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The motto which I adopted when I started from slavery was this— "Trust no man!

Collecting Nebula Award Winners of the 1970s

Though the table was loaded with the good things of this life, I could not eat. I thought if I could only be allowed the privilege of eating in the kitchen I should be more than satisfied! Finding that I could not eat, the old lady, who was a " Thompsonian," made me a cup of "composition," or "number six;" but it was so strong and hot, that I called it "number seven!

In some cases the searchers scattered powder and shot among their clothes, and then sent other parties to find them, and bring them forward as proof that they were plotting insurrection. We plead not for the colored people alone, but for all victims of the terrible injustice which puts men and women to death without form of law.

Since each of his three names contains six letters i. Another genre of conspiracy theory involving oppression of African Americans by the government suggests that the government often attacks the black community indirectly through discrediting highprofile leaders or groups.

I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Patricia A. Turner - Paperback - University of California Press

Again, such theories have historical precedents. Such historical realities lend credence to suggestions that highly visible African Americans are subjected to disinformation campaigns conducted by largely white government agencies. When Washington, D. Similar allegations surrounded the conviction of boxer Mike Tyson for rape.

During the riots in Los Angeles that followed the acquittal of the police officers charged with the beating of Rodney King, a widely circulated rumor suggested that the Los Angeles police were allowing the riots to continue in order to make the black community look bad. Perhaps the best-known example of this genre of conspiracy theory is that of the arrest and trial of O.

I Heard it Through the Grapevine: Rumor in African-American Culture

Simpson for the murder of his exwife. Polls showed that many blacks believed the former football star had been framed by racist members of the Los Angeles Police Department. A recurring theme in African American conspiracy theories is the physicality of the attacks they describe. The black body itself is portrayed as the site of struggle. The attack may involve the clothes that cover the body e.

The physical attacks range from indirect attempts at limiting the black population as with the theories involving sterilization to overt murder and genocide as in the explanation for the Atlanta child murders and some versions of the AIDS-as-biological-weapon theory. The theories involving crack cocaine and other drugs in some ways combine these various motifs. The drug trade economically exploits poor blacks. It also leads to their death in many cases through overdoses, drug-related crime, etc.

Finally, it provides an excuse for institutional control of the black body, such as the incarceration of large numbers of African Americans mostly young males and mandatory drug tests for inner-city mothers as a prerequisite for prenatal care.

The Popularity and Ramifications of Conspiracy Theory Surveys suggest that conspiracy theories of one sort or another are taken seriously by a significant percentage of the African American population. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference conducted a survey in in which 35 percent of the respondents believed that AIDS was a form of genocide, and another 30 percent said they were not sure. A poll done by the New York Times and WCBS-TV found that 77 percent of the black respondents felt that there was at least some truth to the allegation that the government targeted black elected officials for investigations as a way to discredit them.

The same poll showed that 70 percent of black respondents believed the government intentionally allowed drugs into urban, largely black neighborhoods as a way of harming those who lived there. The ramifications of this popularity of conspiracy theories among many African Americans are a point of debate among those who have studied the phenomenon. For some, the distortions and untruths they see at the heart of many such theories are stumbling blocks to true social and political progress.

Conspiracy theories undermine the sense of empowerment and responsibility necessary to solve the actual problems.

Occasionally, such as in the case of AIDS, the suspicion and misinformation communicated in conspiracy theories can have disastrous effects on both individuals and the larger community. Others argue that conspiracy theory is a cultural practice that has played an important role in the continuing struggle of African Americans to understand their place in a society that is often hostile. Racism, particularly in its institutionalized forms, has been a conspiracy of sorts that has targeted people of African descent in America from the earliest days of colonial settlement.

Specific conspiracy theories may or may not be supported by the evidence, but even those that are demonstrably false are mistaken only in their particulars. They accurately describe the situation many blacks find themselves in and provide valuable social knowledge by making explicit even if in a metaphorical manner the very real forces of racism that must be recognized and overcome in order to succeed in society.

Email This BlogThis! Label: conspiracy. Newer Post Older Post Home. And there are more, all gathered through interviews with students, friends, family as well as officials and executives of the corporations, agencies and groups targeted by the rumors as the sources of anti-black violence.

And violence is very much what is at issue here: "In any event, this study is less about rumor and legend analysis than it is about the pervasiveness of metaphors linking the fate of the black race to the fates of black bodies, metaphors in use since the very first contact between whites and blacks. The first and earliest of these metaphors is "cannibalism. This is the ur-rumor, the archetype of all those that will follow.

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I Heard It Through the Grapevine

Turner is convincing insofar as she shows that these rumors did exist, that they constituted important parts of the conceptual and rhetorical repertory of both Africans and Europeans. Sadly, they are never really put to work. They simply stand for the "strained" relation between the races.


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And this is the major problem of the book -- its simplistic understanding of metaphor itself. Rumors are understood here to be essentially metaphors, social metaphors.

I heard it through the grapevine : rumor in African-American culture / Patricia A. Turner

These metaphors simply represent a, in this case, racial group's state of mind. But the book never convinced me that rumors are essentially metaphors at least in Turner's sense at all. Indeed, by addressing rumor as metaphor rather than what I would call the fact of rumor as circulation, transmission, specifically and historically placed, Turner's book turns out to be a rather pedestrian piece of textual criticism. For example:.

The contamination motifs that link Church's chicken, Tropical Fantasy [fruit drink], the Atlanta child killer, and the AIDS epidemic in African-American folk belief are metaphorically the same. The bodies of the individuals purportedly defiled by the chicken, the soft drink, the interferon experiment, or the disease stand as symbols of perceived animosity against the race.

These motifs will be rendered in items of discourse that can be easily shared by members of the minority group. Rumors, legends and other unstructured forms of speech will circulate within the group, providing an outlet for frustration as well as a means for fostering in-group solidarity. No doubt these interpretations are correct; but they suffer from their obviousness.