Written March 30, 2020
I don’t believe that anyone has the right to tell artists of any race how to represent their community. If a black artist wants to represent their community authentically and faithfully, they should be able to do that without repercussions. If a black artist wants to fit into preexisting artists, they should be able to do that, too. After reading the Langston Hughes essay on page 816 of our textbook, I would have to agree with him.
Hughes’ argument is that black artists shouldn’t feel like they need to be more like white artists. Being inspired and fitting the same mold of white artists are two very different things. Being inspired is perfectly fine. Changing who you are to completely fit that mold is disingenuous to any black artist. The idea of “white is best” (Hughes, 817) and “I would like to be a white poet” (Hughes, 816) completely disregard what the black community has to offer that is just as good or even better than white poets and artists. Hughes also shows the importance of black culture through his poem “The Weary Blues,” which focuses on jazz.
There’s also Countee Cullen, who was an African American writer much like Langston Hughes. Cullen was different from Hughes in that he preferred to keep things such as the jazz in “The Weary Blues” out of poetry. He preferred not to classify artists based on race and instead focused on the hardships faced in his poem “Yet I Do Marvel” on page 1054 of our textbook. There is no real indication that the poem is meant to detail the hardships of specifically African Americans until the very last line, meaning that the poem can essentially be about the general hardships.
Like I started out with, I don’t think anyone has the right to tell artists of any race how to represent their community. If they want to be like Cullen and not focus about bringing in the pop culture references into writing, that’s perfectly okay. If they want to focus on the pop culture references like Hughes, that’s also okay. No one should control what an artist creates.