their work to paint a picture of their own views, can extend beyond merely fictional books to a study of the development of history and how humans in different time periods think about the same past events. Furthermore, it can study the writings of different nations and cultures to compare which groups in each nation are present, which groups are silent, and how their different perspectives spin the same event. 

Other authors: Chiminanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Danger of a Single Story”; John Locke “Second Treatise”

  1. How does the cyclical nature of the way government and culture influence each other institutionalize the freedom and superiority of some groups over others and establish a political climate that emphasizes difference over sameness?
  2. Does the government have a responsibility to promote diversity and inclusion in literature and other aspects of culture or must it remain insulated, and, if so, how far does that responsibility extend?
  3. How can humans as a nation best reconcile systematic historical and contemporary lacks of access to education and literature, frequently based on race, and move forward to establish a cultural dialogue that includes voices across racial and ethnic backgrounds?


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