Good Girls Never Wear Red: Codes of Conduct; Race, Ethics and the Color of Our Character

By Moore, Opal J. | Black Issues in Higher Education, October 19, 1995 | Go to article overview

Good Girls Never Wear Red: Codes of Conduct; Race, Ethics and the Color of Our Character


Moore, Opal J., Black Issues in Higher Education


Good Girls Never Wear Red: Codes of Conduct; Race, Ethics and the Color. of our Character

Codes of Conduct: Race, Ethics and the Color of our Character

by Karla F.C. Holloway

Rutgers University Press, 1995

210 pp., $24.95 hardcover

From the title of her new work, "Codes of Conduct: Race, Ethics and the Color of our Character," to her examination of the destructive impact of color(ed) politics upon the lives of African-American children, Karla Holloway ingeniously invokes and then inverts Dr. King's famous speech moment -- that Moses-like panorama of an American Canaan Land as seen from a spiritual mountaintop. It is appropriate to note that our Black American Hero has since been re-costumed as commercial pop-icon; his passionate expression of hope has since been reduced to a quotable quote or a tasty, 15-second media sound-bite to satisfy the snack appetite of commercial liberalism. And so far, The Dream remains America's most talked about and yet unrealized ideal.

If we remember his four opening words ("Five score years ago..."), the invocation of King's speech moment throws us further back into American freedom history, calling forth the ready memory of Abraham Lincoln delivering the Emancipation Proclamation from a similarly precipitous mountaintop.

However, King prefaced his great vision for America in words that somehow never seem to fit into 15-second sound-bites, by saying: "We must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free...is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination...is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land." We will, perhaps involuntarily, note that King consistently used the "universal" masculine pronoun form, and the "Negro" to whom King refers is always "he." But what about the Black woman? Does (s)he dream? Do the heroic speeches of the racial warriors "intertext" with the voices of women? These intertextual mirrorings of our racial past are available in the wording of Holloway's book title.

It is no wonder that Holloway, author of three works of literary criticism (most recently "Moorings and Metaphors: Figures of Culture and Gender in Black Women's Literature," Rutgers UP) has climbed down from her scholarly box seat and entered the ring from all four corners at once. Employing the structures and analyses of ethical systems, ethnicity politics, linguistic/cultural analysis and literary/feminist criticism, Holloway alternates personal storytelling, straight talk and academic theorizing to reach all audiences as she deconstructs popular social discourses, moral and ethical confusion and clarifies their relationship to, and effect upon, the lives of African-American women and, ultimately, their children.

Holloway puns and plays with her own words demonstrating the elasticity and elusiveness of language. In her introduction, "Eth(n)icity: A Tracery of Cultural Work," she states: "This book explores ethical conduct that either implicitly or explicitly traces the architecture of ethnic identity." Ethics are shaped by cultural narratives, and ethical conduct "traces the architecture of ethnic identity." In other words, contrary to King's wish, character assessments are often still color-coded, and our "ethics" must respond to this reality.

In pursuit of this analysis, Holloway examines the lives and narratives of Black women in particular, and her own life, to determine what eth(n)ical codes have been advanced, and how they have served, or have failed to support our real needs.

Holloway begins her study as herself, witness to a mother's use of a very powerful admonition to control her son's behavior in a public place -- the line at the bank full of mostly white patrons. She whispers urgently, "Act your age and not your color." With this insulting dictate, so familiar to most African Americans, Holloway easily reminds us of the traditional language that retains and maintains the association between color and character. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Good Girls Never Wear Red: Codes of Conduct; Race, Ethics and the Color of Our Character
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.