Archive for February, 2012


…while “pluralism” depends on mutual respect, it does not require deference to other people’s private authority figures.

via Political Animal – The Liberal Catholic Complaint, by Ed Kilgore

The contraception fight is in full swing: will the Bishops box the government into carving out special considerations for the Catholic church? What line are the Bishops asking the Obama administration to step across? And how will crossing that line affect people who, while they might respect the Bishops, grant to special authority to them, let alone cede the authority of the U.S. government to them.

I think Kilgore’s quote draws the line quite nicely.

Ta-Nehisi Coates reflects on the recently found tape of Malcolm X speaking in 1961 at Brown University:

I think it’s easy to forget how much Malcolm X actually enjoyed these campus visits, not simply as someone spreading Nation dogma, but as a person who had never enjoyed the constant mental stimulation of a college campus. There are many rewards along the autodidact’s road — but those who hail from a certain socio-economic background often find themselves without fellow travelers and respected interlocutors. My Pops often says that one of the best things about the Black Panthers was that it was the first time in his life he’d been surrounded by thinking, literate, politically-minded young people.

Oh, I can’t tell you how hard (in a wonderful way) this hit me: “… one of the best things about the Black Panthers was that it was the first time in his life he’d been surrounded by thinking, literate, politically-minded young people.”

(I will admit I had to look up the term “autodidact” – I think of it as someone who seeks knowledge on their own, without benefit of a school or teacher or academic program or mentor. The definition “self-taught person” seems to oversimplify the case.)

My parents were young moderate-lefty-ish white kids – not exactly the target audience of either Malcolm X or the Black Panthers – and while wary of the “incendiary” language of both Malcom X and the later-day Panthers,* they none-the-less had a definite respect for both that great speaker, Malcom X, and that great organization/movement, the Black Panthers. And it was this sense of hearing, perhaps of being PERMITTED to hear, the voices of “thinking, literate, politically-minded young people” who also happened to be black and so articulated their experience, that really captured their hearts. They might quibble over the details of the proposed revolution, but there was no doubt they were moved by the voices of its advocates. And they were moved not only by the content, but by the poetry as well.

I am lucky (as a little white kid) to have heard the words of Malcom spoken in his own voice. A lot of my little kid friends didn’t have a clue who he was, much less what he said. I wish more little white kids had heard it in its day. I wish their parents had shared it with them. I think it might have made a difference. That’s one thing the Youtube generation has going for it that we didn’t have in my day: access.

My parents and god-parents, from whom I learned about the Civil Rights Movement, Dr. King, Malcom X and the Panthers, were the ones who taught me that the Panthers started out as a organization of young black men who were doing things like making sure little kids in their neighborhoods had breakfast, and shoes to wear to school. I know they learned it despite all kinds of efforts by mainstream America to thwart that awareness; I am forever grateful to them for passing it on to me.

 

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* I’m not saying it was incendiary, just that they perceived it as so. When I hear those same words, I perceive them as grim but realistic.

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