October 8, 2007

Preckwinkle wrong on Bellow

Preckwinkle wrong on Bellow

I am writing to express my disappointment in Alderman Preckwinkle’s decision to oppose the move to commemorate Saul Bellow at the University of Chicago. Certainly, Bellow had very complex views on race, and I can see how one could interpret some of them as racist. However, I am convinced that individuals who make this assertion are largely unfamiliar with Bellow’s work. Those who admire his work understand that Bellow constantly wrestled with the state of race relations in Chicago, and many of his works express a profound sympathy for the conditions of blacks in the city.

Perhaps it would serve Alderman Preckwinkle well to consider the life’s work of another man with controversial views on race (and gender): Malcolm X. If one chooses to focus on comments he made that appear to denigrate whites, Jews, and women, the decision to name a city college after him would seem reprehensible. However, a broader familiarity with his life reveals a complex man whose inner struggle engendered love as well as anger. One can certainly say the same about Saul Bellow, and in that sense, at least, the two were not very different.

I believe that a public servant who would choose to celebrate the life of one controversial man (assuming that you do celebrate the life of Malcolm X), forgiving his faults, and demonize another man with similar faults because that man is white, is a frightening prospect indeed, one that I will keep in mind come next election.

Graham Ciraulo

A.M. ’06