Stomping Grounds and Common Ground: Train Whistle Guitar, the Blues Hero, and Translation at the Crossroads

Date
2014-01-15
Authors
Boydstun, Jeremiah
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University of Hawaii at Manoa
Abstract
If we wish to symbolically attribute a negative quality to something, we instinctively assign it an "X." Indeed, no other symbol manifests itself more naturally in the office of such designations as the ideogram of X. Most often, X is used as a symbol of warning: the designation of off-limits territory, the outlaw stigmata of crossbones, or the marker of something harmful or potentially dangerous. It is used to represent an unknown quantity or an anonymous person (e. g. , Mr. X), and also as a stamp of cancellation or annulment: this no longer exists or that has been refused. In 1 952, Malcolm Little became Malcolm X, in a symbolic repudiation of his "slave name." X symbolized the resistance against a system that sought to cancel out and annul the black presence in America. Societal pariah and "menace to society'' that Malcolm X was-and that most African-Americans were perceived to be-X became the paradigmatic logotype of an insidious and popular stereotype. It also symbolized a rejection and mocking recognition of white America's refusal to acknowledge black Americans' place in America. In addition, X served as a sign of warning that black America would no longer play the ignominious role of the "other," "the historically and principally unassimilated minority'' (Page 6) denied a legitimate claim to social, political, and economic equality. X, then, became the consummate symbolic expression of black America's physical, mental, and spiritual struggle to negotiate the intersection between past and present, and to come to terms with what W.E. B Du Bois called a double consciousness.
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