Brian Surgery with a Switch-blade

Posted by Melvin Bray on July 7th, 2008 filed in Useful Perhaps

I’m not sure how I feel about this GP post—whether it says something that ought to be voiced or whether I just fell into the trap of being the Black guy who commented on the black thing just because I happened to be more qualified to do so than most other GP contributing writers.

If nothing else, I do love the quote by Ralph Ellison…

The 4th of July is always a weird holiday for me. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the nostalgia, picnics, barbeque, fireworks and romanticizing of history—I do—yet as a student of history I can’t help but be reminded of the July 5, 1852, speech of Frederick Douglass, given at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, NY. If you haven’t, you should read it. “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn.” This was a full 10 years and then some before Emancipation. Though I do not mourn in the same way or for the same reasons, I feel I owe such proud patriotism some homage. So I remember in (mostly) quiet yet hopeful ambivalence. January 1st (1863) is much more straightforward for me.

Exactly one week prior to the Fourth this year (not by accident, I’m sure), the largest segmented survey of African-Americans ever conducted was released by the research firm Yankelovich. The study was commissioned by Radio One, the largest radio broadcasting company primarily targeting African Americans in the U.S. USA Today was given the first opportunity to review it.

I am always amazed at how serendipitously life tends to sync up with what I am currently reading. On the very day Black America Today was released to the public, I coincidentally began reading Dark Matter, an anthology of speculative fiction. I was floored by the incisiveness of the following statement found in the anthology’s introduction:

“In his 1953 collection of cultural criticism, Shadow and Act, Ralph Ellison cautioned readers not to stumble
‘over that ironic obstacle which lies in the path of anyone who would fashion a theory of American Negro culture while ignoring the intricate network of connections which binds Negroes to the larger society. To do so is to attempt a delicate brain surgery with a switch-blade. And it is possible that any viable theory of Negro American culture obligates us to fashion a more adequate theory of American culture as a whole.'”

This became the lens through which I process the Radio One survey in the shadow of Independence Weekend. I’m not left with a cohesive image. Rather a disjointed vision cracked by nagging questions.

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