This Paper Is About Racism And How It Is Portrayed In The Following Poems: "Jasper Texas 1998," "A Party Down At The Square," And "Night, Death, Mississippi."

1112 words - 5 pages

Our Nation's DiseaseThis disease has swept the entire population. It infests our schools, churches, hospitals, playgrounds, and especially the workplace. Every person ranging from little toddlers to senior citizens have, in some fashion or another encountered this deadly disease. Starting as early as the birth of America, this disease lasted the varying tests of time. It is unavoidable as its symptoms attack our physical and mental health. Although it has stricken hundreds of millions of people every hour, this affliction stands strong. Though this disease can be treated, there is no absolute cure. What could be this ghastly, castrating ailment that permeates into all that we see and do? This despicable ailment catches to the tune of racism. According to Encarta Online Encyclopedia, racism is "making the race of other people a factor in attitudes or actions concerning them. Racism implies a belief in the superiority of one's own race" (Internet). While reading Ellison's "A Party Down at the Square", Hayden's "Night, Death, Mississippi" and Clifton's "Jasper Texas 1998", I noticed that this disease is the theme of all three.A white boy who witnesses his uncle's friends set fire to a black man narrates Ralph Ellison's "A Party Down at the Square". This is a horrible short story of how a community gets together to have a "party". At one point the black man asks, "Will somebody please cut my throat like a Christian" and in response he was told, "Sorry, but ain't no Christians around tonight. Ain't no Jew-boys neither. We're just one hundred percent American" (232). Little did that community know God was in their presence. The storm symbolizes God's anger. "The wind was blowing harder, and leaves started flying about, making funny shadows on the ground, and tree limbs were cracking and falling" (230). This shows that God was so angry he was giving this barbaric, white community a warning. This did not affect them and they went on to kill the black man. The narrator is literally sickened by the spectacle, his most telling response comes from his insides when, to his shame, he throws up. "My heart was pounding like I had been running a long ways, and I bent over and let my insides go" (233). But his newfound empathy is tempered by the vastness of the racial divide: "Every time I eat barbecue I'll remember that nigger. His back was just like a barbecued hog" (233). Hayden's "Night, Death, Mississippi" uses a family of lynchers in this poem to illustrate the possibility of inherited evil expanding. Returning home at night after mutilating Black men, this rural father zestfully relates to the mother how it went: "Then we beat them, he said/beat them till our arms was tired/and the big old chains/messy and red" (II. 1-4). In dehumanized logic, the lyncher analyzes the thrill he experiences from this immoral act: "Christ, it was better/ than hunting bear/ which don't know why/ you want him dead" (II. 6-9). Critic John Hatcher explains, "The invocation to Christ here ironically recalls the crucifixion, and the whole tone of the narration implies that this sanctioned perversity is, like the mentality at the death camp, a reversal of affirmative conviction and a clear index to the depth of the diver's descent into darkness." Clifton's "Jasper Texas 1998" is based on a true story. In the year 1998, a black man was brutally murdered in east Texas by three young white males. Bragg states, "Whites and blacks in Jasper, Tex, are dismayed that Ku Klux Klan and two militant black groups plan rallies in town, where a disabled black man was chained by his ankles to the rear bumper of a pickup truck and dragged to his death" (A8). There are over a hundred homicides committed every year, but the manner in which this life was taken and the apparent motive of his perpetrators leaves no doubt that this crime was one rooted in hate. Clifton writes, "Why and why and why/should I call a white man brother?" (6-7). In this brutal murder, the motivation is obvious and clear-cut, the bigotry so blatant that it virtually hits you in the face. Clifton writes extraordinary words to help us understand how James felt: "I am a man's head hunched on the road/I was chosen to speak by the members/of my body. the arm as it pulled away/pointed towards me, the hand opened once/and was gone" (1-5). James Byrd Jr.'s death is America's shame: another man tortured for no reason- other than the color of his skin. As Malcolm X states, "Racism is a human problem and a crime that is absolutely so ghastly that a person who is fighting against racism is well within his rights to fight against it by any means necessary until it is eliminated." Racism is a human problem, we see how much pain, suffering and bloodshed that a racial conflict has caused. We also see how much weight a simple emotion as fear can carry. We see the obvious difference that racial conflict has, but we also see the awful similarities that they have. We know why it exists and how to solve the problem but does the solution out weigh the means? Is the solution that hard to accept? Is it worth seeing the loss of human life? Is there an answer?Work CitedBragg, Richard. "For Jasper, Just What It Didn't Want." New York Times 27 June 1998: A8.Clifton, Jasper. "Jasper Texas 1998." Handout.Ellison, Ralph. "A Party Down at the Square." Handout.Hayden, Robert. "Night, Death, Mississippi." Handout.John, Hatcher. From the Auroral Darkness: The Life and Poetry of Robert Hayden. New York:George Ronald Pub., Ltd., 1984.Moritz, Elk. Malcolm X Quotes. 1998. 06 Dec. 2003.< http://www.unix-ag.uni-kl.de/~moritz/xquotes.html>"Racism." Encarta Online Encyclopedia. 2003. Encarta Encyclopedia Premium Service.06 Dec. 2003. .

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