Interaction that Get Under the Skin of Blacks and Whites," by Lena Williams. Specifically, it will contain a review of the book, and answer some particular questions regarding the reading.
IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS
It's the Little Things" is really a treatise about what it is like to be black in America, and how "little" items of injustice and prejudice are still common in American society. As the author notes early in the Introduction, "This is a book about the little things. The racial slights and indignities delivered and suffered by both sides of the black-white divide" (Williams 3). While the author is black, she attempts to show a balanced selection of little things that bother blacks and whites alike.
The author wrote this book from her own experiences, and the experiences of friends and family. The author traveled extensively as she wrote the book, and so includes her experiences in several major cities in the United States. What she found was that there are still strong prejudices in both blacks and whites, and they are often attributed to small slights and remembered indignities, which are the "little things" she included in the book. These little things may not seem like they are very important in the bigger scheme of things, but they are extremely important to some people, which makes them very "big" things that create hostility and strong emotions in both whites and blacks.
The author breaks down the book into chapters, which contain different areas of our lives that little things can affect, such as school, work, the home, and in the media. Since each of these areas play important parts in our lives, it makes sense the author would use them to break down the little things that bother us into more manageable units. Each chapter uses several examples of little things that can be outwardly annoying and inwardly may be a subconscious or unconscious show of power and control. Each chapter ends with the author's thoughts on the slights, affronts, and general uniqueness of her position on the little things she discussed in the chapter.
1) Pick three of the racial misconceptions Williams discusses in her book. What is the importance of these issues? How do they affect our relationships to people different from us or like us? Do you agree with her description of the problems in these three issues? Why or why not? Williams discusses many racial misconceptions in her book, from blacks "smell funny," to all blacks like rap music and that whites are smarter than blacks. The importance of all these issues is they show a basic misconception about people based solely on their skin color, which can never tell the whole story about a person, no matter what their race. Reading about these issues makes them more understandable, and makes them sound quite ridiculous. Hopefully, reading about these things will help blacks and whites both be less critical of each other, and help people develop better relationships, no matter what their race. These racial misconceptions certainly affect our relationships with others, and get in the way of many meaningful relationships. If we allow our misconceptions to rule our relationships, we may never truly experience the person underneath the misconceptions, and we may never truly know or appreciate who that person is - we may just allow our misconceptions to get in the way. If we only experience people who feel the same way we do, and look the same way we do, we are missing an entire segment of the population, and we will never have a balanced view of anyone but our peers.
The problems she discusses are viable, and I do agree with her descriptions and examples. All of these examples are truly examples of allowing ignorance and prejudice to color views and opinions. Black people do not smell any more "funny" than white people, and white people are not any smarter than black people, they just may have more advantages in schooling and higher education. Anything that stigmatizes a person because of their skin color is wrong, and should not be the basis for an educated opinion.
2) What does the author want you to feel about her book? What was her point in sharing these stories? What does she hope to accomplish by writing this book? The author seems to hope readers will understand what it is like to be black in America, and some of the things that might seem minor, but really set blacks off. Sharing the stories helps make her point that there are still many differences between blacks and whites, but they also help the races understand each other a little more. Some of the stories are funny, such as the vignette of the white lady "shrinking" away from actor Denzel Washington, and some of them are incredibly sad, such as the white home buyers who would not purchase a home owned by blacks because "she didn't want her children sleeping in a room where blacks had slept" (Williams 70). Some of these scenarios are so unbelievable and disturbing because they illustrate a mentality that should have disappeared long ago, and it is disquieting to realize it still exists. Sharing these diverse stories opens up the eyes of both blacks and whites, and creates more understanding and awareness on both sides of the fence, therefore, the author shows real life for blacks in America, and makes whites aware of some of the things they do that could be considered racist. She makes both races more aware and hopefully, they will look more closely at how they deal with other races. If they manage to change some of their behaviors, then the author has accomplished something important, and she should be commended.
3) Does she make her point well concerning the state of race relations in the U.S. Is her book well written or not? Give examples. Give an overall critique. Does it read well, contribute to the race discussion, and help people understand the situations different races face? Williams makes her point extremely well throughout the book, and one of the reasons it is so effective is the writing. Williams is a good writer, and can get her point across with poignancy and wit. Sometimes the scenarios she presents are amusing, and other times they are extremely disturbing, and these are some of the things that make them so powerful. I believe this book really does point out the vast differences between blacks and whites. No matter how many strides blacks have take toward equality and Civil Rights, as long as racist attitudes exist in this country, and around the world, there will be distressing differences between the races, and this book helps make people more aware and in tune with the difficulties blacks face in a white society.
For example, the author writes "Black parents raise their children to face the world as though they are preparing for battle, throwing around them a protective armor of wisdom to steel them against the harsh reality of the racism the children are sure to face sooner or later" (Williams 79). This is a sad commentary on modern society. Many people pride themselves on their lack of racism and stereotyping, but in reality, they often do things which annoy and hurt blacks, without even knowing it, as the "hair flinging" incident clearly shows. Are the blacks too touchy? Perhaps, but that does not seem so likely when they continually face incidents such as these, that seem innocuous to whites, but can get "under the skin" of blacks. These are two situations that are quite different in their perception by the races, and they illustrate that while we may think blacks have made "great strides," they still have a long way to go before they are truly considered equal, and receive equal treatment and respect in our society.
4) Discuss race relations overall as presented in the book. What would you suggest for overcoming the problems between races? What can each race do to improve work, neighborhood, and personal relations between whites and blacks? Overall, the race relations in the book seem much more dismal than the reader may have realized. There is still a great deal of personal prejudice, hate, and misunderstanding in the world, as these stories clearly illustrate. These are not always black/white issues; they can extend to all the races, and often do. As the author wryly notes, "Kids will be kids, race notwithstanding. But by the time you're in your teens or twenties, you should know better" (Williams 83). If black parents still have to teach their children to be aware of prejudice and hatred, there is something wrong with out society. As the author would say, "What's up with that?"
How do you ever really overcome the problems with race in society? There will always be some people who, in order to feel better about themselves, must hate another race, religion, or sex. They cannot find happiness…