Wednesday, March 10, 2010

humor and the Civil Rights Act

Humor and the Civil Rights Act

After reading Tyler and hearing about the special circuit for blacks in the days of Billy Holiday I couldn’t help but wonder how he was able to get into such a comedic, yet serious character (not to mention giving her such a powerful voice).

There is a lot that everyone in our country takes for granted when it comes to black people in the media. I think Tyler is right up there with people like Michael Jackson, and Aretha Franklin. Even though he did hid work in a much more modern time, he explores many stereotypes of both races. I loved how Medea was not afraid to speak her mind on many issues. It is not very often that any writer today will be so up front with how we as a society view color, gender, and age. I can only think of one or two off the top of my head right now.

While we all know that Tyler Is the writer, and gives life to his main character, I think it is appropriate to give her the respect she deserves. It is her talking, not him, and as he states her opinions are from her mind; not his. I am sure that in most bookstores you would find this novel in the comedy section, but I think there are also elements of drama interwoven in what she is saying. We are a very pigeon-hole society. While one type of prejudice has disappeared, another pops up. I did a paper in a Political Science class on hate crimes. It is only in November of 2009 that the Matthew Sheppard Hate Crimes Act has gotten much support. He was a young man murdered in Wyoming in 1998 because he was gay. Most of us have that “Peace on Earth” mantra, but in reality do any of us act it out on a regular basis?

Tyler hits on a very present stereotype when he (Medea) talks about color, and what blacks and whites would understand in terms of humor and what they would not. He is using his main character as a device to say that we as a society are still separated (despite the fact that the Civil Rights Act is over forty years old). His main character is believable, but like a true artist you know its what Tyler is saying about the people in this country. It’s funny, but it should also be taken very seriously.

Ironically I just finished reading a memoir by the famous African American, Baltimore neurosurgeon DR Ben Carson. I thought it was interesting how he capitalized Black and White when discussing them as races. It saddened me a lot, but then I realized that he must have felt a lot of persecution being the only lack neurosurgeon in Baltimore during the 1980’s when his career was just starting. It made me see just how far we have to go as a nation when talking about race. The book was written in 1990 so I see that we had a lot further to travel, but he is the only black author I have read that does that as punctuation empathies. I think it goes right back to Tyler’s attempt to break stereotypes in terms of race. I see that doing this in the early 1990’s must have been acceptable, and maybe even a good idea. But I cannot see what effect it has in the millennium. It just speaks volumes of Madea’s point, and how crucial it is that we have more authors like Tyler in our society today.

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