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The Euphrates, a river flowing from
Turkey through Iraq, unites with the Tigris and becomes the Shatt-al-Arab.
The myth that the "fertile crescent" bore only the Negro race -- as Hughes
speaks of it -- is of course inaccurate, for modern day Arabs are not
synonymous with Africans, much less Americans of African descent.
Additionally Israelites are biblically associated with the slavery of
ancient Egypt, as much as are other national cultures. Additionally, there
could logically be no race which would be "older than the flow of human
blood in human veins." Indeed, I reject the still powerful notion that
humans may be adequately described by the social construct, "race." Not only
are there far too many mixtures between races at this point in human
history, but the destructive effects of thinking along racial lines is now
Even so, at the time of Hughes' writing, race had become a very "American"
concept. Indeed, for Hughes, who edited important anthologies of black
poetry with Arna Bontemps,
The Poetry of the Negro 1746-1949 (1949), and Poems from Black
Africa, Ethiopia, and Other Countries
(1963), to be "Negro" was crucial to the advancement of
equality, and the need for a large myth to assist in this was helpful to
that end. That the word "negro" itself has become unfavored in light of the
ultimately false cause of violence-laced, Leftist "black power" in America
shows how groups aim words at issues, in the hopes of creating mythic power.
Hughes' soul, speaking as his title suggests for "the Negro," had "grown
deep like the rivers." The same cannot be said equally of all who have
labored in the fields of "Negro" art and culture.
For this I remain an admirer of James Weldon Johnson's 1922
The Book of American Negro Poetry, in which neither "negro"
nor the modern word of flashpoint argument, "nigger," carry the political
baggage with which today's politics has laden them.
Black poets represented in that impressive volume show no such faux
sensitivity to the political correct use of words, but rather, like this
text of Hughes, gather up words and images into most interesting and
powerful messages worth preserving and revisiting.
As Weldon correctly asserted, "The status of the Negro in the United States'
is more a question of national mental attitude toward the race than of
actual conditions. And nothing will do more to change that mental attitude
and raise his status than a demonstration of intellectual parity by the
Negro through the production of literature and art."
The dream of decades later of the "color blind" society offered us by Martin
Luther King has yet to become fully real based in part by the dead end
alleys of "identity" politics which has done little to make of the "races" a
more unified and truly tolerant human race.
Everything's about my colored skin - (or sadly, Why racism works)