You may recall, near the end of Episode 1 of Ken Burns’s documentary Jazz, that trumpeter Wynton Marsalis says:
Race for this country is like the thing in the story, in the mythology, that you have to do for the kingdom to be well. And it’s always something that you don’t want to do. And it’s always that thing that’s so much about you confronting yourself, that is tailor-made for you to fail dealing with it. And the question of your heroism, and of your courage, and of your success with this trial [of race] is, “Can you confront it with honesty, and do you have the energy to sustain an attack on it?” And since jazz music is at the center of the American mythology, it necessarily deals with race. The more we run from it, the more we run into it. It’s an age-old story, and if it’s not race, it’s something else. But in this particular instance, in this nation, it is race.
Marsalis’s quote comes at 56:47 of the video.
What do you think he means?
Read Ursula K. Le Guin’s short story “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” in your course reading packet. (You can also read it here.)
Do you think that Marsalis’s “thing you have to do for the kingdom to be well” bears any similarities to the situation Le Guin describes? How or how not? Is Marsalis’s “kingdom” anything like Omelas? Explain.
Sketch out your thoughts and responses to these questions. Due in class on November 26.