Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Warmth of Other Suns

For my book group I'm reading Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns. It's the story of the Great Migration of black families north in the middle of the 1900s, as told through the eyes of three families. The title, The Warmth of Other Suns, comes from a Richard Wright poem, which says in part,

I was taking a part of the South
To transplant in alien soil...
Respond to the warmth of other suns
And, perhaps, to bloom. 

I am only a short way into the book, but I caught this description of the author's mother, as seen in a photo:
The one in the pearls used to greet the train when she was little and dream of going with it. She would become a teacher and, years later, my mother (p. 12, emphasis added).
Which made me stop and think. I already wrote, in the comments of this post, about how 60% of public sector workers are women. But also, it's well documented that both public sector workplaces and unionized workplaces have been more likely to hire people of color.  (According to the AFL-CIO, public sector workplaces are the leading employer of black men, and the second leading employer of black women.) And my friends tell me that in the black community, public sector jobs are seen as a source of stability and equality--and that the crown of public sector jobs is the job of a teacher.

So--is what is going on in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan, to name a few places--simply an attack on unions and collective bargaining, a promotion of private enterprise? Or is it, ultimately, an attack on women that goes along with a "women belong in the home" mentality? Is it a racially-motivated attack? I don't say that lightly, but I also think that it has to be part of the question.

1 comment:

  1. I loved that book. I thought she did a great job switching back and forth from a more general narrative and then the 3 individual stories she chose as illustrative experiences.