Comparative Paper of Race/Ethnicity Essay
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Racial background and ethnicities are represented in the short stories “Country Lovers”, “The Welcome Table”, and the poem “What It’s Like to Be a Black Girl”. All of these stories have a main character or protagonist black female. All three of these women deal with some degree of discrimination because of their color. The hardships that these women suffer during their life can be suffered by anyone but growing up in a discriminatory situation creates a more dramatic story.
The main themes in “Country Lovers” are love and racial politics.
Country Lovers was written during a time when Africa was suffering from racial segregation. This story has irony throughout the entire story. Thebedi and Paulus grow up together and they fall in love. They grew up in Africa during the apartheid when their country did not allow interracial relationships. Paulus Eysendyck was the son of the farm owner and Thebedi’s father worked on that farm. They both knew they could not be together publicly.
During the apartheid in Africa it was illegal to have an interracial relationship. There are several dramatic effects in this story. The first is when the narrator talks about Paulus going away to school “This usefully coincides with the age of twelve or thirteen; so that by the 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” (Clungston, 2010).
There’s loss of innocence and forbidden love as described here when Paulus watches Thebedi wade in the water “The schoolgirls he went swimming with at dams or pools on neighbouring 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” (Clungston, 2010). This love would by any other means be normal, but since it is during the apartheid it is against the law.
Eventually, Thebedi becomes pregnant at eighteen with Paulus’s child. In order to protect herself Thebedi marries another man, Njabulo a laborer on the Eysendyck farm, like her father. When Paulus returns home on holiday he learns of the child, fearing that it is his, knowing the legal issues he could face, he goes to see the child. When Paulus sees the child “He struggled for a moment with a grimace of tears, anger, and self–pity. He said, “You haven’t been near the house with it? ” (Clungston, 2010) Both Paulus and Thebedi know the consequences if the child is found out about.
Two days later Paulus returns to Thebedi’s hut and drowns the child. The baby had been given a proper burial until “someone—one of the other labourers? their women? —had reported that the baby was almost white, that, strong and healthy, it had died suddenly after a visit by the farmer’s son”(Clungston, 2010). In the end, a trial resulted in a “not guilty” verdict because of insufficient proof. Each one of these events is dramatic. The main themes of “The Welcome Table” are impartial Christ-like love and racism.
Walker’s story “The Welcome Table” never mentions a table except under the title it quotes an old spiritual. We are never given a name of the old woman in this story. This creates anonymity about the woman; this is tragic because she is unknown. Based on the description of the woman’s clothes the idea is given that “Perhaps she had known suffering “(Walker, 1973). In the story of the old black woman is described as, “the color of poor gray Georgia earth, beaten by king cotton and the extreme weather” (Walker, 1973).
This old Black woman is on a mission. Even though there is no table in this story, the welcome table is a metaphor for impartial love. The old woman heads into a house of god expecting it to have impartial love. The church people discriminated against her because she is black. The good church folk are shocked. The reverend reminds her gently saying “Auntie, you know this is not your church” (Walker, 1973). The old woman thinks “as if one could choose the wrong one” (Walker, 1973). She brushes past them all and finds a seat near the back.
Inside it is very cold, colder than usual. She ignores the request of an usher, referring to her as grandma, who asks her to leave. The ladies, who are celebrating the impartial love that they presumably have, finally insist and their husbands hurl her out. She is stunned, bewildered, and starts to sing a sad song. Then she notices something coming down “the long gray highway. ” She grins toothlessly and giggles with joy. For it is none other than Jesus, and he is walking toward her.
When he came close, he said, “Follow me” and the old woman “bounded down to his side with all the bob and speed of one so old”(Walker, 1973). The two of them walk on together. She tells him her troubles, and he listens kindly, smiling warmly. Jesus provides her with the welcome table. The people in the church never knew what happened to her. Some said they saw her jabbering to herself and walking off down the highway all alone. “They guessed maybe she had relatives across the river, some miles away, but none of them really knew. ” The theme in this story is racism and hardship.
Smiths poem gives the audience a view into a young girls transition from being a black girl into becoming a black woman during a time when both being a black girl and a black woman are unwelcomed. An Explication: From transition to disappointment. The poem “What it’s like to be a Black Girl (for those of you who aren’t)” by Patricia Smith, is exactly as it is described in the title. Smiths poem gives the audience an insider’s view into a young black girl’s transition into black woman-hood at a time where both being a black girl and a black woman was not as welcomed.
Puberty is usually described by the biological changes a young boy or girl’s body goes through. Smith writes, “It’s being 9 years old and feeling like you’re not finished,” and “like your edges are wild, like there’s something, everything, wrong” (Smith, 1991). Though all teens have these thoughts in Smiths poem the black girl also have the added pressures of a racially unjust society. This “black girl” she refers to in her poem is feeling the awkwardness of her newly changing body and the hope of something different and maybe better to come.
The poem tells the story of a young black girl exploring and experiencing what it is to become a black woman in a society that tells her to be white is better. “It’s dropping food coloring in your eyes to make them blue and suffering their burn in silence. It’s popping a bleached white mophead over the kinks of your hair and primping in front of the mirrors that deny your reflection. ” (Smith, 1991) The food coloring in her eyes and the bleached hair symbolize her need to be accepted by society’s idea of proper. “It’s flame and fists and life according to Motown” (Smith, 1991). The life she knows is Motown music, racial slurs, and fighting.
Between “jumping double Dutch until your legs pop” and “growing tall and wearing a lot of white” (Smith, 1991) the poem tells us how a young black girl balances her changing body, with her child-like mentality. The wearing of a lot of white is her wearing of the wedding gown often seen as a symbol of womanhood. On that day, she’s starts the next chapter in her life, as a married woman. When Smith talks about “having a man reach out for you and caving in around his fingers” (Smith, 1919) it gives the reader a better observation of the subservient mentality women dealt with during the 1960’s.
Finally, this young black girl is now a woman. Throughout the poem, Smith has helped us to see the transition from a black girl to a black woman. With Smiths’ attention to detail, the reader is able to follow the girl’s changes, both biological and psychological. This poem tells the story of a young black girl’s journey and her experiences while becoming a grown black woman in an era of racial uncertainty. All three women are survivors of a life of racial unjust. These stories are common to everyday life changes and lessons.
These hardships, that everyone normally sees, are much more dramatic in a society that discriminates against color. References: Clugston, R. W. , (2010). Journey into Literature. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Retrieved March 20, 2011 from https://content. ashford. edu/books/AUENG125. 10. 2/sections/h3. 2? search=Country%20Lovers Walker, A. , (1973). In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 81-87. Smith, P. , (1991). Life According to Motown. What it’s Like to Be a Black Girl (for those of you who aren’t). Tia Chucha Press.