Close Reading American Literature

This Makes More Sense Than I Thought It Would: Close Reading of Draft Paragraph

I am going to provide some close reading of the texts and examples I will use in my essay as well as the actual draft paragraph that I have so far. This is just to find for myself what points I want to emphasis, connect, repeat later on in the essay and will mostly be me looking at details and setting an outline for the rest of my essay:

                                Down On Bended Knee: A Criticism on Respectability Politics

“Down on Bended Knee”: a reference to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling/sitting during the national anthem in protest against the oppression of African-Americans and minorities in America. Is this not obvious? Do I want to mention this current event in my essay? I am not sure yet. He is being attacked for his silent, nonviolent protest, his using his first amendment right to free speech is deemed “unpatriotic” and those who claim so do not see the irony.

“A Critique on Respectability Politics”: Does this sound better? (I am mostly talking to myself here) I want to mention the difference in the standards that African-Americans, immigrants, protesters, are held to–they must be peaceful, nonviolent, grateful that they get to be American citizens, and, in the case of times in slavery, subservient, loyal, uncomplaining…wow I just noticed something, the expectations that slaveholders had for their slaves–and which the general white population (in the north) had for freed slaves–are v. similar to the demands being made by angry, white Republicans and white nationalists today–compared to those standards that the opposing, totally-not-racists racists criticizing movements, protests and people are being held to; people like Tomi Lahren–who recently was on the Daily Show w/ Trevor Noah–get to complain about protesters while also stating that they do not understand why people are protesting, they can remain ignorant about the tense, still unresolved race relations in the U.S. and their voices will still be considered legitimate, they can actually say that they have never been a victim and have no reason to protest–why would they? They are privileged, well-off, white and removed from the rest of the world–and instead of being told to educate themselves, to open their eyes to the real world that they are most definitely a central part of, instead their claims that African-Americans are “cry-babies” will be heard and people will actually think, “huh. Why are people protesting? They’ve got no reason to.”

First Paragraph:

Listen to any of the speeches made by civil rights leaders, watch any debate featuring proponents of the Black Lives Matter movement, read any of the myriad open letters and slave narratives written by actual African-Americans and slaves about the injustices they have had to live with, and you will often find not a plea for reason or for mercy but rather, a statement of fact and of the reality of many lives lived and being lived today. Often in the discourse on race and white supremacy, both current and from the antebellum period in America, all that is necessary to prove the existence of racism and injustice is the truth. In reading slave narratives like Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl,  we see from the reality of slavery exactly how Americans were not civilized and were not Christian and were, in fact, hypocrites. Yet today, we see similar arguments being made where white Americans claim that they are not racists and that American society is not set against the interests of African-Americans.

(Here are my ideas for a transition to my thesis)

The reality of the actual life experiences of Black Americans is being questioned just as the authenticity of slave narratives was questioned/denied/undermined by the assertive white public who, ignorant to actual slave lives, somehow felt entitled to be the judge as to what is the truth.

The sources I am considering right now:

-Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Ann Jacobs, I would mention the fact that this narrative is precluded with a letter from Jacobs’ editor as a sponsor, a witness to Jacobs’ character, a kind of works cited/source that proves Jacobs is who she says she is. This was not necessary for the white authors of fictionalized slave narratives. Harriet Beecher Stowe never had to cite her sources, where she got her content from.

Rory McVeigh and Christian Smith, Who Protests in America: An Analysis of Three Political Alternatives–Inaction, Institutionalized Politics or Protest: I am hoping this secondary source will provide me with enough information on ignorance/awareness to argue that the people who protest–today, and in the past with rebellions and runaway slave–have just cause while those who do not take action are unaware or unaffected by the social/political problems in their world.

Rajini Srikanth, Constructing the Enemy: Empathy/Antipathy in U.S. Literature and Law: I was originally going to focus on empathy in the white oppressor–historically and currently–but I can still connect this to my new thesis–still unformed–on the standards of decorum that African-Americans are held to vs. those who oppose them. I hope to understand how, both in politics and in literature, the enemy/oppressor antagonises themself by refusing to empathize/sympathize with those being oppressed. I can relate this to debates/discussions nowadays where the “enemy”–be them republicans, white nationalists (neo-nazis), liberals or just plain old hard-headed, dry hearts–cannot fathom the possibility of similarity between them and the oppressed/protesting/resisting.

That is what I have so far. I want to use the recent event where Trevor Noah invited Tomi Lahren to his show, the public reaction to Kaepernick–the recent Pearl Harbor speech where a Navy Admiral felt it appropriate to judge Kaepernick’s actions, etc–, the reaction to Harriet Jacobs’ text. I hope to have more to work with and to have it all make sense. If you have any suggestions for other sources or arguments I could use, I will gladly consider!!

Note: Hyperlinks open to JSTOR site and abstracts, not to the actual source material. I am working on that, sorry.


2 thoughts on “This Makes More Sense Than I Thought It Would: Close Reading of Draft Paragraph

  1. The introduction was a bold and direct comment on the situation of Colin Kaepernick’s expression of his First Amendment. I liked the second paragraph and the third paragraph, they merged the idea of the name of the title in the newspapers to the fact that the nation is still as racist as t was during the times of slavery.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think you can mention Kaepernick, perhaps as you zoom out to the conclusion. The conclusion is an excellent place to demonstrate the exigency of the topic and how it is playing out in present day. This is an excellent outline of your thinking and I think your topic has developed significantly over the week! Remember to narrow your focus and not lead your paper in too many directions at once in just 8-10 pages.


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