Friday, May 26, 2023

Don’t be scared — it’s your history, too

     Earlier this year I found myself in Washington, D.C., with a free afternoon, so I beelined to the National Mall. There are found the various and wonderful Smithsonian museums: the National Air & Space Museum, worth going just to set eyes on the Grumman Gulfhawk; the Museum of American History, with its tattered Fort McHenry flag, the original star-spangled banner; the National Portrait Gallery, showing off a newly discovered painting of Lincoln.
     None of those were considered.
     Instead I headed to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. I had to, because the place hadn’t been open for business last time I was in Washington, in the summer of 2016. I wanted to see what it was like.
     As I crossed the mall, a kinsman who happened to be in town phoned. He also had some free time. Wanna get together? I asked if he wanted to visit the Museum of African-American History and Culture with me.
     “No,” he said.
     Nothing more. Simply “No.”
     That “no” was disappointing, but not surprising. History can have an obligatory, eat-your-peas quality even when it’s not the history of a people other than your own. Many Americans say “no” to most history, but particularly Black History — an unfortunate impulse being cemented into law in states all over the country. Ron DeSantis raged against Black history in announcing his candidacy for president Wednesday.

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  1. I recall being in a film class at Columbia College taught by Ouida Lindsey of blessed memory. As the only white in a crowded class, I was eyed with suspicion and one college pal told me years later he thought I was an FBI plant. The book the class was using was "Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films" by Donald Bogle. The books never showed up in the college bookstore for the class, but I had a personal copy that the entire class used. I was gold after that, and nought the book rears curiously because I was curious. I always wanted to know stuff, and this present climate confounds me. Don't people want to know stuff too?

    1. Evidently, too many people truly believe ignorance is bliss. So sad.

  2. A shrine to Oprah?
    Now there's a turn off if there ever was one!
    A shrine to the second worst out of control egomaniac this country has ever seen. Only the orange fascist running for president again is worse!

    1. Well ... "shrine" was my characterization. I suppose you could call it a "display" or "exhibit." I'm not fan of Oprah — in my book, "The Alphabet of Modern Annoyances," O is for "Oprah," whom I describe as "that frog-like dominatrix presiding over her Theater of Pain." That said, I think you're overstating the case, slightly. Our country has seen a lot of out-of-control egomanics — Nixon comes to mind. Yeah, she was everywhere for a while. But now she seems a harmless oddity — I guess they always do when they recede. Okay, maybe you're right...

    2. I don't especially care for Oprah myself, but jeez, she does have some good points...doesn't she?


    3. Oprah gets a pass if for nothing else she is a champion of reading in an country that is rapidly dumbing down its populace. I may not like all the books she picks, or the crying she does in movie roles, but anybody who gets people to pick up a book is a treasure. Also her friend Gayle is cute.

    4. No that egomaniac doesn't get a pass from me on anything. She has no good points. Everything she does is about her, her magazine, that had her on the cover of every issue but one. Her wretched 60 Minutes pieces that I ignored, because I purposely recorded the show so I could avoid them.
      And Neil, Nixon was nowhere near an egomaniac as either her or the orange fascist. At least he knew the jig was up & quit.
      And Anon, Gayle isn't cute & is also an egomaniac & also is a terrible interviewer. She bigfoots everyone else on her CBS show & even managed to con CBS into giving her a huge multi-million dollar raise a couple of years ago, forcing the network to cut back on the news division to pay for it!
      I'm still pissed off at her conning that idiot Richie Daley into letting her shut down Michigan Ave at the bridge for several days so she could tape a few episodes of her unhinged talk show outside there & then she decamped to California! Don't forget, she inflicted that quack Dr. Phil on the country & that ridiculous lawsuit over beef in Texas years ago. And her constant yo-yo dieting & weight gain are a staple for the tabloids!
      I'm ecstatic she's off my TV on her own moronic cable channel which I've never seen & never will!

    5. Thanks for sharing, Clark. I can't stand her, either. I have never cared for her at all. Starting with her role in "The Color Purple" almost thirty years ago, when she looked and behaved like an out-of-control dump truck. All she lacked were the back-up lights. When I hear her name, that annoying 1985 image still comes to mind.

      I've done my best to ignore her in the decades that followed. Moving from Chicago to Cleveland helped a great deal. Nobody here really gives a crap about Oprah, one way or another. If they do happen to like her, they keep it to themselves.

      Oprah spelled backward is Harpo...her business name. The Marx Brother who kept silent by pretending be mute.The irony of her usage of that name is not lost on me. She could learn a few things from him.

    6. And let’s not forget her own personal horror story of racial discrimination: the time that the manager of a luxury boutique in Paris wouldn’t let her into the store an hour after it had closed so that she could have her own private shopping spree without having to bump shoulders with the Parisian riff raff.

    7. Well, if you'd told me yesterday that my contribution to today's EGD discourse would be to defend Oprah, I wouldn't have believed it. I've seen a total of one Oprah show, while visiting somebody who was watching it. Never been a fan, and I certainly hold her mainstreaming of Dr. Phil and the Lizard of Oz against her. Is she an egomaniac? Putting herself on every cover of her magazine certainly supports the hypothesis. But c'mon. When you're as popular as she became, and such a significant person to so many, I can certainly see it going to one's head. The main point, to me, is that, on balance, she's been a major force for "good," as I guess I define it. Her Book Club, as mentioned, the many causes she's championed and financially supported, the kinds of movies she's been involved with, etc.

      I can see avoiding her on 60 Minutes, or whatever, and holding her holier-than-thou attitude against her. I cannot see suggesting that only the Biggest Loser "is worse." "She has no good points." LOL! She's a self-made person who pretty much earned everything she got, starting from scratch. She's inspired millions to try to be better people.

      Uh, there's an egomaniac in the news right now, much worse of a person than Oprah -- born on third base, started out with money from his family's emerald mine, spent $44 billion to make a personal plaything out of Twitter, largely in order to let right-wing trolls run rampant. Seems to be supporting more fascists every day. If I'm gonna be fuming about an egomaniac, it's gonna be somebody like him, Rupert Murdoch, Mitch McConnell or any of a number of other right-wingers who are not only egomaniacs, but are also way more dangerous to the future of the country.

    8. "she inflicted that quack Dr. Phil on the country" And Dr. Oz.

  3. The woke virus? Demonizing and outlawing opinions? Demonizing and outlawing black history? As if it's not enough to be enslaved, persecuted, terrorized, and disenfranchised for 400 years, they want to make it illegal to talk about those horrors. DeSantis and the political right have gone mad. And fascist.

  4. Too many times I have read a profile of an African American where the author notes that the grandparents where slaves, yet I never see the same comment about grandparents who were slaveowners. DeSantis and his ilk (DeKlanese?) pitch their gaslighting of the American people about African American History by claiming that it is divisive, that there is only one history - American. The dividing was done by the America that got addicted to slavery, its economic power and its evils. Not only did slavery divide the country, it created divisions within Blacks as well as within whites. There is a real and deep chasm between haves and have nots, labor and capital, and between those who still suffer the inadequacies of a society predicated on enslaved labor and those who benefited.

  5. Remind me never to say "no" to you...

  6. Excellent! "I don't view the Confederacy as my team" will now be my go to response for these ridiculous arguments for whitewashing American history. Perhaps Team Manifest Destiny for those who wash Native Americans out of our history.

    I gotta say I have to triage my outrage, and Oprah will have to stay in the waiting room.

  7. Nobody, as yet, has mentioned the D.C. museums. Has anybody else been to either one of them? Hard to believe it's thirty years since the Holocaust Museum opened its doors. My wife and I toured it a couple of years later. The whole megillah...the boxcars, the experimental labs, the ovens, the annihilated Jewish village (a thousand years of history erased in a single afternoon), the piles of human hair and shoes. It' wasn't the sight of those last two that got to was the smells. When we emerged into the bright April sunshine, I felt like I had just climbed out of a vertical exit from a sewer. Or out of an escape hatch from hell.

    Before the Grand Opening, my wife interviewed the museum's architect for a magazine. She learned that the interior spaces are designed to make a visitor feel anxious and disoriented and even fearful, just as the Nazis used similar physical and psychological methods on their prisoners. Those same tactics made them docile and feel helpless. It works. That's how you feel, too. Your journey takes you from liberation to enslavement. The African-American Museum does the exact opposite...enslavement to liberation (such as it is). It's on my must-do list for my next visit to D.C.

    As is the Sweet Home Cafe. I'm a huge fan of Southern cooking. In the early 90s, when I worked in the Monadnock Building, an outfit called Southern Food Service operated a cafeteria in the basement of the VA facility down the street. I went there for lunch two or three times a week, if not more, and enjoyed the fried chicken, greens, cornbread, and sweet tea. Southern comfort food, pun intended.

  8. Let me write about something other than Oprah. On balance she did way more good than bad.
    When Neil writes about, "folks who they believe should never have been there in the first place and should not be here now." Aren't these the same people whose forefathers brought slaves here in the first place. Aren't these the same people who created the racial problems we have today after the slaves were "freed". How freed were they?
    It was pretty much, "You're not slaves anymore. Good luck being treated like everyone else. When you look at it, not much progress has been made. Some needs to tell Tim Scott that.


    a very important question to ponder. when the downtrodden gain wealth and power, have they switched sides re Oprah ? or have we because we hate to see a powerful influential black person? especially a woman?

    my pap used to use a phrase: " they got to know their place" . he was extremely bigoted and a mysogynist. I learned how not to be from him.


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