Our Time Wideman Essay

Our Time Wideman Essay-68
Of course, it’s true, the publishers have to appeal to prospective readers by sketching out the contents of the book in familiar terms, and of course the blurb is really only a crude means of achieving that aim.

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Unopposed, unopposable, my view back then, because he didn’t care. He didn’t give a good goddamn push come to shove, about her or anyone else. These personal details are not the primary concern of but their relationship to the precariousness of too many black lives, especially males.

Didn’t care.” Wideman sees his mother as Mamie Till’s double and then he makes the most unsettling statement of his book: “A disturbingly simple fact: every time a , a colored male person they love, man or boy, leaves and the door shuts behind him, door to a dwelling in which they are attempting to make something of their lives together, there’s a good chance that he, , that colored male person, won’t return. And to modulate his concern, when Wideman visits Louis Till’s grave in a cemetery for American soldiers in France, he discovers the discrimination against black soldiers that continued even with their burial.

The brilliant fusion of the several genres that inform this book are further illuminated in the following statement: What we do know about Louis Till is that he beat his wife during their short marriage.

There was a restraining order against him, and when that did not work, the judge ordered him to enlist or go to jail. [Wideman’s father was in the Army at the same time.] If black men were second-class citizens in the United States, conditions were no better in the military.

That horrifying event did not result in Southern justice. But even though we are still choking on it, it’s difficult to be hopeful about racism in America.

Our country has been built on it and now we have a president elect who sees it as a growth industry. What was he to expect when he first became aware of the murder and saw the photos of the fourteen-year-old in a casket?Broadly considered, Wideman’s body of work reveals a lifelong interest in African American experiences over the last two or three hundred years.Fair enough, and unsurprising in light of the author’s background.Moreover, if American Histories is not exactly “about” the status he possesses, or doesn’t possess, the book is certainly informed by it.All of the above biographical details are therefore germane to an appreciation of Wideman’s agenda in these pages.You are probably familiar with the basic facts of Emmett Till’s brief, tragic life.Born in Chicago in 1941, he was violently murdered in Money, Mississippi, August 28, 1955, allegedly for whistling at a white woman. When his body was shipped back to Chicago for a funeral, his mother, Mamie, insisted on an open casket so that all the world could see how brutally mutilated his body had been. After all of these years, Emmett Till’s death sticks in the caw of American racism.Relative to white Americans, throughout the history of the United States, the majority of African Americans have been and continue to be disproportionately disempowered: by slavery, by segregation, and more latterly by a criminal justice system that upends African American lives as effectively as those prior historical forces.But — But social statistics can’t reckon with the stuff of individual being.There’s a wrenching scene in the book when Wideman’s mother accuses him of being selfish, “,” that is, like his father, of not accepting responsibility for those around him.“When she addressed those words to me, my mother acknowledged the vulnerable place inside herself where my father reigned absolutely. Once he leaves the space they are struggling to secure for their mutual benefit, for the benefit maybe of their children, once beyond the door and out in a world which does not love him, there are no guarantees.” Either the world will kill him or he will do something that becomes the equivalent of suicide. Besides the conflicts between his parents, he has a brother who is in prison for life and a son also in prison for a twenty-five year term.


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