During the class in which we discussed the piece from June Jordan, we broke into groups. Each group was assigned a speaker to discuss and then, after a period of time, we would share our findings with the class. I liked this method because it allowed for a deeper dive on at least one writer, and it meant that we would cover every writer that we had read - even if it had to wait for the next class period.
My group looked at June Jordan, and we didn’t get a chance to speak to the class about her until the next class period, so I had some extra time to think about her piece, “Don’t You Talk About My Momma!” There were a few main points that my group pulled from the piece. Jordan calls out the way that politicians used the typical framework of a white family as being the ideal or right way to run a family. Since black many black families were structured differently, they were then assumed to be a problem, or have something wrong with them. She points out that the differences in the structure of black families was not a deficiency but instead a sign of their flexibility and resiliency in the face of severe culture upheavals.
Jordan proposes a list of 13 universal entitlements to be brought to America in response to the fact that "it is not the Black family in crisis but American democracy at risk when a majority of American citizens may no longer assume the preservation and/or the development of social programs to let them stay alive and well” (373). There are some that are still contentious items today, such as number 4, “equal pay for equal work” (373). And the recent recession brought into stark relief the fact that we still do not compensate “women’s work” at the same rate that we compensate “men’s work,” as Jordan desired in her 6th universal entitlement. While many more men than women lost jobs, the jobs that women retained tended to be lower paying (Clark).
What personally spoke to me most about her essay was her repeated question of, “compared to what?” (368). She challenges the notion of a standard that must be conformed to in order to be considered good or normal. Black families compared to white families as if one were intrinsically better than the other. The female-headed family is not inferior to the male-headed family just because it is different.
Her words make me think of the controversy surrounding Indiana’s recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was attacked for seeming to allow commercial businesses the right to discriminate against any people who don’t meet their personal, religious, moral standards. How is selling goods and services for a gay marriage an agreement or complicity in that marriage, rather than a business transaction? How can those same business ensure that they do not deal with sinners of other sorts? Will they cater for second weddings, if their religion does not condone divorce? Will they cater for blasphemers? How can they claim to know the hearts of all of their clientele well enough to insure they are not complicit in sinful behavior? And sinful behavior compared to what?