18 May 2007

Enthusiasms (8): Mavis Staples - Freedom Songs

In an interview this morning on npr Mavis Staples, who has been singing "Freedom Songs" (as well as R&B, Gospel, & Blues) for half a century in a wonderfully bracing voice, put her finger on the fact: "Racism, It's still here." Check out her newly released album here. The recordings are not revivalist, they are updated versions aimed at showing the continuities of American society over time.

PS: (Added 18 May 07) The cover image on this album is a detail of three African-American Civil Rights Activists holding hands to support one another as police in Birmingham, Alabama spray them with fire hoses (4 May 1963). Image BE002446-RM © Bettmann/CORBIS

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sure its still here. It may be dangerous to say it, and appear suspect, but its a fact that people are naturally suspicious of others who look, sound and appear as very different and alien. The same applies at the more complex level of organised culture. The same applies when, for example, a Westerner enters the culture of a primitive tribe: its dangerous. And its based on race. Racism is not an inherent US or Eurocentric evil; its found in all cultural groups and where it's the basis for terrorism, for example, it needs to be recognised and challenged.

Power relations - who has it and who doesn't and thus who is most enabled to be abusive - are another matter. And terrorism, to stay with the same point, shifts the power relations because its built on an ontology where life is no longer sacred - just a prelude to a superstition-based afterlife, in the case of its current worldwide manifestation.

Finding mutual humanitarian accord is the way forward: and that involves acknowledging and condemning that which is not humanitarian - which is based on ignorance, tribalism, and divisive rather than multicultural attitudes. For all its problems, US and European multiculturalism is a considerable achievement. And on that basis, in relation to the new 'global village' scenario, I think we're more than entitled to expect the same maturity from others, as it pertains to their own cultural attitudes, societies, and countries, insofar as they collide with the West.

18 May, 2007 12:36  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

(1) Nothing I said implies that Europeans and North Americans have a monopoly on racism or xenophobia; (2) whether such attidues and practies are "natural" is at least debatable; (3) Racism & power (terror too) often but not always go hand in hand; (4) I agree about multiculturalism being an achievment, although an incomplete and precarious one; (5) finally, I think it is best to start at home, get one's own house in order prior to preaching tolerance and so forth to others (in part because, as the old saw has it, actions speak louder than words). All this is complicated, of course. Thanks for the comment! JJ

18 May, 2007 15:52  
Blogger Apprentice said...

"people are naturally suspicious of others who look, sound and appear as very different and alien"

This is patent nonsense. Children aren't naturally suspicious, they are taught it.

We are all taught by all kinds of means to distrust strangers, even if they look exactly like us. Where I live, people of exactly the same ethnic backgrounds and physical characteristics are taught tribalistic hatreds of each other. It's called football.

On the othert hand, many, many people are attracted to otherness, to the strange or exotic. It's why we love spicy food and why we all love to travel. Strangeness is exciting, stimulating, enriching, ennobles the spirit and expands the mind.

29 May, 2007 15:13  
Blogger Apprentice said...

Oh and why tf does every post I see on race and racism have people in the comments streams that bang on about terrorism?

Is there a connection? I mean between institutionalised racism, and whatever you think this 'terrorism' means?

29 May, 2007 15:16  

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