CIVIL WARS by June Jordan


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In the Sixties and Seventies, black poet and activist June Jordan was in the thick of both the riots and protests and the intellectual debates. This collection of articles succeeds as a review of the passions and cultural politics of those two decades, but fails to shape a logic and a path of action for the future. Protesting Yale's invitation to geneticist William Schockley to give a speech, Jordan rejects the university's freedom-of-speech argument by insisting, with more emotion and rhetoric than reason: ""To accept, to adopt the terms of the man. . . is an obvious mistake that we do not need to contemplate."" Her stance on Open Admissions at City College is similarly high-key: ""What is the curriculum, what are the standards that only human life threatens to defile and 'lower'?"" Her position on black English, on the other hand, is more balanced and reflective; blacks, she maintains, ""require and deserve the power of Black language, Black history, Black literature, as well as the power of standard English, standard history, and standard literature."" Later essays on feminism (the 1978 ""Where is the Love"") reflect the precarious balancing of the love-hate themes of the early essays on race (the 1974 ""Notes Toward a Black Balancing of Love and Hatred""); but in the end we are left in the muddle created by these two warring emotions, as is Jordan herself. The final essay, ""Civil Wars,"" shows her in both a militant (""Extremity demands, and justifies, extreme response"") and reconciliatory mood. In the introduction, she writes, ""It's because it's on. All of us and me by myself: we're on."" What we're on, why we're on, how we're on, remain unclear at the book's end.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1981
ISBN: 0684814048
Publisher: Beacon