Use this space to post your book club journal about Jewell Parker Rhodes's "Mixed Blood Stew." As you post, think about what you would want to/need to think about if you were going to teach this essay--or use it in a class to teach it, what you'd want your students to know/think about in this essays.
6/8/2021 12:10:18 pm
This writing piece speaks volume about identity and the struggle that it is to feel comforted in your own skin which is a struggle for so many, especially BIPOC students. My biggest question is why was the slave auction a secret? Why was it hidden? This must be some kind of mental process that is complicated to understand. Was it avoiding an experience or part of history that was too painful to remember? Did the mom not want Jewell to know about it as a way of protection? This is a debate today; whether or not it is good to protect children from the harsh realities of racism or if it is imperative. In my future classroom, this will not be ignored as I know students need the truth and improved knowledge. Educators need to explore this more and really investigate the correct and the authentic approach to discussing race in the classroom. This story teaches us that everyone has a story and colors are everywhere around us, even though some may avoid talking about racism. Not talking about it does not mean race doesn’t exist. It also teaches us that we all have a mix of heritage and we need to celebrate it. If I was teaching this article, I would have my students analyze some quotes and have students work in groups to decide what it means to be black or white, besides just the color. I would emphasize that “Grandmothers’ tales were better than my mothers silence” to teach that silence can sometimes be violence and have students think about why that is. I would have students work through research and their own thinking of what it means to “take Master Wright’s name and create another darker limb of his family tree” as well as what the role of “pepper” is in life. Students would participate in an activity with putting pepper in actual different liquids or objects to see and write about their observations of “Pepper in the pot makes everything taste better. Can’t just use Salt.” Then, students could write their own mini story about the role of pepper in their own lives before jumping into what it may mean globally in others lives as opposed to just their own lives while making connections to the story and current news. This would activate schema but also enhance their view of race and how it makes us who we are, which influences how people may treat people differently.
6/8/2021 12:11:17 pm
If I were going to teach this essay I believe it would be extremely important for my students to know some context behind the history of slavery and the time period. Students should already know about slavery, but I think its necessary that they know some background on exactly what it meant. I believe it is also important for students to know some background on the author as well. Jewell Parker Rhodes is an accomplished author. They should know more about her so they can get a better idea of why she wrote this piece.
Gabriel El Khoury
6/8/2021 12:13:13 pm
In her essay "Mixed Blood Stew," Jewell Parker Rhodes largely wants to drill home to the reader that classifications, namely racial classifications, are overly overly constricting, that a person is more than what their blood and genes are. There is a striking line at the end of her essay: "My census category is African-American ... Yet this category doesn't deny all the people in my blood, my genes, bubbling beneath my skin" (393). As the United States grows increasingly more and more diverse, ethnic categories are bleeding (pun intended) into one another, making the checking of a single box less of a possibility going into the future. Judging by Parker Rhodes's final words, she views this "Blood Stew" as a desirable direction for the future.
6/8/2021 12:13:17 pm
This story describes the life of a young girl who grows more curious about her identity as time goes on. After finding her mother's auction sheet and other papers, she learns that she has a very mixed bloodline. The narrator learns about her ancestors and as time passed, the people around her kept becoming more diverse. She notes, though, how “It was always white versus black” (388). The narrator knows she’s different and has Irish and Seminole in her; she sees this through physical features such as freckles and slightly slanted eyes. On her eighth birthday, she learned that her father and grandfather are white. The grandfather left because he couldn’t be an officer if he had relations with someone who was African American.
6/8/2021 12:13:25 pm
This essay talks about the idea that many people just see a black person as black. The author Jewell Parker Rhodes describes how her family acknowledges each other as being more than just black and talk about all the other races their being consists of. This essay introduces the idea that racial classifications should be discarded because most of the time they misrepresent the cultural and ethnic realities of people in America today. Identity is made through race and ethnicity, and it’s so hard for that to occur while there are many assumptions and stereotypes being made for us based on who we are. If this essay were to be taught, I feel like students would need to understand the stereotypes of the society along with all the different aspects to culture and identity there are. It is so easy for people to assume based on what others look like, but I feel as though it is important for everyone to understand that there are multiple layers to everyone.
6/8/2021 12:13:28 pm
I think we live in a time period where it is more normal to see mixed and interracial couples. I grew up in a small town where there was only one black family, even today there is only a handful of black families in the community. I wanted to get away from the white stingy people so I went to high school in the city. I was the outcast but I fit in because I wasn't the only tall one. I personally think mixed race people are more beautiful than white people, their attitudes are more humbling because they weren't given anything they had to work for all they had. My brother's best friend grew up in foster care, one home from the next. His mom is white but he doesn't know who his dad is, all he knows is that he's a mix of some sort because he's not white. He is now serving in the U.S Marines because he wanted to get away from the nasty stares he would get or assumptions about him because he grew up in the city in foster care. The part that stuck with me is when she has two children, a daughter and a son. One white and one black. At the elementary school I work at, my coworker has one son who is white and then she adopted a baby girl from Hati who is absolutely the cutest thing. She says she gets stares all the time and she has even been asked if her daughter was an oops because clearly she does not look like mom or dad. Even though times have changed people are still not one hundred percent open to people of color. It's to think that the simple color of our skin divides us because we miss out on the opportunity to get to know some amazing people.
6/8/2021 12:28:15 pm
In order to teach this in the classroom I would have students write a reflection, reflecting on the essay and related it to one of their own personal experiences.
6/8/2021 12:13:53 pm
Born in 1954, Jewell Parker Rhodes’ mother abandoned her at a young age but returned when she was nine. Until she was nine, she was raised by her paternal grandmother. She describes a very diverse group of people she was surrounded by, “red toned Miss Chalmers, sandy-faced Willie, black-beyond-midnight Reverend, and ivory-skinned Mrs. Jackson.” She saw the beauty in every person described no matter their skin color. She references her grandmother and their history of coming from Georgia but originally, Africa. Her grandmother says, “white folks used to say one drop of black blood makes you a slave,” referring to interracial couples. She expresses how her grandfather is Irish with freckled skin and that being a part of an interracial family doesn’t and will never bring her shame. Every generation created a “mixed- blood stew” that resulted from marriages and children being born. Rhodes emphasizes that even though she is an “Anglo/Irish/Choctaw/Cherokee/African girl” people only saw the African part of her. She then transitions back to when her mother reentered her life and how she didn’t want to go with her but didn’t have a choice. They moved to a predominantly white community, and her mother was a little nervous. Her mother, “couldn’t accept herself…shame that her family came from a planation, that her grandmother was a mixed child of rape.” She always thought she was being judged or criticized for her skin color instead of embracing her skin. She fittingly concludes with, “All blood runs red” to emphasize that in actuality, we are all the same. To teach this essay, students would need to know historical context of racism and what the term “mixed blood stew” referred to. This essay emphasizes how skin color affected and still affects people today. All races and ethnicities should be celebrated and Rhodes creates a space for that through her piece, something I will encourage in my future classroom.
6/8/2021 12:14:34 pm
Jewell Parker Rhodes wrote "Mixed-Blood Stew" to talk about the feelings of shame that many people of color are subject to feel in the racist society of America. As she recalls the memories of her childhood, she explains seeing both perspective's of being mixed-race. She recalls her mother's shame, hiding her pictures and auction card away in the closet, and she recounts the stories told by her paternal grandparents, embracing their lineage and mixed-blood. Rhodes uses these experience to develop her own sense of identity and pride of where she came from.
6/8/2021 12:18:47 pm
This is a memoir where the author is trying to determine something about who she is and how she got that way through the lens of her complicated family history. In the process, she tells a personal history but also a national history about race and about what it means to be "mixed-race." We open with the author/narrator looking at a slave auction flyer that her mother has saved but not displayed. Rhodes is looking to understand why her mother left, and we as readers are to understand that this is connected to that auction flyer. It is here, first few paragraphs, that we learn that Rhode's great grandmother was the product of rape--a white owner raped the enslaved woman who was her great, great grandmother. And so here we have the first example of not being one thing or another. We get happy ideas about this from her paternal grandmother: a little bit of pepper, etc. But we also learn hard things about that grandmother too--namely that the man that the author knows as her grandfather is not her grandfather and that her biological grandfather left his wife and children and married a white woman and had white children. And that he did this to be able to fly planes--and that he also drank himself to death. It's later in the story that we learn something about the author and her mother in terms of their relationship: the mother was sort of mortified; at her daughter's black power phase. She was also against her marrying a white man and did not celebrate the birth of her grandchildren. The author argues, late in the piece, that if they (the entire family) could have identified as either entirely black or entirely white, that would have been OK, but being mixed--and that being mixed race was evidence of great violence perpetrated on the family--trauma is generational--her mother could never come to terms with who she was or who her children were. We are to believe the author does come to terms, however, she is not blind to the existence of racism. She worries for her children walking together--one looking mostly white and one looking mostly black and what people will say. She is not oblivious to the white frat boys on the campus where she is a professor. However, ultimately. it is a kind of happy reckoning with her own violent past. For me, what I want my students to be able to do with this essay is to understand the nuance of the piece--which is something that a lot of students miss in an effort to be very happy ending-ish about it. I need them to look at the whole essay. I also think the challenge of the piece is to understand what the mother is trying to come to terms with from the perspective of the author. This requires that they pay attention to parts of the essay they often don't think about. This is why I ask students to look at the "artifacts" in the essay: the slave auction flyer, the newspaper with the grandfather's obit in it, and the magazine that the mother objects to late in the essay.
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