Yesterday I began reading Gloria Naylor's novel, BAILEY'S CAFE for my ENGLISH 386: POST-MODERNISM class. I have fallen behind at the tail-end of the class because the last two works that we have had to read have not really mattered in the class' grading scale, and I still only made it to page 16 of the book, which I was supposed to have read by Tuesday (4/22).
ANYWHO, up to page 16, the narrator, a black male who works at a cafe in Brooklyn, has started discussing America's past time: BASEBALL. He states that he gained a love for the game very early and he speaks as if he knows the sport very well. He comically talks of how there were two separate leagues for white and black people, not, as one would assume, because of segregation (oh yeah, the book is currently taking place in the 1940s, I think), but because the black people would completely dominate the white people if the teams were made to play eachother. Whilst reading this, I immediately started thinking about JACKIE ROBINSON, the man well known for being the first black person to join the all-white BROOKLYN DODGERS way back before the Civil Rights Movement happened. I did not really relate him to the story at all, I just started to think of a book that I read about him when I was a child.
Then, all of a sudden, the narrator brings up the subject of none other than JACKIE ROBINSON. I assumed he would speak of the man in a positive light, but he simply discusses him as a player who cannot hold his own in the "real", black leagues and says that if the DODGERS are suffering and need a "colored player", then "...dammit, bring in a colored player." This struck me as comical, but I also started to ponder the authenticity of many other people who we today regard as heroes. Naylor's narrator spouts off a few players' names who apparently can blow ROBINSON out of the water, but their names have not been solidified into Civil Rights chapters of history books or in any Baseball hall of fame. (Full disclosure: I am aware this book is fictional)
For example, when speaking of PUNK ROCK, many people will name-drop THE RAMONES, THE NEW YORK DOLLS or THE SEX PISTOLS. These are manifestly influential groups, but there are also other PUNK innovators like SUICIDE (pictured) and JIM CARROLL who, while I'm sure are common names for enthusiasts, do not resonate often in many discussions of the PUNK MOVEMENT. I read PLEASE KILL ME, which I understand is supposed to be THE book on PUNK, last semester and saw neither of these names mentioned, yet they still remain cult heroes. I am not saying that these dudes wanted to be remembered and leave a huge legacy (they were PUNK, you know?), but it just brings up the question of what other minor groups were present in New York in the 1970s who have been forgotten over the years?
I appreciate the alternate view points provided by books like Howard Zinn's A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES that introduce a new angle and illuminate the past in a new way. This practice of seeing other perspectives can really open one's eyes to, say, the fact that JACKIE ROBINSON was not the best black BASEBALL player in America in the 1940s. The problem is, though how can we see a different perspective of every historical subject EVER??? It is time-consuming enough to absorb information from just ONE source. And how do we choose which source to trust??? What kind of history are we learning everytime we read a new "fact"???
I also just re-watched Stephen Spielberg's MINORITY REPORT (2002) and it addresses similar issues of a society that fails to acknowledge MINORITY REPORTS given by the people who decide whether or not someone is guilty of murder. TOM CRUISE'S character, John Anderton discovers that the 2054 United States government and the PRE-CRIME department have been ignoring VITAL CLUES that can lead to the TRUTH that is sought-after throughout the entire film.
I am sure this matter gets pondered quite often, but Gloria Naylor's BAILEY'S CAFE really made me mull it over. Any contributions on the matter would be appreciated.