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“There were two cops. One said ‘You niggers have to learn to respect police officers.’ The other one said, ‘If you yell or make any noise, I will kill you.’ Then one held me and the other shoved the plunger up my behind. He pulled it out, shoved it in my mouth, broke my teeth and said, ‘That’s your shit, nigger.’”(Abner Louima) The police officers that allegedly performed this act of racial violence on August 9, 1997 had no reason to brutally beat and sodomize Abner Louima. They beat him for the fact that he was an African-American. I will show how I researched a poem by Maya Angelou and how racism occurred in “The Bluest Eye”. First, we need to understand what racism is.
Racism is a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and those racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. Racism is slightly different in my point of view. Racism is a person’s attitude, ignorance and beliefs that causes one to believe their race is superior. It spreads to each generation causing a never-ending cycle. It occurs in every day life. Violence, destruction and ultimately death are sometimes the results of racism. It is unfair treatment to minorities being judged primarily because of the color of their skin. Every race is affected in some way, but African-Americans are affected more significantly than any other race. Racism begins in the home where it is taught. “You have to be taught to hate and fear / You have to be taught from year to year / It has to be drummed in our dear little ear / You have to be carefully taught!” (Roger & Hammerstein) Racism occurs at home, work, anytime and anyplace. It began years ago and continues today.
In Maya Angelou’s Still I Rise, racism was discussed. The poet emphasizes “I rise” (L.30, 32, 36, 38, 41-43) to express that no matter how much someone puts you down, you can overcome the situation. Consider lines 1 through 4:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
I agree with lines 1 through 4 because insults have no power. A person can become better and not stoop to your level because “still I’ll rise” (L. 12) One can hate but it will not be heard or acknowledged. A description can be seen in lines 21 through 24:
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Maya Angelou described situations that occurred because of one’s color. Angelou discussed the past pain of black slaves. “I am the dream and the hope of the slave.” (L. 40) I think Angelou stated this line to explain that the past occurred but the new generation is the hope to bury the past. Hoping to bring achievement and success of African-Americans.
All society hears is the history of slavery and the pain that began with racism, rape and mistreatment of African-Americans. Lines 29 through 43 describe that with African-American history there is hope for success:
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from the past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
This poem makes me realize that African-Americans have been faced with bitterness. I love this poem because “I rise” reminds me of 3-D.
It comes out while you are reciting the words. It makes me feel like I can rise, no matter my problems, “I’ll rise.” I think if we add this phrase to our vocabulary when a situation of racism occurs, you won’t worry about the cause.
In Toni Morrison’s, “The Bluest Eye”, racism occurred throughout the novel. Claudia destroyed her white baby dolls. She was upset that people would look at white girls and say how cute they were but that Claudia was not. “What made people look at them and say, “Awwwww,” but not for me?” (22, Morrison) Society has made people think that white or light-skinned blacks are prettier than darker-skinned persons are. This enraged Claudia into destroying her own dolls.
Pecola went to Yacobowski’s Fresh Vegetable Meat and Sundries Store for some Mary Janes. Mr. Yacobowski, a white man, stared at Pecola. “She has seen it lurking in the eyes of all white people. So. The distaste must be for her, her blackness.” (42) Mr. Yacobowski criticized her for not talking and letting him know what she wanted to purchase. He was afraid to touch Pecola’s hand when she unfolded her fist to reveal three pennies. “He hesitates, not wanting to touch her hand. Finally he reaches over and takes the pennies from her hand. His nails graze her damp palm.” (43)
Bay Boy, Woodrow Cain, and Junie Bug were circling and holding Pecola. They were shouting out racial slurs. “Black e mo. Black e mo. Yadaddsleepsnekked. Black e mo black e mo ya dadd sleeps nekked. Black e mo ” (55) This is an example of black on black racism. The boys insulted Pecola over matters that she had no control over. Pecola’s dark complexion could not be changed.
Another incident involved Maureen, a light-skinned African-American girl, who was talking about Pecola’s black daddy. Because Maureen said the wrong thing Frieda and Pecola started an argument with her. All Maureen said was “I am cute! And you ugly! Black and ugly black e mos. I am cute!” (61) Insulting someone because they are darker or look different than another is unequal treatment. I think it is a shame that blacks use insults when they are angry with one another. No matter if one is light, brown, dark, everyone is still considered black.
Cholly and Darlene were in the middle of intercourse when two white men with guns made Cholly continue having sex with Darlene. “Get wid it, nigger,” said one of the white men. Nigger was repeated while the white men watched and laughed. This was fun to the white men and a racial embarrassing situation that neither one of them would forget for the blacks.
Cholly went to buy a ticket to go to Macon. The salesman was very disrespectful and rude. The salesman insulted him with racial slurs because he was black. “I reckon I knows a lying nigger when I sees one, but jest in case you ain’t, jest in case one of them mammies is really dyin’ and wants to see her little old smoke before she meets her maker, I gone do it.” (121) There was no need for the salesman to insult Cholly with remarks about him being a nigger. It is obvious that Cholly knows he is black. It pissed me off that someone you do not know accuses you of lying. “Cholly heard nothing. The insults were part of the nuisances of life, like lice.” (121)
Morrison showed many incidents of racism. Although, “The Bluest Eye” took place in 1941, there really is no difference today. In many respects, 1998 looks like 1941, in terms of the turning back of the clock on black progress.
How can we have an anti-racism society? I think we are miseducated. In school, we learn little about Hispanic and African-American history. There is a perception in the United States that consists of all white people. If you let it be a white country everything is fine but if another race tries to challenge it, fear and denial occur. We need to realize that more than fifty- percent people of color will exist in the United States in the twenty-first century.
We must struggle to ban discrimination in all of its forms. We also need to enforce all civil rights laws in the search for meaningful remedies to heal the damages of racism and cultural aggression. We need to have greater access to American society as a whole and to be considered equal with other groups within this global structure.
We need to discuss individual responsibility and accountability in terms of programs that could focus on fighting racism. We need a systematic program to fight racism in the white community, particularly among poor working people and the middle class. I think there is a priority of working and organizing toward racism in white communities. The goal should be to come together with people of color to help organize and empower their communities for them to more effectively lead themselves around an agenda that they see as essentially important.
Respecting the culture and identity of communities of color should always be a priority. White organizations should always have people of color in critical roles on their staff so they can take the lead in organizing communities of color. This does not mean that only white people can organize in white communities, or black people in black communities. We could have interracial teams working collectively because of the focusing need of strategies to progress toward a more harmonizing future.
We must recognize the centrality of the agendas and leadership in communities of color in the struggle to create a new society. I think it is important to struggle for a new society. We are really fighting against racism so we can have better race relations or so we can sit down and maybe one day have tea together. We must have racial justice as well as good relations. Racial justice and gender equality of rights for all people are prerequisites for becoming a better society. We need to struggle against racism so that we can create a force that will be at the cutting edge of the fight for social transformation and the creation of a new society in a new world. We cannot achieve a society based on genuine economic and political democracy unless we succeed in our pursuit.
Racism is a disease that has no cure. I am not sure we will ever find one. Incidents such as Abner Louima’s has occurred and will continue until a cure is found. Great poets should continue to write with inspirations to demolish racism. Novels that show racism should continue to be written so people can realize how it affects people. My ideas on how we can have an anti-racist society are great but – Can it really happen? Martin Luther King Jr. stated in his speech that he looked forward to the day when his four children would not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I think he was right then and now, but the country has sunk deeper into racism. I believe it is time to regress to King’s idea. The content of one’s character and not the color of one’s skin should judge a person, which is the sole decent of American criterion.
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