, Research Paper
RACISM AND ITS EFFECTS ON LITERATURE
Racial segregation and discrimination is prevalent throughout literature and it is no accident. Racism in literature stems logically from the experiences of the authors and the treatment of minority s. Throughout Braided Lives, there were many short stories that dealt with pain and suffering because of racism. Each author has personal experiences in racism, and expressed how racism made them feel through their writings. Not being allowed in a restaurant, drink from an ordinary water fountain, or even judged before speaking is what several minorities went through in the short stories of Braided Lives. With their voices not heard minorities turned to literature. Braided Lives is not only a book of short stories but actual situations and events that occurred to real people. As Dian Glancy stated in her introductory essay The Fire Dragon and Sweat , these are stories of resilience, defiance, power, vision, toughness, pain, loss, anger, sarcasm, a humiliation built on welfare, a humor built on irony (14).
Culture and tradition for most minorities has been the stronghold, which they have held on to. With repeated attempts of abolishment Native Americans still try to keep their heritage strong throughout daily life while still trying to survive the troubles of society. Diane Glancy in The Fire Dragon And Sweat stated: I like to see Indians at pow-wows in lawn chairs eating snow cones. Indians concerned with tribal elections, bingo, bowling leagues, veterans reunions, and doing what most Americans do (14). Native Americans don t want to change their culture or heritage in order to be accepted, but include it throughout their daily lives. In Linda Hogans Making Do , many Native Americans dealt with prejudice by protesting. We get angry and scream out. We get in the news. We strip ourselves bare in the colleges that recruited us as their minority quota and we run out into the snowstorm naked and we get talked for years as the crazy Indian (34). In some cases Native Americans dealt with their anger of prejudices by writing poetry. In Diane Burns Sure You Can Ask Me A Personal Question , the narrator writes answers to questions that Native Americans might have been asked. One answer to a question being asked is This ain t no stoic look. This is my face (66). However, there are other minorities whose stronghold is culture and tradition, and want to include their beliefs throughout daily life. In Juanita Garciagodoy s The Wake-Up Call , she stated: The United States Census Bureau calls us Hispanic, but we often call ourselves Latinas and Latinos. Individually we may consider ourselves simply American (81). Feelings of hurt and anger are prevalent throughout the authors writings. In some cases literature is the only way these authors voice can be heard. In Langston Hughes Theme For English B Langston expressed how he felt to his professor. I am a part of you. That s American. Sometimes perhaps you don t want to be apart of me. Nor do I want to be apart of you. But we are, that s true (231).
Racial prejudice can be brutal and painful, scaring minorities physically and mentally. During World War II after the Pearl Harbor bombing racism was the main reason for Japanese Americans to be ordered into internment camps. In David Mura s essay Living In A Global Village he brought out that few people know that another motivation for removing Japanese Americans from the West Coast was economic- people wanted the land owned by Japanese (233). Racism is not only brutal but in some cases can be used in very devious ways. Many storeowners who were racists wouldn t allow African Americans to shop at a particular store, and literature didn t have anything concerning other cultures either. In Audre Lorde s Zami: A New Spelling Of My Name this was the case. There were stores into which Black people were not welcomed, and no Black salesperson worked in the shops at all. Where our money was taken, it was taken with reluctance (186). Even literature was racially prejudiced in some way. All of our story books were about people who were very different from us. They were blond and white and lived in houses with trees around and had dogs named spot (188). All the chauvinistic tricks and tactics to destroy ones culture, heritage, and spirit allowed authors to write stories and essays like the ones in Braided Lives, allowing ones spirit not to be putdown but lifted.
Ethnic isolation and bigotry is prevalent throughout literature and it is no mistake. The stories of Braided Lives were mostly fiction stories, but the events taking place in them were accurate. Minorities experienced the prejudice that was in the short stories everyday. Just like in the short stories minorities state of mind were hurt and putdown. However, minorities found new ways to speak out and that was in the course of literature. Through short stories, poems, essays, and novels African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian American and Native Americans found innovative ways to speak out against injustice, causing the outstanding literature presented today.