The three articles read for today’s class all
bring up identity in one way or another and discuss the nature of race and
gender while taking a critical look at the portrayal of such identities – male,
female, white, and black.
In Phallus(ies) of Interpretation: Toward Engendering
the Black Critical “I” duCille discusses
what is considered by others “an essential black experience.” Although duCille dispels this viewpoint, the
issue remains that many black male critics would say that “one can be black or
a woman, but claiming both identities places one on shaky familial ground.” These
critics require and demand better black male characters – male characters who
would not fit the stereotypical mold upheld by the white community. The works
of black feminist authors are snubbed. They are told that they put “their gender before
their race, their (white) feminism before their black family.” Suddenly, to be
feminist is to be white and is, therefore, a form betrayal.
Trudier Harris also makes reference to
identity but by critiquing Walker’s portrayal of the African American woman.
Harris says that she was enraged; she could not identify with Celie and knew no
black woman who would. She claims that a stronger Celie – a Celie more like
Sofia – would be more identifiable, and that the acceptance of suffering that Celie
upholds for most of the novel is more akin to the white fairytales of Cinderella or Snow White. Celie, through her
feminist – or even victimized feminist – portrayal, has been white washed.
These two articles seem to associate an
identity with a set of characteristics. The identities of black and woman have
been pit against each other, but to what end? It seems that rather than lifting
the other group up, they work to tear them down, working against rather than
together. In The Black Person in Art: How Should S/he be Portrayed?, we
encounter different responses to questions regarding the criteria for true
representation of the black male or female. Many commentators created a set of requirements
for proper representation. Lloyd Richards specific response had piqued my
interest. He answered with a question of his own: “How should any person be
portrayed in art?” Identity was stripped: there was no black or white or female
or male. There was simply ‘person’ – the ultimate
identity that both critics and authors should not forget. It is important to view the struggles of a group of people, but it should not be at the expense of a well-rounded character. An identity is not a personality.