after canaan-wayde compton

for whatever reason, my path keeps crossing d. a. adebe’s on stage (we’re performing the same night for diaspora dialogues’ offering to the library’s keep toronto reading month on the 29th). this past february, she shared the stage with christian campbell, and somebody brought up wayde compton’s latest work, so i had to follow up.

“The problem he put into print persists, though; all I knew to do then was to take, keep, possess, and repossess those words, in the way a reader does when a reader is in need.” (149)

“Of course, in cases where someone does consciously pose as some racial or cultural group to which he or she has no connection, then the word “passing” should be used as the term. But only then, when the individual is being deliberately deceptive or subversive and intentionally adopts another ancestry. It is important to note, though, that such deception or subversion is not necessarily morally wrong. Whether or not one has the right to transgress one’s racial designation surely depends upon the perniciousness of the regime that is policing the designations.” (24)

“We need Hogan’s Alley because Motown songs and Martin Luther King are from another, different place. They come through the TV. They come through books. Hogan’s Alley, however, ran between this and that side of right here.” (109-10)


One thought on “after canaan-wayde compton

  1. “Recalling him this way-through Black History Month events-feels ironic because Mazurin seemed uncomfortable with the very concept. He was wary of pro-black stridency in general. The one in-depth conversation I ever had with him was about how little patience he had for the “blacker than thou” pressures he felt from certain Afrocentric circles. This skepticism was reflected in his comedy. He joked about being as Russian as he was black-and would then order a cocktail, the Black Russian. He joked about his own unrepentant record of dating “outside the race”-and wondered if a mulatto, by definition, ever can date “within” his race. Mazurin, like any thinking person, was troubled by notions of purity and was quick to look for contradictions in their structures.” (175)

    RIP, Alexis.

    “Maybe laughter is a cousin of the “fight or flight” instinct. A joke is, essentially, a transgressive presentation of a contrived mistake, a transparent social miscue. We laugh when our expectations are thwarted in a turn of phrase that skips across the surface of understood social propriety. In the middle of a social paradox, a little bit scared and a little bit boggled, we laugh instead of attacking or running away.
    So perhaps comedy, at its heart, is supposed to scare the crap out of you. And what is scarier than race?” (178)

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