• In his article, “Labor Day 2040: What Happens When Robots Do All the Work?” Clive Irving offers a futuristic analytical opinion piece on the role of robots in the future. His main example is set in the cockpit of […]

    • A lot of important thoughts to capture here:
      — when to leave a job depends on your sense of “why” for a job
      — wonderful biblical context — we should think about other examples as well from literature, films, history.
      — superior intelligence v. artificial intelligence.

    • From this post, I thought it is an important question to ask: WHO will teach emotions to a robot? I believe emotions are undefinable because they are based on personal experience; others cannot really know how you feel about a certain emotion and vice versa. Has anyone read Dan Brown’s The Origin? I would love to discuss the AI called Winston and his behavior.

      • I believe Wataru brings up a great point – about who teaches emotions. This is a similar question that I discuss a lot in my work (transportation planning) about self-driving cars. Like the self driving planes mentioned by Arelle above they assert that they will have fewer crashes than human drivers. While this may well be true, there will still be moments when AI has to make a moral choice to avoid a crash – do I rear end a vehicle that has stopped short? Swerve into the other lane of traffic? Swerve into the bicycle lane?

        • Raises the question of the extent to which emotions are culturally conditioned. “Keep a stiff upper lip” for instance….or the Chilean customs around kissing/hugging strangers….or the varieties of handshakes in different cultures. So who will teach the AI??

    • I love the discussion of pride and the role of work in generating it. I too had similar feelings with my first tax paying job. More recently I have begun to think about what structures that pride in our society (why does it feel so good to earn a paycheck?). I think it may be worth talking about work ethic and it’s role in capitalism.

  • Simone Browne’s Dark Matters was a very interesting read for me. To have a look into the world of black surveillance from someone who wasn’t being surveilled is interesting in itself but I found the term “ey […]

  • After watching Paul Roberson’s story “Here I Stand” the content received from Penny M. Von Eschen’s Race Against the Empire helped to put many things into perspective. Paul Robeson was amazing to learn about b […]

  • In the Narrows I see the importance of each character – Abbie, Bill, Link, Camilla (I see what she represents and misrepresents), the Powthers, Mrs. Treadway – because they all have roles to play in sending the […]

    • Hi Arelle, very interesting observations–I like the spiritual element in your perspective, and it seems very much true that these two characters had that type of special presence in the story. And p.s. … I agree you don’t need to be a Biblical scholar to see what you see either…

  • Brown Girl, Brownstones was without a doubt a familiar story to me. The West Indian family that leaves their lives behind in hopes of finding the American Dream. Unfortunately, as it is for Silla Boyce, and many […]

    • Hi, Arelle, I like your question “who really wins in these situations?” and that might well be the tag line to Brown Girl, Brownstones if it were a movie. Marshall gives us a range of portraits of immigrants in America, a variety of ways to assimilate or fight assimilation, strive or refuse to be part of the striving. The ending so brilliantly allows Selina open choices, including to decline any of the options offered to her (by parents, by other immigrants, by her boyfriend). Will she make it? Won’t she? We don’t know. But we know she is a very strong character who has the will to try to find a new way. That’s remarkable, and a really brilliant ending and beginning, isn’t it?

    • Hi Arelle,
      It’s interesting how you also saw the disillusionment that can happen to those who come to America, and the ease with which anyone can lose their way morally when wrestling with the temptations of this land of material opportunity. Silla does lose a lot in the sacrifice, like you stated, and yet it’s heartbreaking that she does not see in advance that she won’t get what she most dreamed of.

    • Arelle,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences in this post. You wrote:

      Ultimately, Selina heads out to find her own way but not after having lost her father and part of herself. This experience is that of many people whose family emigrates to America in hopes of a better life via material gains. They end up losing their values and direction after fighting too long for those hopes to become reality.

      This aspect of the novel was fascinating, as Silla seemed to lose her values the more she struggled to get ahead. She strove for something more than material gain, but for power for herself and her family. However, she got this power at her husband’s expense. Perhaps it was her feminist rage for being cheated on and put down throughout their marriage – for not being treated as an equal. Or perhaps it was a complicated greed that prioritized her daughters’ wellbeing above all else. But, yes, she certainly seemed to lose her values somewhere along the way.

      – C

    • I respect your opinion about Silla. You write: “Her behavior, selling Deighton Boyce’s land in Barbados, speaking down to Deighton, pushing and pushing no matter who she trampled on, proved in the end not to only lead to a Brownstone of her own but of loneliness and unhappiness.” I have to say that I have so much sympathy for her. She could not count on her husband, he constantly cheated on her, and then threw away the most money they had ever had. He was a terrible husband. Now, I am not saying that she wins Wife of the Year, but she was a woman driven to desperate measures. Perhaps we can all have a little sympathy for her.

  • “The real prison was the prison in his mind.” This one sentence set the tone for this entire novel for me. It defined the misconceptions of prison being a dead place where no one grows and futures are dim. It als […]

    • Hi Arelle,

      I’m just reading some of our classmates’ responses about Himes’ YWMYC.

      I love your line, “Jimmy Monroe, scared of allowing himself to be himself…”! And you make an interesting point about how so many of the episodes in prison can be interpreted to be about the need for avoiding white male emasculation…


    • Hi Arelle,

      I like your post too–and the insight that there is a tension between the “prison” and the “prison of the mind” and, I would add, how to save your mind, your heart, while being incarcerated, confined, thinking you may serve twenty years when you are barely twenty. Himes does that brilliantly. Thanks for your sensitive response. Best, Cathy

    • “The real prison was the prison in his mind” is a powerful sentence that depicts many aspects of Jimmy’s imprisonment. From his sexuality to his insecurities, he constantly undervalues himself, so much so that it causes him to make painful decisions that cause his unhappiness. He is too insecure to be honest with his friends, his family, but most importantly, himself.

  • William J. Maxwell’s “Total Literary Awareness:  How the FBI Pre-Read African American Writing” interests me on several levels. The first is that I was not aware of how bad a surveillance problem we have. Second […]

    • Thanks for such an evocative blog post, Arelle. You write: “It makes me wonder, what exactly the government feared by a liberated person of color? I want to know – is there is more than fear of communism or an uprising that fuels these investigations?” I think this will be an issue we think about and talk about all semester. Why does our government so fear people of color? Is it politics, is it fear of “retaliation” for racism, is it a definition that makes a person of color automatically “suspect”? These are stated and implied questions that the writers we will be reading all grapple with.

    • I also was moved by your question, “It makes me wonder, what exactly the government feared by a liberated person of color? I want to know – is there is more than fear of communism or an uprising that fuels these investigations?” I think that the history of communism and the suppression of communists has been so whitewashed that the combination of the two is not commonly analyzed in many left analyses. That’s what makes this course and studying these works so essential.