Why is it so hard to be a Black person living in America? It is because the White culture has never wanted to see Blacks as equal or superior to their race. To prevent such thing from happening, racist Whites set up obstacles that stand in the way of Blacks ever reaching their full potential. Therefore, Blacks must go through White supremacy and stereotypes on a daily basis in order to survive. This is evident in the novels and stories read in our African-American Literature course.
First, in A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, the Younger family is denied its rights of freedom when the Welcome Committee does not ant them to move into their new home in the White neighborhood. Second, in The Emmett Till Murder Case, by Douglas O. Linder, Emmett Till is killed when he attempts to speak to a White woman. Third, in The Street by Ann Petry, Lutie’s son, Bub, cleans shoes in the streets of Harlem for a low- pay.
Finally, in The Ethics of Living Jim Crow, an autobiography by Richard Wright, Wright ends up losing his job when he forgets to properly address one of his White supervisors as “Sir. The psychological effects of being Black in America include the Younger family not feeling welcomed in an all-White eighborhood, Emmett Till being seen as a target by the racist Whites, Bub being seen valueless by working a low-paying job, and Richard Wright feeling unsafe at his job. However, despite the psychological effects the Black characters goes through, each can overcome White racism by knowing what the Whites are capable of doing and being educated to know when and where to exercise their rights at the appropriate time and place.
The ability for Black citizens to acknowledge their rights under the Constitution is one way they can overcome Whites’ obstacles and survive in America. In the play A Raisin in the Sun, he Younger family is a group of Black people living in the south- side of Chicago. Their dreams and rights to buy a home in an all-White neighborhood in Clybourne Park are first denied when a man from the Welcome Committee, Mr. Lindner, comes by to speak to them. He says, “Anybody can see that you are a nice family of folks, hardworking and honest I’m sure.. eople can get awfully worked up when they feel that their whole way of life and everything they’ve ever worked for is threatened” (Hansberry 117).
Mr. Lindner is saying that the Younger family does not belong in the White’s neighborhood. He is part of the Welcoming Committee but, ironically, he does not welcome them into the new neighborhood because of his racist perspective. He is setting up the obstacles that are inhibiting the Younger family from feeling welcomed into their new home in the White’s neighborhood due to White supremacy and stereotyping them as being a threat and a disturbance to the new neighborhood.
This is an example of the psychological effects of being Black in America because Blacks have a hard time being accepted into all-White neighborhood. Blacks are often denied their rights because White people fear that Black eople will threaten their lifestyle. The Younger family feels a sense of discrimination and segregation, but makes the decision to move into their new home in Clybourne Park because, according to Walter Younger, “my father-he earned it for us brick by brick” (Hansberry 147).
Walter telling Mr. Lindner that his family is moving symbolizes freedom because he is acknowledging the family’s rights to choose a home at an all- White neighborhood, despite the issue of racism. Therefore, the Younger family is able to overcome Mr. Lindner’s racism by expressing their rights at an opportune time. However, Blacks must exercise their rights at an appropriate time and place, as shown in the Emmett Till Murder Case. In the book, the 16-year-old, African-American boy, Emmet Till, relocated from Chicago to Mississippi to live with his relatives.
In 1955, he was with his cousins and friends when he saw a White woman at the store and made the attempt to speak to her: “Alone in the store with Carolyn Bryant, Till allegedly grabs her wrist and asks her for a date and tells her that he’s been with white women before [testimony of Carolyn Bryant]… As she crosses the road heading to the car, Till lets out a loud ‘wolf histle” (Linder). Carolyn Bryant is the White woman who Emmett Till attempted to talk to. She claimed that the boy made a sexual approach towards her, which is why she reported it to her husband and his friends.
A few days later, the White men went to Emmett Till’s house and took him to a ditch where they beat him up. Emmett Till was scared of the situation because he was abducted by a group of White men he does not know. He was later shot and killed by this group of White men and found in the ditch the following day. The murder of Emmett Till was seen as justifiable to the racist Whites because a Black an speaking to a White woman was seen as unacceptable in America’s society.
Therefore, the mother and the rest of the Black community were frightened by the death of Emmett Till because they acknowledge that there was no justice for Blacks in regards to a White on Black crime. This is another example of the psychological effects of being Black in America because Blacks acknowledge that they can be killed by the racist Whites anytime. Emmett Till cannot control the fact he is a young Black man who was considered a prey and could be restrained and murdered at any moment if he chosen to exercise his rights.
But, had Emmet Till been educated enough to know not to ever speak to a White woman especially in a racist society like Mississippi, he might have resist Whites’ racism and, perhaps, still be alive. Blacks having a job is another way they can overcome the Whites’ obstacles and survive in America. However, it depends on the type or rank of the job that will determine if the society will respect the Black or not. In The Street, Bub is an 8-year-old African-American boy who cleans shoes in the streets of Harlem for a low pay.
However, Lutie, Bub’s mother, is outraged when she caught his own son cleaning shoes when she is returning ome from work. Lutie thinks, “it’s also that you’re afraid that if he’s shining shoes at eight, he will be washing windows at sixteen and running an elevator at twenty-one, and go on doing that for the rest of his life” (Petry 67). White society views Blacks as inferior, subservient, and uneducated. Cleaning shoes, for example, is seen as an unranked, unqualifying job because White society believes these kinds of jobs are meant for Blacks only.
For Lutie to see Bub, her own son, cleaning shoes shows White society that Bub accepts the stereotypes projected on Blacks, even though he is too young to understand. If a Black man starts cleaning shoe at an early age, he may move from one unskilled job to the next, the difference only being the location and a slight rise in pay. Because Bub’s service is seen as a slave-like job, Lutie is angry at Bub for accepting it. Therefore, Lutie slaps Bub because he is diminishing his self-worth. This is another example of the psychological effects of being Black in America.
Jobs like cleaning shoes in the street are society’s way of saying that Blacks will never have upward mobility. As a result, it is hard for Blacks to find ranked, qualifying jobs due to he stereotype of Blacks being inferior, subservient, and uneducated. Because of Lutie, Bub is aware of the situation behind Blacks cleaning shoes for a low-pay, which is why he stopped cleaning shoes. However, Blacks having a job underneath the supervision of the Whites does not necessarily mean the Blacks are guaranteed to keep their job.
In The Ethics of Living Jim Crow, Richard Wright is a factory worker who is unable to learn how to operate machinery from his white supervisors because they are against him learning new things. From Wright’s perspective, “thinking they had forgotten that I was to learn something about he mechanics of grinding lenses, I asked Morrie one day to tell me about the work. He grew red. Whut yuh tryin’ t’ do, nigger, git smart? ‘ he said. ‘But, Mr. Pease, the boss said. ” (Wright 1413).
To Morrie, one of Wright’s supervisors, “White” means intelligence. For Morrie to deny Wright’s rights to education and opportunity shows that Morrie refuses to allow Blacks to be smart. The obstacles of White supremacy and stereotyping that Morrie sets up for Wright indeed work because, one day, Wright accidently forgets to address Morrie as “Sir. ” Therefore, Morrie threatens Wright and then fires him despite being one of the ard working men in the factory. “I heard yuh call ‘im Pease! ‘N’ if yuh say yuh didn’t, yuh’re callin’ me a lie, see? He waved the steel bar threateningly.
They gave me a minute to get out of the factory. I was warned not to show up again.. ” (Wright 1413-1414). It is a built-in culture in society for Blacks to address Whites as “Sir” or “Madam” especially living in the south. For Blacks to refuse or forget this manner provokes violence from Whites. This is thus another example of the psychological effects for Blacks, showing how they are made to feel unsafe in heir jobs due to White supremacy and stereotypes.
Even though Richard Wright accidently forgets to address one of his White supervisors as “Sir,” he is lucky to overcome White racism because he could have been beaten up or killed just for attempting to exercise his rights at work. Through the novels and stories read in our African American Literature course, it is evident that being Black in America is challenging. Blacks have to go through White supremacy and stereotyping, obstacles set up by the racist Whites on a daily basis. Unfortunately, not all Blacks survive the obstacles and ardships in America because they are overwhelmed and are defeated by the majority of the White population.
Blacks knowing what the Whites are capable of doing and being educated to know when and where to exercise his or her rights at an appropriate time and place are the greatest resistance to Whites’ unjust norms. If the Younger family was not educated enough to exercise their rights appropriately, they might have followed Mr. Lindner’s command and never moved into their new home in the White neighborhood. If Emmett Till knew not to talk to a White woman in an unjust society, he might have still been alive.
If Bub was educated enough to know about societal norms and racism, he would have never accepted the job of cleaning shoes in the streets of Harlem for a low pay in the first place. Finally, if Richard Wright knew that his White supervisors were capable of beating or killing him, he would have been extra cautious and never forget to address them as “Sir. ” In cases like the Younger family and Lutie and Bub, upward mobility is difficult because they are Black people who want to achieve the American Dream, but are denied that chance by the Whites.
On the other hand, in cases like Emmett Till and Richard Wright, talking is a crime because it leads to undesirable consequences. All Blacks go through psychological events of being Black in America. However, knowing when and where to appropriately exercise the rights and education plays a big role in whether a Black person will survive in America or not. These are the greatest tools to knock down the White society’s obstacles because, for Blacks, knowledge is power.