For my Harlem Renaissance class my classmates and I were instructed to write a paper about the Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston play “Mule Bone”. We weren’t really told what it was we were supposed to write about it. People taking this class can elect to credit it for English, history, or African American studies, so the teacher was allowing a pretty broad scope of topics. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I spoke to another student in my class who was comparing it to Spike Lee’s film “Do the Right Thing” and discussing the cultural significance of each to their time periods. This seemed like a pretty good idea and I decided I would do something similar. I had never seen “Do the Right Thing”, though I considered downloading it. In the end, I didn’t go that route.
It wasn’t until this afternoon, around 12-12:30, that I started to read the required play and immediately I was frustrated by it. The majority of the play consists of some people sitting on a porch and arguing. Finally, in the second act it seemed the story might start to get interesting when Jim hits Dave across the face with the leg bone of a mule and Dave is knocked out. Unfortunately, it seems that my copy of the play was missing the third act, so I never learned what happened to Jim after that. I tried researching on Wikipedia, but all I got was that they argued in court about Sampson or something.
The ending wasn’t important, though, if I could find something good to use as a comparison. I knew that I wanted to discuss how “Mule Bone” was important to understanding the culture of the Harlem Renaissance, but what could I use to represent the black culture of today? Then it hit me…
What could be more perfect? I have actually only seen the first half of the first season of this show, but it turned out that there were three episodes from which I could draw pretty easy comparisons to sections of “Mule Bone”: The Trial of R. Kelly, Granddad’s Fight, and Return of the King. I don’t have a lot more to say about my essay because I already spent four hours working on it and I don’t want to spend time explaining it, so I’ll just post an excerpt:
The fight between Jim and Dave erupts in a very similar manner to what Huey terms as a “n**** moment” in the episode “Granddad’s Fight.” Though the object of their fight, Daisy, seems barely ancilliary to their lives, in their anger she becomes something that makes them turn on each other. As Huey describes, this moment is caused when “Ignorance overwhelms the mind of an otherwise logical negro man, causing him to act in a self-destructive manner” and considers it an important facet to pay attention to in culture, because unchecked, it “would be the third leading killer of black men” (McGruder, Granddad’s Fight). Huey points out that, as much as it seems obvious to walk away from a confrontation based on unimportant events, too many of these quarrels end in violence. Many critics of these types of media do not want these issues portrayed, but it is important to see them because if they are shoved under the rug and explained, they will be explained away. Instead, these events are shown to teach those who need to learn from the mistakes of the fictional characters to look at themselves from the outside.
I think The Boondocks is an important show for people to watch. We should discuss the ideas presented instead of just discounting it as controversial. You know what? I think Martin Luther King Jr. would actually be ashamed of some of what he would see if he were suddenly alive today.