Race: If We Stand Together Essay, Research Paper
If We Stand Together
It is hard to distinguish the difference between which race is more important. One might ask themselves if white is superior over colored skin. There have been numerous struggles and much success in the fight towards equality between the races. Although many large steps have been made, there are still existing racial barriers. One particular struggle is whether or not people of different races should interact with each other. Should Caucasian adults interact with young children of color? A question that becomes especially critical when children are putting themselves in potentially dangerous situations. This moral debate is portrayed in Grace Paley’s short story, “Samuel.”
The same conflict haunts both men and women, but is portrayed as two completely different groups. The narrator is selective omniscient and allows the men’s and women’s feelings to be expressed when presented with the same racial issue such as portrayed in “Samuel.” This also allows the reader to observe how each sex responds to the issue. Grace Paley writes, “The men and women in the cars on either side watch the young boys playing on the platform. They do not like them to jiggle or jump but don’t want to interfere” (191). This shows that both men and women did not like what the boys were doing outside on the platform, and each deals with it in very different ways.
The men in the subway cars make no effort to break through the barriers. They take no initiative to interact and stop the boys from the risky situation the put themselves in. The men seem to excuse themselves and the boys’ actions by reminiscing their boyhood and all the brave adventures they had in their lives. Instead of taking action, they become envious of the fun and freedom that is now lacking in their lives. This envy leaves no room for any concern that the men might have about the children’s safety.
In the short story, “Two men and others looked at the four boys jumping and jiggling on the platform and thought, It must be fun to ride that way” (191). Men normally have influence to control dangerous situations and instead of using this power to persuade the boys to come into a safe place, they allow the children to continue to endanger their lives. The women on the train “ became very angry when they look at the four boys. Most of them brought their brows together hoping the boys would see their extreme disapproval” (191).
In the story, one woman in the subway car saw that “three of the boys were Negroes and the fourth was something else she couldn’t tell for sure. She was afraid that they would be fresh and laugh at her and embarrass her” (191). It seems that the women are scared of even confronting the barrier that separates her from the children. The racial wall is so intimidating to the women that all they could do is sit and watch the young boys in fear of their safety.
As time passed, the racial begun to slowly deteriorate. Sometimes, motherly instincts will overcome anything, and in this case it is to persuade the women to stand up to the children. “The lady who was afraid of embarrassment saw the boys jerk forward and backwards and grab the swinging guard chains…She stood up with determination and went to the door” (191). Allowing her maternal feelings to control her, she tried to make a difference. She started to break down the racial barriers; yet without the help the other adults, her progress was stopped when the boys turned and laughed at her, and as she feared, she was embarrassed.
There is one character in the short story that is most significant. Paley describes him as “one of the men whose boyhood had been more watchful than brave” (192). He was the only one motivated to take some action and interact with the boys by “walking in a citizenly way to the end of the car, where he pulled the emergency cord” (192). He becomes the symbol of hope that the Caucasian adults are willing to break down the barriers separating them from the African American children. When the other men just stood there daydreaming, this “citizenly” (192) man struck the first blow that could break down the racial wall. But because of this single action, one of the boys (Samuel) falls off the platform and dies.
I believe that if we stand together to fight the battles and the struggles of our society today it would only make us stronger. One individual cannot make a difference. The one blow of the “citizenly” (192) man is nothing, but many blows that are consistent and strong will break down the wall of inequality.
Paley, Grace. “Samuel.” Literature for Composition: Essay, Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. 5th ed. Ed. Sylvan Barnet. New York: Longman, 2001. 190-192