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Cassie is a twelve year old black girl from a loving family in the southern state of Mississippi. She does not understand why racism occurs and why white people ridicule their culture and background. In this chapter there are three main incidents that change Cassie from an innocent young black girl to a worldly girl facing the harsh reality of racism first hand. Cassie was woken at 3. 30 in the morning by Big Ma. Cassie had never been to Strawberry before and was very excited.
She was allowed to sit up front on the wagon with Big Ma, however she was disappointed that T. J.was going with them but she had no choice. Cassie expected the town of Strawberry to be extremely modern, built up and sprawling but instead it was something very ordinary, ” a sad, red place”. She said she felt a “gutting disappointment enveloping me as we entered the town. ” As they turned into the market field where they were going to sell their eggs and milk, they saw that there were many wagons near the entrance but Big Ma drove to the other side of the field where only two other wagons were stationed. Cassie found this unusual that they parked at the back of the field when there were spaces at the front.
She showed her annoyance at this after studying the wagons in front and she said, “what the devil are we doing way back here then! Can’t nobody see us”. This is because she didn’t realise that the people in front of them were white and the rest of the spaces were for white people still to come. If Big Ma were to move forward she would be told to move back or her eggs and milk damaged by the white people. Later in the morning when they had parked the wagon in Strawberry, Big Ma went to visit Mr Jamieson at his office.
T. J. persuaded Stacey and Cassie to go in to the mercantile to help him buy some things for his father and the three children went up to Mr Barnett the shop keeper’s counter. Cassie was happy to wait for Mr Barnett to serve them and they stood patiently in the queue. When it was their turn he took T. J. ‘s list and started filling the bag with everything on the list. Then a white woman came over and asked for help. Mr Barnet left T. J. ‘s list and bag on the side and served the white woman. By this time Cassie was a little impatient but understood that her elders should get priority.
Several minutes later Mr Barnett returned and picked up T. J. ‘s list and continued to fill the bag. A short time later Mr Barnett’s wife called for him and he walked away. Cassie and Stacey decided to leave T. J. and go back to the wagon. On the way out Cassie saw Mr Barnett serving a white girl of a similar age to herself. Thinking Mr Barnett had simply forgotten, she politely asked “I think you was waiting on us, ‘fore you was waiting on this girl here”. Mr Barnett did not look up so she assumed he did not hear her.
As she was close to the end of the counter she went round and politely tugged on his shirt to get his attention. He recoiled as if she had struck him. “Well, you just get your little black self back over there and wait some more” he said. Now Cassie was annoyed that he reacted so angrily when she was just trying to help. “It ain’t fair. You got no right”. Mr Barnett asks whose little nigger this is and everyone in the store turns and looks as Cassie. “I ain’t nobody’s little nigger! ” Cassie screamed angry and humiliated. Cassie can’t believe has been treated so unfairly.
For the shop keeper to stop serving them in favour of an adult is acceptable but not a child. Cassie is angry and demands her rights as a customer in the shop. After this event in Mr Barnett’s shop Cassie was confused at why he had acted the way he did. More than once Cassie contemplated going back to the mercantile to find out what had made him so mad and once she turned back and headed towards the store then remembered what Mr Barnett had said. Cassie turned around with her head bowed, and bumped into Lillian Jean Simms, a white girl.
“Why don’t you look where you’re going? ” she asked huffily. “Well apologise”, she ordered. Cassie apologised politely and tried to walk on. Lillian Jean quickly side-stepped in front of her blocking Cassie’s way. “That ain’t enough, get down in the road. ” When Cassie tried to avoid Lillian Jean, her father, Mr Simms, forced her down into the road. This incident with Lillian Jean was an accident and would have been treated as one if Cassie were white, but is blown up out of all proportion especially by Mr Simms.
He used violence on Cassie only because she is black. Cassie has a strong feeling of fair play like her Uncle Hammer and will not apologise. She was treated like an animal by Mr Simms and Lillian Jean. Big Ma was a coward in Cassie’s eyes but if Big Ma hadn’t told Cassie to apologise to the white people, Cassie may have been hurt regardless of her age. In this chapter Cassie is forced into the facts of racism but is too young to understand. She only just realises that her family are treated as second-class citizens every day.