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"Race Matters" by Cornel West

In "Race Matters" by Cornel West, the author claims that part of our problem in addressing race in this country is that we refuse to acknowledge that political and economic structures are inseparable from behavior.

In the documentary "Beyond the Colorline" by Henry Louis Gates, the director supports this same idea.

1) Is this idea supported or not supported in the novel "Black Boy" by Richard Wright and how?

2) How does Richard (the main character in "Black Boy") illustrate the interconnectedness (or lack thereof) of these forces?

3) How does this connect to the path he takes through the novel and where he ultimately ends up?

4) Are there any excerpts from "Black Boy" that clearly establish these ideas? (I need at least 4).

Solution Preview

1. For me, the text does support the notion that political and economic structures are inseparable from behavior in many ways as Wright conveys his life experiences as an African American boy who is caught in the wretched Jim Crow South. Racial oppression socially, politically, and economically, I feel, causes Wright's desperate actions and behaviors as he struggles to survive and escape within the novel. His behaviors are highly influenced by his environment and objectified status in life on many instances.

For example, when he is a helper in the drugstore, he admits that "My sustained expectation of violence has exhausted me. My preoccupation with curbing my impulses, my speech, my movements, my manner, my expressions had increased my anxiety. I became forgetful, concentrating too much upon trivial tasks." His rage and anger at his place in society as a "Black Boy" cause him to behave accordingly and often in rebellion to this social and economic subjugation. Even the start of the book with him burning down the house seems to show this link between actions and one's socioeconomic and political status.

When he talks about "a brace of . . . spotted, black-and-white horses" - "the quiet terror that suffused my senses. . .on silent nights," it seems to show that he is sort of haunted or taunted to commit deeds based on this oppression.

When Pease and Reynolds make him leave the optical shop where he had hoped to learn, he admits: "I went into the sunshine and walked home like a blind man." It shows how his sense of self is formed from others' perceptions as well as his own limited, unjust environment's political, social, and economic oppression.

Behaviors, thus, seem to mirror one's social, political, and economic standing in life. Do you agree?

2. As you ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses "Race Matters" by Cornel West and compares it to the documentary "Beyond the Colorline" by Henry Louis Gates.

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