Thursday, February 27, 2020

Daydream in B Major - by Catriona

What Black character would you want to be for a day?

Black History Month is almost over and here's the Criminal Minds question that's really been making my brain work as it approached.

First off, are we talking about a fictional character in the fictional world of a book? If so, then I'd happily be anyone at all except the victim, the perpetrator (especially one that gets caught), or a red shirt (dead in the first reel, for plot reasons). I'd happily be Michelle in John Vercher's THREE-FIFTHS. It's a heartbreak of a book but she's a great character.

But let's say we're talking about being a Black character in the real world, or in a world where anything can happen even if it's not in the book. Like one of those sociology/reality telly experiments where a white person gets disguised to walk around and "experience" racism? Uh no. Because if they "experience" a level of racism they decide they'd rather not "experience" after all, they could wipe off a stripe of the make-up, reveal the trick, and stop "experiencing" it again for the rest of their lives. 

That conceit always annoyed me as much as those gigs Barbara Ehrenreich and Polly Toynbee did, working for minimum wage and living on what it brought them to "experience" a loss of economic privilege. For three months. As if being stony broke for three months by choice is in any way like being poor for a lifetime. (Seriously, a columnist in a local newspaper here once set out to "prove" that people on welfare were feckless, by living on it himself for a period of time. He said straight out that he went to Costco and stocked up in advance of the adventure beginning.)


I do have an answer to the question, as well as a rant. The Black character I would like to be for the day, on these anything-can-happen terms, is Alexia Gordon's Gethsemane Brown, the African American musical director of an orchestra in a boy's school in rural Ireland, who lives with a ghost.

For a start, I'd get to be in Ireland for a day - meat pies, Tayto's crisps, russet apples/Persian pomegranates/local strawberries, depending on the season . . . 

And a ghost. That's not an experience I'm otherwise going to have.

Also, while I'm sure Ireland has racists - Scotland does - I know from my childhood and youth in *that* wee green drunk country we knew lots of American people were Black and took that as a neutral fact about an already exotic bit of the world. (We definitely thought most judges were Black women; anyone who grew up on seventies cop shows had that idea pounded in pretty hard.) So my guess would be that the reaction to an African American woman in rural Ireland would be one of interest, cluelessness and appreciation of a bit of glamour from overseas, rather than overt hostility and nastiness. Is this cowardice? Not entirely. I don't need to find out what racism feels like. (1) I know what sexism feels like and (2) I already believe Black people when they tell me.

Another reason for this pick is: Gethsemane is musical - she's a violinist - and I'm not at all. Wouldn't it be amazing to pick up a fiddle one misty morning and be able to play it?

Finally, Irish cops don't have guns. In fact, hardly anyone in Ireland has a gun. And I'm writing this on the anniversary of the murder of Trayvon Martin, who should be twenty-five now.

RIP Trayvon 1995-2012


Susan C Shea said...

Thank you for posting the photo and recognition for Trayvon.

And, yes, I'm just reading Alexia's first nook in the series and she's great. And it also does seem like she's appreciated or disliked in the little town for many reasons but none of them are her blackness so, yeah, she'd be a good character to slip into.

Angela Crook said...

I love this! Maybe I should consider Ireland as my place of refuge (escape) from the pure hell of being black in America. I also would love to be able to play a violin and I don't know what a Tayto's crisp is, but it sounds like my name might be all over it.