Monday, February 10, 2014

Who has a wider audience, Beyonce or Alice Walker and Toni Morrison Combined? Well, for starters, it's hard to ban music.

In the last three weeks I've published a post in which a rap expert explains the lyrics of Jay-Z's rap in Beyoncé's "Drunk in Love," and I've also published a post about a prominent male writer who misrepresents what Nobel laureate Toni Morrison said about Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker.

Beyoncé's recently been lauded for making history as the first woman to hit number one with her first five albums. However, both Walker and Morrison made history by being the first African-American women to win either of those prizes for literature, and their fiction, activism, and critical essays have helped shape societal views.

I suspect the answer to the question I posted in the title of this post is Beyoncé, but I haven't validated my suspicion. Nonetheless, can you guess which posts gets more hits according to my stats, the one about Beyoncé or the one about two literary greats? It's always been that way from what I've observed over the course of more than ten years blogging.

Which of the two links above are you most likely to click?

Is it possible that the younger Beyoncé fans of today will be the Walker and Morrison connoisseurs of the future? I'm trying to remain hopeful here, but my mind keeps returning to a disturbing thought. The problem is not that today's younger people may be more interested in sex, rap, and reality shows (that's kind of expected, right?), but that many of our schools may be the agencies that keep the next generation from ever being more than consumers of sex, rap, and reality shows.

Often it's school boards, supported by fearful parents, preventing younger generations from being exposed to Morrison and Walker's work. As this article at the Guardian discusses, "book bannings are on the rise" in the United States.

So, young potential readers will bake under the predictable rays of pop culture with little exposure to the literature that helps them think critically about the world or to have empathy for the other.

I have nothing against  Beyoncé or her husband Jay-Z. I own some of their music, and I'm curious about what pop culture is saying about our changing world. Nonetheless,  I wonder what it is that some people think they protect children from by banning books, particularly teens who already get exposed through television and the Internet to most of the "bad things" book banners aim to curb.

Are the book banners "protecting our young" or are they protecting themselves from having to tackle tough topics in the classroom or answering hard questions at home? And what will be the final outcome for the minds of tomorrow?

1 comment:

Denise said...

I don't think it's just about banning -- I think it's a class issue, as well.

If you don't have the money or access to the library (or the energy to get to the library by taking three buses or even the knowledge about what to look for when you get to the damn library...) you aren't going to be exposed to the wide range of authors available to you.

And then there's the problem that those who are in regular classes or low-literacy classes are not likely to be assigned the likes of Morrison or Walker -- those books are saved for the smarter kids (or the kids who are in the "smarter classes".)

All six of my kids have been assigned Walker, Morrison, and others in English classes in high school (and college) in multiple states in this country. But, I suspect there were many other kids in their high school classes who were not -- because they weren't in the "right" classes.

It's a problem. Definitely. Beyonce has a wider audience because you don't have to work hard (to get to the damn library) in order to hear her. And you don't have to get any certain grade on your damn report card, either.

Blah. It's all whacked. All of it.