01. The hidden wound

The hidden wound - Wendell BerryStarting the year off with Berry’s look into his own racism and the character and effect of racism on both white and black America. Reader, if it’s no longer 2011, remember that 2010 was a highly racist year, where three quarters of a century of anger began to bubble like hot paint in the hearts of racist men and women, in response to the combination of a black president and a financial crisis. Berry’s searing intelligence and powers of observation help him articulate what many of us feel but few can say — that there are layers of second-guessing that make it almost impossible to bridge the divide between black and white in the wake of slavery. But Berry also frames his thoughts on slavery in the context of his magnificent obsession with our relation to the earth, and he proposes that because we separated work and property, and assigned one to one race and one to the other, we have all been diminished in ways that make us less than fully human. And his central point is that the violence of slavery has been as destructive — and left as deep a wound — on the souls of white folk as on those of black. I was particularly taken by his description of ‘the empty space’ that the racist must shepherd in his heart to keep his conscience from crossing paths with his action, to deleterious effect. Berry praises the few black friends he had, as a child — his grandfather’s hired hands, and works tirelessly in this book to promote what they (l)earned by necessity that white men and women are poorer having never learned. An essential read in understanding the meaning and nature of racism in America.

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