Chantal TunganeMs.YoungENG4U25, January 2017 The Distinct Levels of RacismRacism is a global issue that has been a problem for thousands of years. Although racism has been a reoccurring issue globally, it has never been resolved. In these two novels, The Color Purple by Alice Walker and, Beloved by Toni Morrison, racism continues to be a common issue that everyone deals with. african americans in particular.
In the novel the color purple racism is depicted through the everyday lives of each african american character. This novel takes place in two different settings georgia and a remote african village. This two places both experience the problems of race and racism. The main character celie believes she’s ugly because of her dark skin, this is the result of society’s standards of “fair” skin not only being better and beautiful but being accepted into society.
This gives the readers a glimpse of the social standards but, then going in more depth of the real issue, racism. In beloved morrison shines the light on how african americans were treated during slavery. the characters have flashbacks to the days where they were slaves. through this time they experience the harsh reality that african american people faced, and through this harsh reality the readers are exposed into a different lense, where the two levels are extremely distinct between the whites and the blacks. Beloved presents the unthinkable cruelty of slavery. The novel explores how the blacks are dehumanized and treated like animals by the whites. It goes back onto the understanding of the larger issue racism.
These two novels exemplify the two levels of society between the blacks and the whites. How the darkness of your skin resembles that of an animal, and dehumanizes you into having animal like characteristics. the color purple takes place in two distinct settings, rural georgia, and a mall village in Africa.
Although these two places are far from each other, they surface the same issue, which is racism. On one hand there’s celie and sofia who live in Georgia and both feel like the economy is run by whites, and on the either theirs nettie who is in the small village in africa who feels the same way. In the village where nettie lives, their are many europeans who are trying exploit the olinkas village into being a more urban area. In doing this the europeans will do whatever it takes to exploit the village no matter the consequences. This relates back to racism because the europeans are going into a land that has been owned by black families for generations just because they feel they are superior and are capable of running it better than those who have owned it for thousands of years.
“Now the engineers have come to inspect the territory. Two white men came yesterday and spent a couple of hours strolling about the village, mainly looking at the wells. Such is the innate politeness of the Olinka that they rushed about preparing food for them . . . And the white men sat eating as if the food was beneath notice” (walker 196).
In this quote nettie wonders if the europeans are their to connect or reconstruct a culture or if they’re their to “modernize” the land then destroy it. The europeans believe that the road will grant access to the connection between the olinkas and western economic structures. Nettie argues that the road is to grant access to the english man who greedily eyeing the land.
She also believes that the village has evolved overtime on its own timeline therefore, western involvement should not be necessary. Western involvement seems more like an intrusion that a development. The olinkas are aware of the european intrusion but they are a community thats together and is strong in character.
They believe that they started civilization, therefore they are the boss, and are incontrol of their own land.”But guess what else . . .
When the missionaries got to the part bout Adam and Eve being naked, the Olinka peoples nearly bust out laughing . . . They tried to explain . .
. that it was they who put Adam and Eve out of the village because they was naked. Their word for naked is white. But since they are covered by color they are not naked” (walker 281).
The olinka word for white is naked meaning having no color, because the olinkas have dark skin, for them “whiteness” has nothing to do with being white but rather olinkans can be white, black, naked or clothed. The olinkas are proud of their heritage and skin and they do not consider their blackness a way for those who are “white” to disvalue them.Onto the other side of the world, georgia, sofia and celie both deal with oppression. Sofia is arrested for pushing a white family, and because of this she is beaten and abused in prison.
In this time period, whites in georgia are of higher ranking than the backs, therefore they are denied of the human dignity that everyone is entitled to. When shug learns about sofias imprisonment she is set to get her freed by any means possible. “I don’t know, say the prizefighter. This sound mighty much like some ole uncle Tomming to me. Shug snort, Well, she say, Uncle Tom wasn’t call Uncle for nothing” (walker 99). Shug understands that the only role whites believe that blacks should have is either a maid or servant.
Sofia is stubborn so, obeying the laws of whites is very hard for her, but shug is determined to make her understand that abiding by these laws is better than staying in prison. Obeying the laws of the white society is the only means of survival in georgia because if yiu chose not to you are imprisoned or far worse, killed. After the imprisonment of sofia she is angry that white supremacy feels the need to treat people of color however they please. She begins wondering if all the whites were killed would there be peace? Can blacks finally have the chance to be greater without being discriminated and put into a box they’re not able to leave? “Sofia say to me today, I just can’t understand it. What that?I ast. Why we ain’t already kill them off.
…Too many to kill off, I say. Us outnumbered from the start” (walker 105). From this conversation between celie and sofia, the readers can infer that sofias hatred towards whites has gotten to the point where she wants to kill them all. In regards of the oppression and the unfair treatment towards not only sofia but other blacks, the question is asked. Why haven’t the blacks retaliate? The answer is said by celie when she answers sofia and says that there’s too many of them.
it’s been the way blacks have lived their lives for generations, feeling discriminated, oppressed and treated as less than equal.Violence in Alice Walker’s the Color Purple by Priya K focuses on the violence within the novel. The violence refers back to racism because “In tracing the life of one woman, Celie, from the early 1930s to the mid 1940s, The Color Purple reveals the plethora of violence in the form of harsh economic, social and emotional crisis facing the blacks”( Priya 51).all in all the blacks are targeted in georgia and africa, whether they are in their motherland (africa) or in georgia they are still oppressed and have limited rights.
It shows how low blacks are in the social economy, falling under the white supremacy.”Today one of the boys in my afternoon class burst out, as he entered, The road approaches! The road approaches! He had been hunting in the forest with his father and seen it. Every day now the villagers gather at the edge of the village near the cassava fields, and watch the building of the road” (walker 169). Nettie writes in her letter that the bridge is finally complete, but in saying so she argues that the europeans invaded a land that isn’t their own and are trying to push their way of living onto the olinkas. She believes that the road is mainly for more white colonizers, to come and invade the land. The distinct difference between the whites and black is very big, and this is seen through sofia, while she’s working for the mayor’s family. “Sofia say, Why not? They got me in a little storeroom up under the house, hardly bigger than Odessa’s porch, and just about as warm in the winter time.
I’m at they beck and call all night and all day. They won’t let me see my children. They won’t let me see no mens. Well, after five years they let me see you once a year. I’m a slave, she say. What would you call it” (walker 100)? Sofia explains her living situation to her son in regards to the mayors family. She refers to herself as a slave and being treated like one.
This proves that the mayors family think their far more superior than sofia, hence why they treat her like a slave. This is further explained by priya k, The discrimination of race dominates to such an extent that Sofia is not allowed to sit in the front seat with the mayor’s wife while teaching her to drive, pointing to her that “This is the South”. Neeru Tandon observes, “the jail that Sofia is held is a metaphor for all black people caged by racism. For others, though they do not serve in a literal prison and instead and confined to servitude and domesticity within their homes” (Ray 62) (priya 53).
Sofia is able to speak out of the injustice within her community and her jail time was caused because of the oppression she faces and because she is black and, a woman she is targeted and imprisoned.Beloved, is a novel that argues deeply about the issues of slavery and tackles racism right on the nail. Beloved presents a horrific viewpoint on racism through slavery, specificly on whites turning blacks into slavery. Slavery dehumanized humans by treating them like animals and “property”, where a “master” feels like they own the slave. To slave owners such as, schoolteacher he simply thinks of the blacks are purely animals and doesn’t believe that they should be treated as people. He abuses his slaves through violence and emotional trauma, making them feel worthless. The slaves then begin to feel like they are worth nothing.
“in all of Baby’s life, as well as Sethe’s own, men and women were moved around like checkers. Anybody Baby Suggs knew, let alone loved, who hadn’t run off or been hanged, got rented out, loaned out, bought up, brought back, stored up, mortgaged, won, stolen or seized. So Baby’s eight children had six fathers. What she called the nastiness of life was the shock she received upon learning that nobody stopped playing checkers just because the pieces included her children” ( Morrison 27-28). In this quote it is explained how slaves were treated as propertys, and can be moved around just as “checker pieces. They are not given any dignity but rather they are manipulated and moved around to do everyone else’s bidding. During slavery the blacks had no rights and all the rights were given to the whites.
The law did not defend people of color, therefore the people’s fate is determined by whom their “master” is. In regards to schoolteacher he is the worst of the worst and merely thinks of people with color as animals, therefore they should be treated as such. Schoolteacher’s nephews abused seth and took her breast milk from her breasts, thus treating her like an experiment. This showed that the slaves owned nothing, not property, money, their body, and even their own children.”the last of Baby Suggs’ children, whom she barely glanced at when he was born because it wasn’t worth the trouble to try to learn features you would never see change into adulthood anyway” (Morrison 163).
The slaves were lucky if they were allowed to keep their own children. For baby suggs it wasn’t the case because all her children were taken from her. Because of her skin she faced injustice and was reduced into nothing just like the other slaves that worked for school teacher. Furthermore, through the memories of the characters within beloved, readers are exposed to the harsh truth about the racism that these characters faced. This was a lifestyle, and what they went through every single day.
Racism is a topic that covers the entire novel, but is broken down into slavery. Ones color of skin can cause discrimination and because of the characters skin they weren’t able to live life as a person, rather than an animal. “yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out.
No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them. Raise them up and kiss them.
… No, they don’t love your mouth.You gotta love it. …
The dark, dark liver, love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too” (morrison 103-104). Through this quote baby suggs is referring to they as the whites, explaining them to be mean and ruthless. Baby suggs has become a spiritual leader and leading the community to love themselves and their skin because no one else will. She speaks to believe that ex slaves should love that same body that whites seem to detest so much. Morrison is giving healing to the ex slaves by this quote because she’s ensuring self love, and the importance of accepting themselves in their eyes.
the whites may be able to dehumanize a slave but pushing that self love onto themselves protects them from the mental abuse that they received every single day.Showing the dehumanizing effect of slavery on Seth by Özcan Aksak.This article talks about slavery within the novel beloved, but more specifically about sethe’s horrific experience while working at sweet home. “Sethe gets tortured, raped and mistreated. As a result, Sethe attempts to run away from Sweet Home and later she is driven to kill her two-year-old baby” (Akzak 250). Seth is dehumanized and abused physically and mentally to the point where she refuses for her child to go through the same horror, as a result she kills her baby. The harsh reality of life that seth has been exploited too is unhealthy and one can never come back from such horrific events. Seth has endured so much pain and agony that she is used to the ill treatment and knows nothing else.
Her person has been compared that of an animal, it scars her emotionally. I was about to turn around and keep on my way to where the muslin was, when I heard Schoolteacher say, “No, no. That’s not the way. I told you to put her human characteristics on the left; her animal ones on the right. And don’t forget to line them up” (morrison 228). In this quote schoolteacher is telling his nephew to write down seth’s human characteristics on the left and her animal like characteristics on the right, which shows just how schoolteacher thinks of seth as a person. Schoolteacher believes she’s not full human and that some part of her is animal like, which means she exhibits animal like behaviour.
Seth is maltreated and is constantly being dragged down by people, in particular who is an example of white supremacy. Within the journal Özcan AK?AK proves it by saying “Schoolteacher is an educated person but he is very cruel. Schoolteacher uses all the means of conventional slavery on the slaves of the plantation.
He introduces whipping, torture, humiliation and he dehumanizes slaves. In Beloved schoolteacher is a representative of white supremacy” (Akzac 252). To sum it all up, these two novels both explore the topic on Racism, and no matte how people may look at it, it comes down to one explanation as whites thinking that they are superior and making people of colour inferior to them. Through the color alice walker shows the two settings, rural georgia, and a village in africa. By doing so readers can infer that no matter where they are theirs racism still plays a role in blacks everyday lives. Racism is experienced through the different characters in the book from celie to the olinka people. Toni morrison’s beloved highlights a topic that is known all around the world but many people don’t understand the minor details of it.
In writing beloved readers are forced to think critically towards global issues such as racism. Through the pages of beloved a different experience is being told focusing on slavery and concluding into a larger picture of racism. In conclusion these two novels have the common factor of white supremacy, that those who are of color are ranked lower than whites.ReferencesWalker, Alice. The Color Purple.
Pocket Books. 1985.Morrison, Toni. Beloved. Vintage. 2004.
K, Priya. “Violence in Alice Walker’s the Color Purple.” IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science, vol.
19, no. 7, 2014, pp. 51–54., doi:10.9790/0837-19715154.