If you walk in to a bookstore or browse online you will find hundreds, in fact thousands, of essays, books, articles, and speeches about prejudice. Obviously, most of them are against prejudice and before you begin reading any of them, let me tell you that chances are good that they will contain phrases like "don't have prejudice against people," "prejudice results in downfall" or "prejudice is a bad thing,." But what puzzles the mind is whether phrases like "we shouldn't have prejudice against people" are enough to end prejudice. Does a moral lesson at the end of a very moving story convince you not to have prejudice against your fellow beings? Does it convince people not to judge others and to treat everyone equally? I think not. In order to understand what prejudice is, does a person have to experience it firsthand?
In order to ponder over this important question let us take a plunge down the literary works of other people and see what they have to say and teach us about prejudice. Our breakthrough point in this essay is to understand how convincing the teachings about ending prejudice in books and literature really are. For the sake of my discussion, I will address four other essays in this essay. Each of these essays has its own outlook on prejudice and naturally, a moral lesson at the end.
Among the thousands of literary works that attempt to convince readers that prejudice is a bad thing there is a minority seemingly capable of convincing readers, without the reader realizing, on a deeper level, that prejudice is wrong. Every time you reach the epilogue of a story, there's a psychological effect on the reader, be it conducive or not. What matters is how long that psychological effect can sustain on the reader. For many people, a book can be life changing. The feeling is dependent on how convincing the writer's ideas were, along with the fact that the writer was able to deftly wrap up their story with a satisfying ending.
In the first referential essay "Just Walk on By" by Brent Staples, the writer walks the reader through a series of his misfortunes in Chicago. He starts off with being mistaken for a mugger one night while walking down a street. What needs to be understood here is how Staples captured the essence of racist stereotypes developed over the ages. His gait, the time of the night and the color of skin contributed to the young lady to affirm him as a threat pursuing her in the hour of the wolf. "To her, the youngish black man & #8230; seemed menacingly close." (153)
The words that authors use are also important. Certain words are used to make a point to the reader. In his essay, the word choices that Staples makes throughout his essay are crucial. He uses three words several times, "black," "night," and "woman." All of these words are connected to each other and represent an important point that Staples is trying to make. When someone thinks about "night" the first image that comes to mind is a black sky, dark streets, and the potential for danger; however, Staples also adds himself as a threat because of his black skin.
Staples starts out his essay by saying "My first victim was a woman-white."(153) this sentence, especially the word "victim," creates the reaction by the reader that a death is going to follow. This immediately makes the reader think that he or she has just started to reader an essay where there is probably a psychotic murderer and that the murderer is the author of the essay, which in this case is Staples. This means that the reader has a prejudice against Staples the second he or she finishes the first sentence. This is exactly what Staples wants. The reader to have a prejudice against him just because of the words he uses. Just like people have prejudices towards him, because of the color of his skin. By doing this Staples puts a mirror in front of the reader and shows them that they are exactly like the "woman" that see him as a threat at "night," just because his skin color is "black."
Staples' essay not only enables us to comprehend the prejudice that he as a black young male was subject to, but also draws our attention to how innocent and civilized members of the society get treated as outliers just because of their race and color of skin. Staples connects the color of his skin and how people, mostly woman, see him as a threat and are frightened by him just like they are frightened by the black sky during the night. He wants the reader to connect the words in his essay, with the purpose of triggering memories of when the reader has made the same connection in their own life.
Now we come to the point how effective Staples' misfortune can be on the reader. I would say the criteria for that would be how much the reader can relate to Staples' essay. Have they suffered from similar or nearly similar prejudice? Or have they been the ones afflicting the aforementioned menace? Readers of both worlds will be able to absorb the message Staples is trying to spread much more than a reader who hasn't gone through a 'traumatic' experience, or one who has faced public humiliation and authoritative discrimination.
The story presented in "How It Feels to Be Colored Me" by Zora Hurston is another excellent example of our societal prejudice dilemma. In this essay, Hurston writer uses a series of remarkable metaphors to depict her experiences as an African-American woman in the time long past. At the time of Zora, slavery of Negros had been abolished a mere sixty years ago. She lived her childhood in a town called Eatonville in the State of Miami. "I am colored, but offer & #8230; an Indian chief."(159) By doing this Hurston allows the reader to see how it might feel to be a colored person in the art world and therefore make a stronger case when she talks about how she celebrates this instead of seeing it as a limitation.
At the time, it used to be a place of residency exclusive to African-Americans. White people only crossed the town to go to their destination. Zora would occasionally talk to the travelers and make them feel welcome in her town. But at the age of thirteen, she left Eatonville for Jackson. A change of place changed the person inside her, and her outlook on life.
The point to note here is how a person can change when they are treated with drastically different situations. The travelers back in Eatonville never showed interest in the people of Eatonville, so naturally them being travelers, they couldn't show any prejudice to Hurston if they wanted to. And even if they wanted to, chances are far less that a child, regardless of its color of skin would face prejudice as compared to the same person when they're grown. "I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background." (159)
After she went to Jackson, the new atmosphere changed her. She was faced with a treatment which was a far-cry from the one she had been used to. Even though someone was always by her side to remind her that she is a descendent of slaves, it did nothing to depress Hurston. Unlike most others, she never paid attention to what others thought about or how they judged her.
Reading ahead, I discovered another trait that Zora discovers. She tells us about a situation when she's with her race and a white person is set down between them in a Jazz Orchestra. She tells us about the full-of-life and out-of-the-world experiences she had when the white person sitting next to her only heard what she could feel. Here, she draws a stark contrast between the two races and uses a metaphorical situation to explain why there's strong disparity between the two. She further explains her disdain at the concept of races and colors by saying that sometimes she's just a person without any race. The only time she feels such way is when she isn't in the presence of humans but nature.
Hurston's essay makes us realize how temporary the concept of racial discrimination is. She takes a beautiful metaphorical approach to explain herself amidst other things which make her distinctive. I believe the learning point what Hurston wants to convey to the reader here is that once perhaps, there was a difference between the white and the black, during barbaric times. After the freedom, people should realize that black people have as much rights in the society as any other race and that the entire concept of racial discrimination beholds no solid ground.
In "Graduation," Maya Angelou takes the readers for a journey of her graduation ceremony at the segregated school Lafayette…