17 December 2018
Reading Response 2: The Silence of Our Friends
In their graphic novel The Silence of Our Friends, Long, Demonakos, and Powell powerfully illustrate the struggle of a Black and White family as they dealt with violence and injustices of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Jack Long is a White television reporter who is responsible for covering news about racial divide. Larry Thompson is a Black professor who leads a peaceful nonviolent protest against racial inequality. As the story unfolds, the two characters find common ground and develop a rare friendship in the racist town of Houston. The events of the story progress when their friendship begins to impact their families.
If you cover the surface of the book, you would think it is a story about two people who formed a rare friendship during the 1960s when segregation was prominent. Looking deeper into it, the story is about how their actions made sure that the will of their friendship is passed on to the following generations. The author was trying to convey an important message—kids quietly internalize parents’ racism and subtle prejudices. Not only do they remember the loudness of their words, but the silence of their actions.
Employing family as a literary theme, The Silence of Our Friends includes several instances of the two lead characters attempting to teach their children to be unbiased. Jack takes his family out to a barbeque that one of his African American friends has set up. As they are walking to the stand, Jack asks his son Mark if he is okay with him having a Black friend. Mark does not comment at first as he is unsure of his position. Jack does not let this opportunity pass and patiently waits for his son to make up his mind. Although it is not illustrated, we get a hint in the next panel that Mark has made up his mind as he raises his head with a smile on his face. Mark has come to his own conclusion that it is acceptable to be friends with different racial groups, specifically Black people. Another instance of the family theme is portrayed between the Thompsons. Larry’s children have dressed up as cowboys for school, but their mother Barbara has forbidden them from going that way. Barbara is entitled to be angry at a costume that subtly supported an institution of racism. Larry did not believe that his children needed to inherit the same hatred; he saw it as an opportunity to befriend rather than oppose. He witnessed his children’s excitement to dress up as cowboys and understood that “Go Texan Day” was a day to have fun at school. There was no reason for him to take that excitement away from them. Another impactful scene from the graphic novel is when the Thompson family crosses the color line to visit the Long family. This was a big deal at the time for a man to do, let alone with his wife and children—putting them all at risk. Long purposefully incorporated these scenes to show that they occurred in the kid’s everyday lives, which...