Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Warmth of Other Suns: July 2017

The Warmth of Other Suns (2010), by Isabel Wilkerson, was the choice of the Charles West Book Group for this month, July 21 2017. The book was suggested by Carol Frilegh, and she led us in an extremely interesting session. 

The consensus was that book is nicely written, an easy read, if a bit too long and repetitive. A lot of research has been done, and the book is full of facts on the Jim Crow laws in the Southern States, and gives three examples of the migration of individual Black people from the Southern States to the Northern States of America. The book won the National Book Critics Circle Award, among many other accolades.

Isabel Wilkerson
Some of our Group hadn’t given too much thought to this period of history in the States, and were pleased to have their knowledge widened. Not many of our Group had met any Black people, which makes it difficult for them to really understand this period of American history. It was pointed out that Canada has an apartheid system with its First Peoples. Paying them to stay in their reserves isn't slavery, but does it do them any good? Can we understand the pragmatic reasons why this system was set up in the first place, any more than we can understand the pragmatic reasons behind slavery?

Sadness was expressed that slavery happened in the States, and that racial prejudice still lingers as a result. Our psychologist, Dr. Ruth, pointed out that human nature being what it is, different groups will always be suspicious of each other and that racism, meaning distrust, even fear, of the different “other” will always be with us. We were reminded that slavery has always been a large part of history. In the Middle Ages, for instance, the Vikings and Jews made fortunes trading, especially in slaves from Ireland, England, and other places. These slaves were sold even in China. At the same time, the Arabs were trading in Black slaves from the sub-Sahara. There are Black people in the Caribbean and South America, and their ancestors were all slaves. What happened in the Southern States of America was happening all over the world, and was not unique. It was of its times.

It is considered an advance that Black people are now examining their own experience in the United States. They are writing books and making films, and developing a deeper understanding themselves of what happened. More and more, they are developing a pride in themselves, and will be able to place their historic experience into the larger picture of world history.

The Warmth of Other Suns is part of that process. It is a good contribution.

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