Chris Million 
Member since Sep 20, 2017


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Re: “One of Oakland's Most Historic Figures Was Also Horribly Racist

As others have stated, this article is poorly researched and ignores historical context. London was actually relatively advanced in his racial attitudes for his time, and experienced an continuous evolution in his racial awareness throughout his life. As Gene Anderson states, he was raised in large part by a black foster mother, whose family he lived with for a good portion of his childhood. Many of his short stories, particularly his later ones, valorize people of color who are victims of colonialism and oppression by white people. The author could have mentioned "Koolau the Leper", "Mauki" or "Chun Ah Chun", just to mention three of London's dozens of short stories where protagonists of color rebel against, outwit and/or kill their racist colonial oppressors. "The Unparalleled Invasion" is in fact read by most scholars as a cautionary tale about biological warfare rather than taking it on face value as a celebration of Chinese extermination. London stated repeatedly that the real meaning of his stories lay in "the motif beneath the motif" he actually wrote his stories to NOT be taken solely at face value. Regarding the Jeffries/Johnson fight, he admitted that "as a white man" he wanted to Jeffries to win, but gave full credit to Johnson for his overwhelming victory- one of the only white sportswriters to do so. London wrote: "All hail to Johnson... what . . . [won] on Saturday was bigness, coolness, quickness, cleverness, and vast physical superiority."

Even though the author of this article feels that readers must be "forced" to read London in school, only his short story "To Build a Fire" and "The Call of the Wild" are still widely taught in school. London remains one of the world's most popular authors and is better regarded abroad than here in America, where most of his works were purged from the academic canon in the 1950s due to his ardent socialism, rather than his racism. And it bears mentioning that Haley's biography is perhaps the worst and most biased of the half-dozen or so biographies of London published in the last 20 years.

Posted by Chris Million on 09/20/2017 at 5:28 PM

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