The topic of race, particularly racial discrimination, goes far back to the 15th Century, when black people brought to the United States, from Africa, were seen as merely animals, and not human beings (). Racial discrimination has been in existence from that time until now and has caused a myriad of things across the globe e.g., the American Civil War, slavery, pilgrimage, and the amendments of the American constitution, amongst many other examples. The controversy around racial discrimination has prompted many authors to write about the issue of race and document their individual perspectives and thoughts about this topic. Some authors have not only documented their thoughts, but also their actual experiences and encounters of racial discrimination directed against them, while others write about the aftermaths of these unfortunate events. The aim of this paper is to explore the different manners of expressions and articulation that authors use to talk about race and racial discrimination, in order to gain a deeper understanding of their perspectives on the topic and literary opinions. Therefore, the paper shall focus on the following three literary works:
- “Black Lives Matter Movement – A Comprehensive Study on Institutionalized Racism, Sexism, and Its Approach Towards Intersectionality”
- “Freaks and the American Ideal of Manhood”
- “The Face of Seung-Hui Cho”
“Black Lives Matter Movement – A Comprehensive Study on Institutionalized Racism, Sexism, and Its Approach Towards Intersectionality”
“Black Lives Matter Movement – A Comprehensive Study on Institutionalized Racism, Sexism, and Its Approach Towards Intersectionality” is a novel conference paper, published in the year 2020, by three authors, namely Ezgi Turhaner, Pamir Karusagi, and Deniz Ceren. The central focus of this conference paper is on the black lives lost in the United States, through shootings and police brutality. The paper makes note of how black people are the subjects of racial discrimination, segregation, and oppression from the white community in the United States, and other parts of the world. As a result, many black people have been brutally killed, more so teenager boys and middle-aged men (). The authors of this paper pay close attention to the aspect of ‘racial profiling’ and demonstrate how black people have been killed, as a result of racial profiling. Racial profiling refers to the biased practice by the law enforcement officials of suspecting certain individuals to having committed an act of crime, based on the person’s race and ethnic origin (). The authors give examples of black people who have been killed by white police and other officials, e.g., Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Freddie Gray, Tanisha Anderson, Aura Rosser, and Michelle Cusseaux. These people were killed either through choking, gunshot, spinal cord injury, by white policemen, yet the perpetrators are left to walk away scott-free or are found innocent. There is simply no justice to the black population.
“Freaks and the American Ideal of Manhood”
“Freaks and the American Ideal of Manhood” is another literary work of art, in form of an autobiography that details the life experiences and racial nuances, experienced by the author. Unlike the authors of the conference paper, the author of this particular novel makes his audience aware of his direct experiences of racism by invoking feelings of self-pity. Through the use of direct quotes and narrations in the first-person point of view, the author tells us how he always felt lonely, depressed, and discriminated against by white people, in his own village. The author walks us through his experience growing up in Harlem as a young black boy, who had a queer sexuality. He says that his childhood in Harlem was difficult as he was black and was targeted against by white boys in the neighborhood. The white boys made fun of him and cajoled him severally, labelling him a “faggot”. He opens up about his feelings about the ridicule and states that, “On every street corner, I was called a faggot. This means I was despised” (821). He tells his readers the way white boys publicly humiliated him, hence the reason why he is shy, lonely, anxious, and depressed. He also narrates how he was frequently chased away with white boys: “I was thrown out of cafeterias and rooming houses because I was ‘bad’ for the neighborhood. The cops watched all this with a smile, never making the faintest motion to protect me or disperse my attackers” (819). Finally, he explains that “… a black man had no rights that a white man was bound to respect” (816). In summary, the author depicts self-pity throughout the book and makes it clear that his feelings of depression and anxiety as a result of the abject poverty he was subjected to because of being black, as well as the constant ridicule he endured from the white boys in his neighborhood.
“The Face of Seung-Hui Cho”
“The Face of Seung-Hui Cho” is a book that presents many short biographies about the life experiences and racial identities of other people. The author of this book, Wesley Yang, uses the book as a platform to express his views and outlook on various aspects of the social world, through the experiences of other people. One of the key characters in Yang’s book is Seung-Hui Cho, an Asian boy, who attended a campus university in New York. Cho is portrayed to be an individual who responds to racial discrimination using proactive aggression as well as murder. Cho is an Asian boy who feels racially discriminated against in his campus and, as a result, developed a severe anxiety disorder. Just like any other man, Cho admired the girls at his campus and he often emailed them or sent them instant messages, professing his love for them. However, the girls did not reply the messages or reciprocate the love. Instead, they reported the messages to the campus police, who then persuaded Cho to stop sending the messages. However, to Cho, this act of reporting appeared as discriminative and Cho assumed that the girls looked down upon him because he was of Asian ethnicity. The racism assumptions were further reinforced when all the girls in his creative writing class stopped attending the lessons. Aggrieved by the turn of events, Cho began expressing his frustrations through writing poems, plays, and other forms of writings, wherein he included many references to violence. Soon after, he began taking pictures of his female classmates underneath his desk and playing sinister music loudly on his laptop, as part of his proactive aggression response mechanism. Some few years later, in 2007, Cho master-minded a massive shooting at the Virginia Tech campus, where he shot 32 people and wounded 17 others with two pistols.
In conclusion, racial discrimination is an unfortunate reality that has been in existence for a considerable length of time now, since the 15th Century till date. Many writers have written about it in an effort to document their thoughts and perspectives about it, using different literary styles and techniques. It is these different literary styles that enable us to understand the topic of race and racial discrimination in a better light, and learn the impacts and consequences it has on its victims, as well as the perpetrators. The authors of “Black Lives Matter Movement – A Comprehensive Study on Institutionalized Racism, Sexism, and Its Approach Towards Intersectionality” highlight the killing of black people as a result of racial profiling, while the author of “Freaks and the American Ideal of Manhood” blames racial discrimination for his anxiety, depression, shyness, and loneliness. The author of “The Face of Seung-Hui Cho”, on the other hand, shows the negative impacts racial discrimination can have on a victim. While most victimized persons rarely respond to these feelings, Cho chose to deal with his pain by killing his schoolmates and writing aggressive poems.