Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Big Smoke: “Chicken & Other Stereotypes”

[The Big Smoke reading group]

A number of the poems is Adrian Matejka’s The Big Smoke make reference of the privilege Jack Johnson experienced as a heavy weight boxing champion. “Chicken & Other Stereotypes” juxtaposes the privilege of being a heavy weight boxing champion and burden of being a black man in the early 20th century.

In Johnson’s run in run-in with the police officer, we also find an inner and outer response to the unjustified stop. Inside, the heavyweight champion thinks to himself, “Like I would stash a stolen/ hen where I sit.” Outwardly, he skillfully subverts the implications of the stereotype, even in compliance with it, through his diction, “Mr. Officer,/ please understand: no stolen chicken/ ever passed the portals of my face./ Those chickens see the gleam/ in my eye & and keep out of my way.”

What did you gather about the experience of being a black man in the early 20th century based on Johnson’s dual inward and outward thinking in the poem?

--Jeremiah Carter and Howard Rambsy II

17 comments:

Ricky wells said...

IN the poem "Chicken and other Stereotypes" Jack Johnson tells how a cop is racial profiling him. The cop pulls Johnson over and searches his car for chickens which could mean drugs, so Johnson is not riding dirty with chickens. But the cop is bothering him, because he is black and wealthy.

Ricky Wells

Robert F said...

I feel like the experience back then is similar to the experience we go through now. The same thing happens to black men now that are successful legitimately. We are constantly profiled by many people (not just cops), but what is different now is that profiling us is frown upon. Not only blacks are profiled though and I believe many other minorities will continue to be profiled for a long time.

Robert F.

Rodrick Robins said...

I think that "chicken" was definitely a metaphor for the things that black males are normally racially profiled for. Chicken could be illegal drugs or drug paraphernalia, illegal or concealed weapons, or any other number of things. "Chicken" was a powerful metaphor to use though, because it BLATANTLY shows how being randomly stopped is a sign of racism.

Deonte Young said...

i think that he seen the most people won't see him as a wealthy black man because of the time. White americans in authority see him more as another problem within the world.

Isaiah Person said...

The man was being profiled by the cop. The cop thought he had stole a chicken because he is African american and they love chicken.(one of the biggest stereotypes for the culture)

J.Shaw said...

When reading "Chicken and other Stereotypes", it is very evident how police officers used to and still do characterize African Americans with committing certain crimes. The plot of this poem appears to have a two sided spectrum when relating to stereotypes. "Nigger, where's the chicken?"(Matejka 28). Not only did the officer condescendingly call them niggers, but he also assumed them with the blame due to the involvement of chicken. I'm sure unjust treatment occurred frequently back then; which makes me clueless as to how I could handle being a young black male in the early 20th century like Jack Johnson. But the use of racial profiling continues still to this day, and is not only limited to blacks. This is a continuous yet conforming problem that our country hasn't entirely rid itself of.

Nicholas M. said...

Similar to what Robert said, I think the experience of being a black man in the early 20th century is not much different than today. The only thing that is different is that it is a much bigger deal today than it was back then.

Anonymous said...

Lucas Reincke said...

I believe that what African Americans went through in the early half of the 1900s was extremely rough. The country was on the break of going into what is known today as the Civil Rights Movement, tensions were high between whites and African Americans, and blacks were becoming more and more targeted with stereotypes and accusations. Now for this poem, I am guessing that chicken is dealing with some sort of illegal paraphernalia, such as drugs or something, therefore, the cop decides to pullover a man for DWB or "Driving While Black" which is something that I have heard said a lot, especially coming from this era.

Dross84 said...

I Gathered that black were extremely stereotyped, but Jack Johnson was verbally skilled enough to get out the situation while telling the truth and making a little joke out of it.
-Devon Ross

Jeremiah Blackburn said...

In "Chicken & Other Stereotypes", the types of stereotypes mentioned by the police officer are still relevant now. Although some celebrities that are black men can use their wealth to have some things overlooked, unlike Johnson. The perception of being a black man has not improved much in some cases since the early 20th century.

Joey N said...

From the poem Chicken and other Stereotypes I gathered that many African American people not jut men were unjustly racially profiled on a daily basis. I also believed that using the word "chicken" was a subliminal message that showed that the officer was showing signs of racism.

Wole A said...

I feel that the police officer felt a form of jealousy. He believed the right of being successful was only available to the white race. I believe the profiling that occurred in the 20th century is still occurring today on a larger scale.

Deandre Howard said...

The poem, "Chicken and other Stereotypes", presents the occurrence of racial profiling at the time. It was very extreme, especially since he was wealthy. Though by separating one's self from the stereotype through action and vernacular, he evades being bothered and even possibly arrested.

Barry Ford said...

This poem shows that he was unfairly stereotyped. This shows that the cop had nothing better to do than to check his car for a chicken than to go follow up on another, real crime. Being a black man in the wary 20th century was very stressful. Black people could not live a normal life without being unfairly accused of doing wrong.

Christian Watts said...

What I got out of the poem about being a black man in the 20th century was that no matter how much you had to prove, if you were black, you were always guilty in the eyes of whites. We were and still are judged by the color of our skin, and it reminds me of the conversation we had in class about the double standard blacks have to wear due to being who we are. Even with him offering to pay for a crime which he did not commit the cop still wanted to find something he wouldn't and thats evidence. Sad!

Xavier Robinson said...

This poem shows how police profile black men especially when they look wealthy. There are so many stereotypes towards black men, but to be a successful black man just makes you a target in society.
Xavier Robinson

Evan Townzen said...

Through reading "Chicken & Other Stereotypes" I gathered that racism was prevalent in the early 1900's. I also gather that for a black man in this era your car could be searched simply based on your skin color. I also gathered that he was not given any of his rights and had his car searched without any reasonable cause.