Racial Discrimination in America - Paper Example

Published: 2021-08-15
1816 words
7 pages
16 min to read
Carnegie Mellon University
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Literature review
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The graduation is an autobiography of the writer, Maya Angelou. The author uses her graduation day to convey her life in a society that segregated people according to their race. Racial discrimination in America led to segregation of schools whereby the black students had separate schools from the white students, (Brown 2014). Though it is her autobiography, Maya starts the narrative with an informative and impersonal paragraph; she describes the school and gives her feelings about segregation indirectly. Unlike the white high school, Lafayette County Training School differentiated itself by having neither lawn, nor hedges, nor tennis court nor climbing ivy. (Angelou pp. 17). These statements show that the white students were accorded more privileges than the black students were. Though the laws of segregation stated that the schools be separate but equal (Hansen 2011) the whites received more privileges than the blacks did. This is the effect of segregation and racial discrimination. Her choice of language expresses her anticipation of the future. I was headed for the freedom of open fields. (Angelou, pp. 19). Though she is a black girl in a society dominated by the white people, she anticipates for a brighter future through her education. She creates a readers anticipation by the use of future tense in her descriptions. I was going to be lovely. (Angelou, pp. 18). Her choice of language creates anticipation about the future.

Angelou does not allow the issue of segregation and racial discrimination to take her dream away. She is ready to prove to the worlds that even the Negros has more to offer and are not fewer beings. All her feelings before the graduation are full of happiness and self-satisfaction, but on the graduation day, her feelings change. A sense of ill-fated timing crept over me. (Angelou, Pp. 21). Finding my seat, at last, I was overcome with a presentment of worse things to come. (Angelou, Pp 22). Her choice of wording creates anticipation to the reader. Her choice of wording helps to develop feelings and emotions on the reader hence the reader shares in her own sorrow or happiness. Her wording captures and controls the mood of the reader. Her reaction when the two white men appeared at the auditorium is an indication of her feelings towards the white people. She expresses white supremacy when one of the white men decides to sit on the principles chair. The shorter one walked to the speakers platform, and the tall one moved to the center seat and sat down. But that was principles seat and already occupied. (Angelou, pp 23). Maya uses this description to express the dominance of the white people.

The white people always thought that they deserved the superior positions and treatment while the black people deserved the inferior positions. Though Maya does not talk about racial discrimination, white supremacy and segregation, her choice of words describes the existence of these issues in the society she lived in. Maya uses the speech of Mr. Donleavy (the short white man) to express the attitude that exists between the white and the black people. The mans dying words fell like bricks around the auditorium and too many settled in my belly. (Angelou, pp. 24). According to Mr. Donleavy, the blacks were only capable of becoming athletes while the white children had a chance to dream of being scientists. The white kids are going to have a chance to become Galileos and Madame Curies and Edisons and Gauguins and our boys (the girls werent even in on it) would try to be Jesse Owens and Joe Louises. (Angelou pp. 24). Maya choice of words shows and express how the white people viewed the black people as inferior.

How it feels to be colored me is an autobiography of Zora Neale. Zora Neale uses this piece to describe racial discrimination indirectly. She uses her narrative to express how she was able to cope up with life in a society dominated by the white people when she was black. Through her choice of language, every person has a choice on how to perceive racial discrimination. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. (Houston, pp. 207). Though racial discrimination stole her formal self away When I disembarked from the river-boat at Jacksonville, she was no more. It seemed like I had suffered a sea change. I was not Zora of Orange County anymore; I was now a little-colored girl. (Houston, pp. 208), she does not allow racial discrimination to control her world of happiness. Her originality (from grandparents who were slaves) does not determine her future. She describes her originality as an operation that was successfully performed, The operation was successful, and the patient is doing great (Houston, pp. 208) and hence her future is not based on the past but on the current. Though Zora is faced with racial discrimination, she is ready to make a life for herself that is not based on what other people think of her color. Zora does not have negative feelings toward racial discrimination, Sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. (Houston, pp. 209). This is an indication that racial discrimination existed though Zora does not express it directly. Zora does not criticize racial discrimination, in fact, she describes that racial discrimination is expressed by both blacks and whites. When the blacks are the majority, the white people feel discriminated against, A white person is set down in our midst. (Houston, pp. 208). This is supported by (Waldman 2017) who states that several surveys show that the whites suffer from racial discrimination as much as the blacks do. Though Zora Neale does not criticize racial discrimination, her piece expresses the existence of racial discrimination in the society she lived in.

Alexie uses his narrative to express how he was able to defeat the odds that his origin subjected him to. Alexie was an Indian boy who lived on the reservations. In his wording, Indians are always viewed as uneducated and stupid. We were Indian children who were expected to be stupid. Despite his race, Alexie did not let his originality determine his future. He learned to read when he was a little boy of three years A little Indian boy teaches himself to read at an early age and advances quickly (Alexie, pp. 13). Alexie does not let his origin and the expectations of the society define who he wants to be in future. He makes his own choice of who he wants to be. Through his ability to read at an early stage and his character before non- Indians, it is an indication that he was determined to define his own future. Indians were viewed as less being who did not have a superior position in the society. As Indian children, we were expected to fail in the non- Indian world (Alexie, pp. 13). Despite the perception of the society, Alexie was determined to become a hero before the Indians and non-Indians. The fact that Indians were viewed as inferior while the non-Indians were superior is an indication that racial discrimination existed in the society. Though the society discriminated the Indians, Alexie did not allow the attitude and beliefs of the society to dominate his life. He made his own choices based on his dreams and his own abilities as a human being but not as an Indian. He did not challenge the way the society viewed him because he was an Indian but instead he decided to live his life without being limited by his race. Alexie grew up to become a writer. Despite his profession in writing, he does not recall a day a teacher taught him how to write. This is because Indians were not expected to be writers. In all my years in the reservation school system, I was never taught how to write poetry, short stories or novels. I was certainly not taught that Indians wrote poetry, short stories, and novels. (Alexie, pp. 14). This is an indication that the perception of the society does not limit an individual from achieving his/her dreams.

The narrator of The yellow wallpaper is a woman who is suffering because of male dominance. The narrator feels she is sick, but her husband and her brother do not believe her. Her husband (John) is a physician, and her brother is a physician too. This is expressed through the writers wording, If a physician of the high standing and ones own husband assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one temporary nervous depression- a slight hysterical tendency- what is one to do? My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing (Gilman, pp. 648). Though the writer was sick, her husband and her brother paid no attention because they perceived that she is suffering from hysteria simply because she was a woman. The views of women in this society were not considered because men dominated. I dont like our room a bit. I wanted one downstairs that opened on the piazza and had roses all over the window and such old-fashioned chintz! But John could not hear of it. This is an indication that women ideas were not respected in a male-dominated society. The narrator enjoys writing, but the husband thinks it is not good for her health. I did write from a while in spite of them. (Gilman, pp. 648). This is an indication that the narrator did not allow her dream and passion in writing to be destroyed by her husband. The narrator writes in secret and keeps a secret journal. Despite the perception of her husband that she should not write but rather stay idle in order to heal, she makes her own choice and finds a way to fulfill her desire. The position of a woman in marriage is portrayed as being inferior while the men dominated and had the freedom to make decisions. Despite this perception, the narrator freed herself and was able to enjoy her freedom. Ive got out, at last, said I, in spite of you and Jane? And I have pulled out most of the paper, so you cant put me back! (Gilman, pp. 656).


Works Cited

Alexie, S. (1998). The Joy of Reading and Writing: Superman and Me. Los Angeles. Times

Angelou, M. Graduation. (1989). Perfection Learning.

Brown, N. & Stanford, M. (Eds). (2014). Jim Crow: A Historical Encyclopedia of the American Mosaic. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood.

Gilman, C. (1990). The Yellow Wall-Paper. Orchises Pr.

Hansen, E. (2011). Jim Crow Laws and Racial Segregation. Social Welfare History Project.

Hurston, Z. (2015). How it Feels to be Colored Me. American Roots

Waldman, P. (2017). Why White People think that theyre the Real Victims of Racism. The Week Magazine.


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