The Other Wes Moore, A Review

In a workshop designed to prepare instructors for an upcoming fall course, I listened to a number of white instructors speak highly of Wes Moore’s best-selling book The Other Wes Moore. Each word spoken felt like a dagger to my flesh, as African adjacent instructors violently delineated the benefits of teaching black authors to a group of incoming black instructors.  

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Source: Robinhood.org

This was the first hint of the problematic ideologies that encompassed the text. 

For me, The Other Wes Moore delineates what it means to bean  average person of African descent. Wes dreams of making it in a white man’s world are not unique, yet it is the pseudo consummation of this feat that continues to make headlines in the white media. Moore’s text functions as what I call a silencer text. Wes Moore’s text functions as a means to pacify the black collective, to fill us with what functions as hope, but what is not hope at all. This pseudo hope comes in the cliche suggestion that blacks must “pull themselves up by their bootstraps”, an ideology that assumes the presence of boots.  The result of this ideology is a hopelessness, where black readers learn to love the noose around their neck. 

  1. The Distinction: Author and Architect 

The “other” Wes Moore exposes in title the violence of intra-racial othering. This othering is not only present in title, but is a constant throughout the text.  “Other,” though seemingly a means to distinguish two men with the same name, labels each Wes Moore by their proximity to the Western success. The author, is not the “other” Wes Moore despite the stories of hardship that compose the narrative. Therefore the author assumes central placement, and retires his physically incarcerated brother to the margins as “other.”

twowemoores
Source: Salon.com

To avoid performing the same careless act, this post will distinguish between the two Wes Moores as the architect and the author. Wes Moore the author speaks to the voice of this narrative. Wes the architect speaks to a black man that sought to make a house for himself, a house that collapsed and bursts into flames. The flames though did not consume him, but they do compose a large part of this text.

II. Not His Brother’s Keeper

One of the most disconcerting components of this book is the disbelief Wes Moore the author regards Wes Moore the architect. The author critiques Wes for not taking “responsibility” for what the author believed were his crimes. Moore’s conviction reveals him as believing in the same justice system that legalized the enslavement of his people.

twowesmooremen
Source: Salon.com

Moore, the author reserves his sympathy for oppressors wounded in the line of white supremacist duties. To be clear, I am not saying oppressors are not deserving of sympathy. I am articulating that to demand said  sympathy of the oppressed is an act of violence. Likewise, to preoccupy oneself with sympathy for their master, as member of the oppressed group, is to demonstrate the impact of a blow.

Wes Moore, the author does nor believe Wes Moore’s claims of innocence due to his preoccupation with western truth. Wes Moore the author states that the “only” victim, is the cop shot dead during the robbery. To the author, Wes Moore the architect is guilty and the brother of a murderer. To the author, Wes Moore the architect and his brother are criminals, not victims of the most prodigious crime in this earth’s existence. Moore’s decision to include this disbelief in the book illustrates Wes’s desire to distance himself from Moore the architect, an act that stealthily reveals that Moore believes in a racist justice system more than he believes in his collective self. 

  1. Ethnic 

Moore is also consistently ethnic in his text. Moore’s ethnocentrism exposes the author as

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Source: Wikepedia 

not only seeking to distance himself from the “other” Wes Moore, but from “other” black people. In his text, he states the following:

All chores had to be done before we even thought about going outside to play. If we heard any gunfire or, as my grandmother called it, “foolishness,” outside, we were to immediately return home, no matter when it was. These were not Bronx rules, these were West Indian rules. And my grandparents figured if these rules had helped their children successfully navigate the world, they would work on their grandkids too.

These rules seem pretty contingent with the majority of black house-holds, regardless of ethnicity. As a displaced people, one does not have to be highly conscious to be well aware that blackness becomes even more danger laden once the sun sets–as darkness can obscure a the presence of our oppressors. Blacks who roam the street or who are out late, commonly do so out of defiance. Yet, Moore’s statement implies that non-migrant parents allow their children to roam the streets–painting a picture highly similar (if not identical) to the caricatured black body conjured by western creation. 

The author’s distinction  between migrant and non-migrant blacks, implies that his Jamaican mother and Caribbean grandparents who raised him are what saved him from the fate that met Wes the architect. With this, Moore presents himself as the model minority, which again comes back to choice. Those who raised Wes chose to be in the United States, a choice made for the architect and his family.

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Source: Facebook

III. A Father’s Place

Fatherhood is a core theme of the text, and presented as r crossroads for the two Wes Moores.  Wes Moore the author, lost his father when he was three. Wes Moore the architect had a father that was not in his life. Though noted as a point of difference , there is a similarity between the two Wes Moores. Both men illustrate trickle down trauma as a constant in black life. The author delineates the his father’s botched hospital visit, where a fatally ill black man was sent home without diagnosis but with accusations of exaggerated symptoms.

A few hours later he was dead.

Moore revisits this traumatic moment during the first few pages of the text and its retelling leaves a lasting feeling of despair.  A careless mistake cost a wife her husband, and a son his father. The same racial science that dismissed black illness ultimately strips the author of his father. This very science also strips Wes the architect of what should have been his paternal bond. 

IV. Malcolm X

The author’s effort to distance himself from the black who colors outside the lines is

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Source: Wikipedia 

perhaps most evident in his distinction between The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Colin Powell’s memoir. Moore writes:

The canon of black autobiography sensibly includes scores of books about resistance to the American system. For instance, reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X—a book that begins and ends in the madness and pathology of America’s racial obsessions—is a rite of passage for young black men. Malcolm never stopped pursuing truth and the right course, based on the best information he had at any given moment. His response to the world he confronted in the middle of the twentieth century was profound and deeply felt, but he didn’t speak to my experience as well as Colin Powell did.

The term “cannon of black autobiography” is bothersome, as it suggests a formalized space that has yet to be created. The small amount of recognized black texts are too often the product of white invention and reflect white-friendly versions of the black narrative. However, this is the least of the evils present in this excerpt. Just as seen in the distinction between the author and the “other” Wes Moore, the author distinguishes between the hopeful black narrative and the “other” black narrative. Wes Moore states that Powell’s text resonanted so deeply with him, because he and Powell want the same thing “ a fair shot.” Essentially, what Powell and Moore desire is to be dark-skinned white men, or negropeans. They desire to be one with the white world, whereas Malcolm X wanted his own, and most significantly (and fatally) sought to inspire the black collective to want this as well. Malcolm X and Colin Powell illustrate the difference between being melanated and being black. Blackness desires its own, melanated desires inclusion. The inclusion coveted by the melanated is seemingly only fictively consummated in denying any affiliation with the black man or woman. 

V. The Road to Rhodes “Scholarship”

In the same chord of the author’s detachment from The Autobiography of Malcom X,

Colin_Powell_official_Secretary_of_State_photo
Source: Wikipedia 

comes the most troublesome moment in the entire text. Moore details the process of learning about, applying and embarking on his Rhodes scholarship. A process he correlates to Colin Powell:

Although I didn’t really understand it at the time, like Colin Powell, he was telling me that our blood soaked and atrocity littered past was important but that the future did not have to be its slave, Even a legacy as ugly as that of Cecil Rhodes—a nineteenth century imperialist, white supremacist, and rapacious businessman—could be turned around and used by a person like me, someone Cecil Rhodes would’ve undoubtedly despised, to change the world that Rhodes and ppl like him had left for us.

This was very disturbing to read. Moore’s words prove synonymous to the collective amnesia that surrounds Africans who celebrate holidays and covet materialism made possible by the blood of their ancestors. Upon reading this, it became evident that Moore was writing for a white audience. Moore like the late Frederick Douglass, wrote specifically for the white reader. Though unlike Douglass, Moore is not trying to get in the mind of his oppressors to free the oppressed, Moore presents his tactics like an initiation process. Moore’s efforts are to put his white audience at ease as he assumes a seat at their table. Moore is not trying to start a revolution of pro-blackness, but solicits the black body as part of an anti-black army. 

V. Telling Secrets

Another thing that deeply troubled me about this text, was the amount of information

dreams.metroeve_gallows-dreams-meaning
Source, Dream Dictionary http://www.dreams.metroeve.com/gallows/#.W0J4ey2ZO_I

 

provided about the ins and outs of communal drug trafficking. Perhaps of a different caliber than other troublesome behavior exuded in the text, Moore divulges a lot of information pertaining to the “street life.”

Moore speaks to the dynamics of the street and outlines the roles of the drug circuit. Given that this text was quite obviously written for a while audience, it is highly problematic that these roles were made available to those  incapable of understanding the extremities of black plight in the global system of white supremacy. Whites, and non-black persons of color, capitalize on what their research presents as the issues within the black community. Thus, the information presents a means to our oppressors to possible fester the wound of white supremacy. 

V. Conclusion

Though this post may suggest the contrary,  there are strokes of greatness present in the book. To be completely candid, these phases of greatness are consummated solely in Wes the architect’s story. Wes the architect’s story proved far more resonant to me than the author’s. I even found myself wanting to know more about Tony Moore, Wes the architect’s older brother, convicted of murder given a life sentence at and after birth,  fulfilled in the thirty-eight years of his life. Moore’s talk of himself seemed boastful at times, and in a culture where pseudo esteem is pervasive, The Moore brothers offer a rare humility.  Most importantly, The Moore brothers prove superior candidates for a pro-blackness, a stance Moore spends a large amount of his text backing away from.

Most black people have the juxtaposition Wes Moore references in his book, in their own

Wes_Moore_credit_Amunankhra_House_Ltd
Source: Wikipedia

families, or circle of childhood friends. A close look at a black family or circle of friends, will reveal men/women who are the same age, but live vastly different lives. The difference, as illustrated in the two Wes Moores, is only superficial.  Specifically, both Wes Moores depict identical ambitions. The two Wes Moore’s both sought to “make it” as black men in a white world, which is what  turned them both into  variants of contemporary enslavement. Though Wes Moore the author implies that he is the lucky one, I vehemently disagree. Moore the architect proves luckiest because his imprisonment in global hegemony is much more direct. The author however, falsely believes in freedom as given, and “takes” what he sees as opportunity.

In totality, The Other Wes Moore speaks to the shine of tokenism. Wes Moore is the revered token, who authors the book not only to gloat of the perks of being a societal wallflower, but to recruit others to the materialism of tokenism. Tokens appear seen, but are utterly invisible simply because they present a colorless blackness.

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Source: https://patcegan.wordpress.com/2017/03/22/eves-apple/

The text presents a misplaced ideology of choice. Specifically, the author suggests that single moments presented crossroads for both Wes Moores, ignoring the very pressing reality that much of black life is predetermined as a means  to ensure the stagnancy of white supremacy. The bodily and monetarily rape of our ancestors yielded a slew of white privileges that continues to influence black disenfranchisement, a wound festered  in beliefs of being “chosen”, or individualist beliefs that one chose “right.” This becomes a bridge for Wes Moore, the author and his narrative of exceptionalism. 

In conclusion, I am glad I read this book.  Its praise outlines America’s wish for the black man (and woman)  to be a mimic man—a Colin Powell, Henry Louis Gates, or Clarence Thomas—men who personify the apple of the white man’s eye. But while white religion states that it is eve who bit the poisonous apple that spoiled humanity, for the black collective, this deed is enacted by people like Wes Moore.

Wes Moore the author, of course.

Black Power ❤ 

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Kindred, A Key to Kinship: Remembering The Late Octavia Butler on Her Birthday

Science fiction was probably the only genre I did not read growing up. I read A Brave New World as a senior in high school, proud of the mastery I demonstrated of my master’s tools.  I had a ninety-five grade average, which documented my lauded hypnosis delineated in my memory of the white Man’s text, history, and theory. Kindred illuminated the dearth that surrounded by education up to that point. True, my time out of school was inundated with blackness, but my time in school was unapologetically African adjacent. It was wrong, even violent, what they did. But like slavery and lynching,  it was legal. octaviabutler

I first discovered Octavia Butler at Howard University. Kindred was the book selected the year I entered college which was also the year Butler transitioned into what I always envisioned as one the worlds of her prose. The entire Freshman class of 2006 would read the echoes of her influence, as she returned back to her innate form of suspension between life and death—reunited with her ancestors—elevated to a power life only let her grace as she wrote. Kindred proved haunting and inspiring, changing the way my eighteen-year-old self would see the world forever.

Like Octavia Butler’s protagonist Dana, I too am a black Women that is both in the past and the present. My struggles and oblivion to the training I’d been subjected to, is, like the black experience as a whole, something passed down from the struggle of my ancestors.

Kindred follows the story of Dana, a  a twenty-six year old black female writer who IMG_4173physically visits a foremother and witnesses firsthand the blood spilled during the horrors of physical bondage. Her time travel places her in the years preceding the union that would eventually engender her existence. Her great grandmother Alice is owned by Rufus’ family. Rufus will eventually father Alice’s two children. Though Alice doesn’t like or love Rufus, but he “loved” her the same way a farmer loves his chicken, or cow. His privilege severs her loving union with a black man, and through a coercion that translates into consent, eventually goes on to become a great great grandfather to protagonist Dana. 

The text illustrates the shared experience of what it means to be a black woman or man. Being black is not an individualistic experience. To be black is to be part of a whole, to be a page in a book alongside faces you’ve only seen in sullied photographs, or in some cases, faces that you have never seen at all. Dana’s individualism burdens the text, as it is her deed of saving a dying Rufus that enables the rape of her grandmother. Yes, it illustrates that blacks are empaths and innately human. This depiction also illustrates that black humanity, enables white dehumanizing. 

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The text also calls into question the idea of freedom.

Though supposedly far removed from the institution of enslavement, Dana’s foremother Alice illustrates more insight and understanding towards blackness and black female integrity than Dana. This illustrates a non-distorted reality as a benefit to overt racism. Alternatively, the distance many descendants of the enslaved placed between themselves and a past of coercion and cruelty creates a dissonance that is ultimately, if not immediately, dangerous.

For example,  Dana is a  black Woman, married to a white man. Despite the ugliness she experiences, her union with her white spouse remains in tact. Though Rufus speaks of Alice “coming to him without being called,” Alice’s actions are one of survival. She is disgusted with herself when she declines to feel hate towards her rapist, a shame Dana never feels.  I was moved and devastated when Alice ends her own life after Rufus stages her children’s sale to manipulate her emotions. Alice’s life was one of sacrifice, her person was one of power. In death, Alice shows that she was not living for herself, but for others. Namely, at this point—she lived for her kids so devoutedly, she’d die in their absence.  And she did.

 Additionally, her deed does something else.  This action, while a blow to the reader who learned to love the strength of this beautiful woman, illustrates an agency absent from Dana, but tragically executed by Alice in bondage.   ob

For years after reading Kindred I found myself bewildered, and to be frank, angry. How could Dana possibly stay with her white husband after witnessing first hand, the horror of her great-grandmother?  Her cognitive dissonance hits close to home, as the contemporary climate remains inundated by black women who have forgotten the face of their foremothers. The scars on our foremother’s body may have dissipated as their bodies became one with the earth, but these lashes made a mark on our legacy—on our collective soul. This book opens this systemic wound and bleeds into the reader’s mind. Dana’s journey back to her great grandmother was never about her, it was about the readers.

Kindred holds hands with novels that precede it’s brilliance, showing us that these protagonists are “kindred” to the black reader. What makes Butler such a wondrous talent is that she places the reader as the protagonist. The reader goes back in time with Dana, and resents her behavior at times because the penetrating prose places the reader in the position to right a wrong. Dana, in her predisposed imperfection, does not right any wrongs. Instead she plays along, like so many of us have done and still do.

She is imperfect, but her imperfections, prove a means to steer the imperfect reader into the right direction. Particularly, Dana illustrates that the contemporary black body has more power than we are lead to believe. We cannot change the past, but the past can change us.  With Kindred, Butler plants a seed of intellectual curiosity. Kindred suggests that this feat lies at our collective footsteps by literally placing it right before the reader’s eyes.

Thank you, Octavia Butler for authoring the prose that foments your people to do better. We are a better people because of your contribution.

 Just as Dana held the hands of her foremother in Kindred, I hold yours through time and space. Through distance and date. Through life and death.

 I hold your hand as we continue to plow our way through the flames, into a blaze of glory that awaits us at the mountaintop.

Rest in Power Queen Octavia. 

Love. Light. And Black Power ❤

Book Review of Wallace Thurman’s The Blacker The Berry

Hi Everyone,

This marks the very first post of the new book review section, “BlackBookWorm” of Whispers of a Womanist. As a literature/book enthusiast, it is a wonder it has taken so long to launch this section! This section will prioritize, but not limit itself to, the non-canonical black author.

Hope you Enjoy!

C.

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Introduction

Published in 1929, Wallace Thurman’s The Blacker the Berry introduces viewers to the perfect illustration of ingrained white supremacist ideology through imperfect protagonist—Emma Lou Morgan. Written for his grandmother also named “Emma,” Thurman’s text speaks directly to a plague that has been passed from generation to generation–the plague of psychological enslavement–also known as racism. The color line is a deflection, a symbolic deflection those othered by their race are coerced to care about. The depiction of color as a stain or death sentence is a casualty of racism. A shallow read of the text paints the catalyst as color, but Thurman paints a portrait of racism that is biting, raw, troublesome, yet inspiring to read.  The text burns the eyes of a reader seeking to “see” consciousness shut in disappointment, pain, and embarrassment, yet Thurman opens these once wounded eyes with an emergence of clarity where both the reader and protagonist culminate racial understanding and self worth, by the novel’s end. 

The Blacker the Berry is a story told from experience. So while labeled fiction, fiction is simply a detached narrative when referencing the black novel. Bigger Thomas from Richard Wright’s Native Son, Janie from Their Eyes Were Watching God, and Langston Hughes’ Simple, are as real as any person that ever lived. They are simply objective portrayals designed of a shared narrative. The Blacker The Berry, a brief but dense tale, proves why everyone should write a version of their own story so that decades later someone else gets a glimpse into a time they are a product of but did not get to experience personally. 

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Meet Emma Lou

Emma Lou Morgan is the product of a mother whose hair, features and hue qualifies her as conventionally beautiful, and a father whose hue is his only referenced trait. Though she acquired her mother’s hair, she inherited her father’s complexion— a hue that seems a catalyst for the wrath of white supremacy she experiences in cold spells of cruelty. Her upbringing is cruel and singular, largely due to a mother who bore shame in her sun-kissed child:

Her mother had even hidden her away on occasions when she was to have company, and her grandmother had been cruel in always assailing Emma Lou’s father, whose only crime seemed to be that he had a blue black skin. (Thurman 121)

Her blackness was a stain best in omission. The scars of a mother who desired her invisibility was something she internalized as a reflection of others and herself. Emma Lou’s mother felt that Emma was not only black, but “too” black, implying that extremity of blackness is the issue at hand:

She was black, too black, there was no getting around it. Her mother had thought so, and had often wished that she had been a boy. 

This sentiment attempts to seduce readers into thinking that the issue is not with blackness a whole, but in part. This suggestion is one of pure evasion. The mere idea that blackness has such a thing as “extreme” is inherently anti-black. Black is either beautiful, or it is not. To say that some blackness is beautiful is just another way to refute the proclamation “black is beautiful” which very few believed or believe to be true. 

This statement also brings to light a color line demarcation between the genders. Given that the female body is often judged primarily on looks, I do not dispute color as a defining attribute of the black female form, especially in the western hemisphere. The lighter woman is commonly a portrait of beauty, whereas the darker flesh, the blackest berry is perceived as innately hyper-sexual yet seldom appreciated for a beauty not paired with purchased European attributes. Yet, in acknowledging the role color plays in a woman’s life, I am not dismissing the role color plays on a man’s life as well. Especially since, the author Wallace Thurman, in a short life inundated with self-medicating the wounds of a racist society, epitomizes what the European perception of blackness can do to the black male psyche under white dominance.

Though it is not articulated whether Morgan ever feels her blackness is beautiful, by the story’s end Morgan learns that it is not color itself that has direct power over her life, but the power she awards said color in acquiescing to its fictive inferiority.  

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College: Fair-skinned Coloreds only?

Her intelligence affords the ability to go to college in California. However her complexion  disqualifies her from a co-ed group of black students seemingly based on color. Color is quickly exposed as a ruse when readers learn a melanin dominate classmate is at the center of this social circle.  The girl though, is unfathomably wealthy, revealing color as commerce. in a white supremacist climate of capitalism. Morgan makes the acquaintance of a colorful girl named Hazel. Hazel is southern, sun-kissed, and unapologetically herself. She does not fit in with her colleagues, nor does she desire too. She isn’t prim or proper. She speaks loudly and proudly—much to the dismay of Emma Lou. Being shunned from the the circle of black elitist does not curb Emma Lou Morgan’s own elitism. An elitism that results in her shirking Hazel’s friendship. 

Hazel ultimately drops out of school— a fate that mirror’s Emma’s eventual return to the east coast without a degree. Emma Lou de-friended Hazel partially because of color, but also because of a color-harbored expectation that Hazel failed to meet. Reader see this in Emma Lou’s violent interactions with her mother. In a despute, Emma Lou’s fair-skinned mother attributes what she labels evilness to her daughter’s complexion: “I don’t see how the Lord could have given me such an evil, black hussy for a daughter”  (Thurman 115). For Emma Lou’s mother, her daughter’s attitude adds insult to injury, implying that to be “black” is to be bad enough, but to be evil is be completely unfortunate. The statement also implies that 

Emma Lou performs a similar violence in her assessment of peer Hazel.  The sun-kissed hue is to incase a shame, a diffidence that functions to indirectly apologize for the imposition of their blackness. Hazel’s disposition should inspire Emma Lou, but instead, Hazel is an embarrassment. To Emma Lou, Hazel’s brazen speech and confidence presents their ebonized state  like gaudy jewelry or clothing at a white-tie affair. Pun intended.

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Work Woes

Like Hazel, Emma Lou also leaves college. Emma Lou returns home to face the harsh reality that a woman of a darker complexion simply does not have the same opportunities as a fairer-skinned woman. Emma at one point begins to bleach her skin, though the process does nothing but turn her black skin purple. The skin bleaching makes Emma Lou a joke amongst her colleagues who author an anonymous letter confronting the unsightliness of her bleaching efforts.  

This part stung.

It is very easy to critique an action for its overt detriment. It is even easier to call out aesthetically displeasing acts of assimilation, acts more often duplicated than avoided entirely. It is far less common to consider, let alone address, the underlying issues that produce such detriment. Emma Lou’s hecklers are similar to those who critique others who don inauthentic locs, but also make fun of those with thinning hair or bald heads. This of course is a consequence of a colonization, that is seldom addressed to ensure the stagnancy of black underdevelopment. 

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In Love With Light Skin

An underdeveloped self, lures Emma Lou into the crossed arms of a fair-skinned, but utterly miserable man, Alva. Prior to meeting Alva, Emma Lou turns her nose up a kind, black man named John: 

John wasn’t her type. He was too pudgy and dark, too obviously an ex-cotton-picker from Georgia. He was unlettered and she couldn’t stand for that, for she liked intelligent-looking, slender, light-brown-skinned men, like, well . . . like the one who was just passing. She admired him boldly. He looked at her, then over her, and passed on. (Thurman 57)

Emma Lou rejects him, as the world has rejected her. She projects unflattering perceptions of her own hue, onto a man who places appreciation and admiration where others placed disgust. So Emma Lou does what we continue to witness as a collective almost a century later— she launches a search for self in those who imbue a symbolic profit from the esteem-deficient black body. Alva is a drunk, involved with a fair- skinned woman Geraldine. He meets Emma Lou at a dance, after he is challenged by his mean-spirited friend to entertain her in mockery. Emma Lou, desperate for interaction is oblivious to his evilness and latches onto him. They see each other casually for some time after, Alva bringing Emma Lou around his friends for their amusement. The same type of environments continue to exist with black bodies seeking entry into white spaces—where the black body exists as it would in a circus. 

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Conclusion

By the story’s end, after experiencing over two decades of misfortune, Emma Lou realizes that she is the master of her own destiny. She realizes that her misfortune was not because she lacked conventional beauty, but because she failed to see her own beauty as a being of black female form. Alva was the tissue she sought to wipe her tears, the trophy she sought to prove that she had won what the world had predicted her to lose. Alva, abandoned by his lover Geraldine, and left with a mentally handicapped child, is in need of a child care provider. He is a hollow shell of a man who only seeks a means to engage in self-destructive behavior. Alva consummates his desire in Emma Lou, by manipulating her insecurities to secure his lifestyle.  Once, Emma Lou realizes Alva seeks for her to be a “mammy” she is awakened: 

It was clear to her at last that she had exercised the same discrimination against her men and the people she wished for friends that they had exercised against her—and with less reason. It served her right that Jasper Crane had fooled her as he did. It served her right that Alva had used her once for the money she could give him and again as a black Manny for his child. The was the price she had had to pay for getting what she thought she wanted. (Thurman 144)

What she thought she wanted was whiteness.

A whiteness that infects Emma Lou’s psyche with what the medical world would label body dysmorphia.

Body dysmorphia however is something typically only aligned with white bodies like those on a lifelong mission to look like Barbie or Ken. Conversely, blacks who mutilate their strong noses into one weaker in structure and impact, and blacks who shield their one in a million locks with hair antithetical in appearance,  are paired with labels of self-hatred. I have expressed before my disdain for this term, as it overlooks one of the most significant components of racism: a deprivation of self.

Simply put, you cannot hate what you were not given the time or space to develop.

Emma Lou’s narrative, while encompassed in fictive form, speaks to a factual experience exhibited more profoundly in behavior than words. Emma Lou’s story illustrates that black bodies are seldom given the opportunity for treatment in their disconnection from disorders birthed from a toxic system. This due in large part to the reality that black mental illness is a societal necessity. The goal of a white society is to “fix” its “broken” members, or at the very least present them as abnormal in their navigation through the media. Thurman’s text functions to illustrate the Emma Lou as bearing a normalized abnormality, many do not live long enough to correct.

Black Power ❤