Racism and Discrimination are represented in the short story “Country Lovers” and the poem “What It’s like to be a Black Girl”. Both the short story and this poem have a main character which is protagonist black female. Both of the women deal with discrimination because of their race.
Racism is something that we see, hear and experience in our everyday lives. Racism is something that people don’t speak about or address the issue, for example in the short story “Country Lovers”. The short story “Country Lovers” was written by Nadine Gordimer in 1975(Clugston, 2010). This short story is about a love between a black girl named Thebedi and white boy named Paulus Eysendyek taken place in Africa. The two of them played together much of their childhood days. Eventually time passed and they began growing up and distance themselves from one another.
Paulus was the son of the farm owner and Thebedi’s father worked for Paulus’s father. They both knew that their friendship wasn’t accepted in the public. Throughout this short story there are examples of dramatic effects. The first examples is when the narrator talks about Paulus going away to school” This usefully coincides with the age of twelve or thirteen; so that by time early adolescence, is reached, the black children are making along with the bodily changes common to all, an easy transition to adult forms of address, beginning to call their old playmates missus and baasie little = master” (Clugston, 2010).
The friendship created between them during their childhood still remains. Paulus’ and Thebedi’s parents never told them, they couldn’t see each other but yet, there was always this unspoken knowledge that Paulus and Thebedi couldn’t be friends publicly. An example of the unspoken racism Paulus came home from school and brought Thebedi a gift. She told her father the missus had given them her reward for some works she had done at the farmhouse. She told the girls in the kraal that she had a sweetheart nobody knew about tat away, away on another farm, they giggled, teased, and admire her. (Clugston,2010).
The loss of innocence and love that shouldn’t be was described when Paulus watches Thebedi play in the water. “ The school girls he went swimming in the dams or pools on neighboring farms wore bikinis but the sight of their dazzling bellies and thighs in the sunlight had never made him feel what he felt now when the girl came up the bank and sat beside him, the drops of water beading off her dark legs the only points of light in the earth-smelling deep shade. They were not afraid of one another, they had known one another always, and he did with her what he had done that time in the store room at the wedding, and this time it was so lovely, so lovely, he was surprised and she was surprised by it, he could see in her dark face that was part of the shade, with her big dark eyes, shiny as soft water, watching him attentively: as she had when they used to huddle over their teams of mud oxen, as she had when he told her about detention weekends at school.” (Clugston 2010)
At the end of this short story when Paulus arrived home from veterinary college for the holidays. The racism is very real throughout the city. Paulos finds out that the young black girl Thebedi had given birth to a baby. He goes to Thebedi’s hut to see for himself. When her reaches the hut and see’s the baby. He struggled for a moment with tears, anger and self-pity. He asked,” You haven’t been near the house with it?” (Clugston, 2010) His reaction showed that he knew their relationship could never be public knowledge. He was ashamed of her and the baby.
As the story comes to an end Paulus returned to the hut where Thebedi and the baby lived: “She thought she heard small grunts from the hut, the kind of infant grunt that indicates a full stomach, a deep sleep. After a time short or long she didn’t know that he came out and walked away plodding stride (his father’s gait) out of sight, towards his father’s house” (Clugston, 2010).
The realization that Paulus killed the infant child that day when returned to Thebedi’s hut. “The baby was not fed during the night and although she kept telling Najabulo it was sleeping, he saw for himself in the morning that the baby was dead. He comforted her with words and caresses. She did not cry but simply sat, staring at the door (Clugston, 2010).
Reading this story showed racial discrimination in the community. It showed a community divided because of race. And because of racism, it cause a sad tragedy between two people that was madly in love.
The poem “What It’s Like to Be a Black Girl” (For those of you who aren’t)” (Clugston, 2010), which was written by Patricia Smith in 1991. An explanation in its purest form of “What It’s like to be a Black Girl (for those of you who aren’t) by Patricia Smith, the explanation from the first three syllables” First of all,” the author gives a sense of a story being told. She uses sentence structure and language to show the reader the seriousness of her topic Smith’s poem. Smith’s poem gives reader’s an insider’s view into a young black girl’s transition to a woman at a time when being black was hard for society to deal with color of black people.
Puberty is defined by biological changes a young girl’s body experiences starting around age 9 to age 15. “It’s being 9 year old and feeling like your edges are wild, like there’s something, everything, wrong.” (Smith, 4). The puberty transformation for a young girl has to be difficult.
The poem” What’s it’s like to be a Black Girl”, is a look into the mind of a black girl growing in a society that promotes racism and discrimination, both of race and gender. Not knowing where you fit into society being a young black girl and also trying to accept your body going through puberty changes. As a black girl, taught to be ashamed of who you are, how you look and where you come from. This black girl wanted society to accept her or she would rather be white in order to be accepted in society.
Nadine Gordimer was born in 1923,” She has lived in South Africa since birth except for a year she spent in college has devoted all her adult life to writing-13 novels and 10 short stories collections, her work have been published in 40 different languages. The socioeconomic system is a dominant theme in her writing, later her works reflect challenges accompanying the changing attitudes in the country toward racism. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1991” (Clugston, 2010). Patricia Smith who was born in 1955, was an African American poet and performance artist has won the National Poetry slam four times.
The hardship that black women suffered in the poem and the short story is still being suffered by black women and black men growing up being discriminating against created a dramatic story. While reading this poem, I could understand being a black man and raise by a black woman in Tuskegee, Alabama the discrimination she was feeling even though it was a different time and place. At times, the story and poem showed emotions of happiness and sadness.
In conclusion, I feel both authors was feeling the same way about racism and discrimination. The views of racism and discrimination was demonstrated in Nadine Gordimer’s”Country Lovers” and Patricia Smith’s” What It’s like to be a Black Girl” (For those of you who aren’t). In both readings, as a reader you could see the hardship that each character faced because of racism and discrimination of black people especially black women.
Clugston, R.W.(2010). Country Lovers, Nadine Gordimer. In Journey into Literature (chapter3) Clugston, R.W. (2010). Poems For Reflection, In Journey into Literature( chapter 2 section 2)