Dear Friends of the Pub Quiz,
Growing up in Washington DC, I often looked up to the wall of our dining room where someone had posted a quotation by Martin Luther King that will be familiar to some of you: "Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals." I understood the context for this quotation to be the ongoing struggle for civil rights in this country, and we subsequently had many occasions in my home to discuss race relations and racism, conversations that helped me consider how I might confront racism, given the opportunity.
Today I had that opportunity, and I wonder if I acted as my Mom or as Dr. King might have wanted me to. My sons and I were attending a poetry reading at a faraway city (that is, not Davis, not Sacramento), when during the open mic an elderly man announced that he was going to recite from memory a poem by Rudyard Kipling. Having read Kipling, I knew that this was a fraught choice, for I was familiar with the racist nature of much of Kipling’s work, including the poem “The White Man’s Burden,” written for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1899.
Then the man told us that the poem he was about to recite included language that some would find objectionable today, but that was typical of the 19th century. When he said that the poem, in fact, included uses of the N word, I asked my sons to start packing up (we had already been there for more than an hour, and they had previously indicated their readiness to depart). We almost made it out of the room before I heard the repeated word in question, as well as its context, and both to me seemed derogatory and insulting in ways that I was familiar with from certain particularly Eurocentric passages of Kipling I had read when I was a graduate student.
Afterwards I wondered if my walking out was enough of a statement. I didn’t wish to be rude to the gracious hosts who had invited me, and in fact I don’t know that they noticed my exit. I later wondered during the long drive home if I had neglected a moral responsibility to confront, publicly, the racism that this man was sharing in a public place, perhaps by stopping him even before he started reciting the work. Perhaps this man was a regular participant in the poetic community where I found myself, while I was an outsider. Did I not verbally object because of the man’s age (he was about 80)? Because I wasn’t the host? Because my children were present? Because of cowardice? I don’t know for sure.
To some, Kipling’s racism seems ancient and therefore irrelevant, especially when considering the concerns we must address today. We know, for instance, that in many parts of our country, people feel more socially justified to share homophobic slurs or sentiments than they do racist slurs and sentiments. And many of us feel that we have new calling to confront injustice, believing with Dr. King that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” During LGBT Pride month (so declared by President Obama), many who were raised to emulate the courage of civil rights pioneers and leaders today stand in solidarity with our gay and lesbian friends as we seek to widen further the circle of full participation in our democracy. I believe, for example, that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution indicates that equal treatment under the law must extend to everyone.
With a tip of the hat to a Pub Quiz regular who shared some thorough research with me, and reminded me that June is Pride month (thanks, John), I’m including in tonight’s quiz questions about a number of gay and lesbian political and aesthetic heroes of mine. You will also find questions about Johnson and Johnson, Santa, Spanish words, smartphones, great movies, simpering and scared jackanapes, canines, South Africa, world sporting competitions, eyes, French lawyers, Cervantes, preparing for the figurative crops, pomology, royal families, omnivores, famous generals, famous diaries, Dante, charged potential, transportation, soap operas, associations with alligators, musicians that your grandparents would not have head of, refusing gridlocks, agitation, pre-Christian authors, Irish math, Homer, suicide prevention, Americans in France, baseball, Italy, failed candidates, the Tea Party, Dublin, the obesity problem, geographic distances, new names and old names, baseball, and Shakespeare.
See you tonight for another sold-out Pub Quiz! Come early.
Here are five questions from last week’s quiz:
5. Tiki Culture Drinks and Elvis. What rum-based cocktail featured prominently in the Elvis Presley film Blue Hawaii?
6. British Monarchs. Mary, Queen of Scots was executed during the reign of what British monarch?
7. Pop Culture – Music. Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor for solo piano is one of Ludwig van Beethoven's most popular compositions. By what name is it commonly known?
8. Sports Math. Michael Jordan was the NBA scoring champion four more times than he was the NBA Finals MVP. How many times was he the NBA scoring champion?
9. Science. What word refers to the branch of science concerned with the forces that occur between electrically charged particles?