Henry Louis Gates, Jr.’S What’s In A Name Essay, Research Paper
In Henry Louis Gates, Jr. s, What s in a Name, a childhood incedent takes place that deals with his father assuming the name George from a white man he passes in the street. Gates
method is effective because it informs people of some of the problems that still go on today with African-American, and helps us learn where and when to take a stand. Taking a stand at the right
time can lead other people to see efforts going on and join the resistance. Much like Gates father I was forced to make a decision on the issue of racism that was a defining moment in my
relationship to friends and to my stand against racism. Never did I hate racism so much as I did after this event took place in my life. I am white. Period. No questions asked. I am the epitomy of the white man . This includes pasty skin, preppy clothes, freckles, can t run or jump, love Spaghetti-O s, and have no
problem wolfing down a block of cheddar cheese with a Dr. Pepper. My best friends, however, happen to be a pair of African-American brothers who seem to be just the opposite. Our simularities and friend relationships are based on humor. Humor that pokes fun at ourselves and where we never really have to worry about hurting the others feelings or even needing a come- back line. We crack our selves up. Although they still tease me about the cheese, I won t use the point about watermellon anymore. This is because I know that niether Ephraim nor Johan will eat watermellon in public. One can rarely ever catch these young men on the down side, so why would a steriotype inflict enough pain to cause the fruit and vegetable lovers to miss out on the joys of watermellon? Steriotypes hurt. Even for guys that can laugh at anything wrong with them, including self-professed stupidity.
This is why Gates chose to write about the name incident. Someone realized this concept and put it in a book so that more people would have the chance to read it. Not to make racist
people think twice, because more than likely, that won t happen, but to inform the people like me to look around and notice that what I m teasing about could actually be hurting even the greatest kidders. It took a mind altering event to get me to realize it because I never really applied all the information that I knew on the subject of racism to my friends at home, even though they joked about being the Black Guy, and called each other niggers.
One evening I found myself hanging with two sets of black brothers and another black guy on the black side of town. It s a nice residential area, always clean, always quiet, and we stood outside of our town s own little version of Malcolm-X s house (the other black guy). As I showed off my newest car demo , a white Dodge Stealth, we laughed it up and talked about non-sense. Suddenly an old, beat up, red truck full of Skin Heads drove by, blasting country music and hollering obscenities. This made my friends mad but they let it slide as the truck drove off. We began to discuss these self-proclaimed Skin Heads and the terror they had been reaking
in there own school as a gang, dressed in black jackets, sporting the Notre Dame Fighting Irish logo on the back.
Suddenly the truck was back and parked on the red, brick road from us. In our silence the group of seven began to pile out of the truck and walk toward us. Jason, (our tall, lanky Malcom-X) I saw in the corner of my eye, began to get antsy, nervous, and hoppy, like he was getting ready to use his red belt in Karate. A movie scene began to play before my eyes as the larger one punched a dent in side of my Stealth s fender. Then the leader broke the silence, Too bad it s Jap Crap, huh? (refering to the Mitsibishi 300GT with the same body style).
Johan, the philosopher of our group, let their laughter brood for a moment of glory then unleashed a brilliantly dry retaliation, It s a Dodge you ignorant fuck. We burst in tolaughter
which made the leader cut to the chase, as I just stood there still contemplating what they did to my car. He asked who s car it was and I raised my hand still staring at the dent. He then apologized and told me I was free to go.
I made the decision then, I m not leaving, you re the one uninvited. Coming in my town thinking you can just run it like you do hickville. I couldn t believe the Old Western I had
thrown myself into.
White nigger, another one chimed in.
What?! Jason exclaimed.
Ephraim tried to get out of the now obviously inevitable, Hey why don t you guys just leave.
With that, the closest to me ran and punched me in the ribs and the entire place froze. I didn t understand what was going on just yet, it was happening too fast. As he stood there waiting for me to come back the rest jumped in to the fight. They had no idea the incredible strength of Ephraim and Johan or Jason s red belt. The best one was the three on two match with Josh and Mario, sons of Chandler s Karate Sinsce, black belts, and brothers who love to fight. I was still stuck, wondering what I do. My opponent got irritated and ran at me again but this time my frustration kicked in and I kicked his knee backwards and followed with a punch to the throat. I had no idea how I did that but as I jumped on top of him and let out continuous blows to the face, things fell into slow motion. It occured to me as I ripped my knuckles up, These
poor people are too ignorant to help themselves, why did they have to do it? As I was pulled off I began to cry like I had lost the fight. I felt sorry for the idiots as they sped off.
I sat on the lawn in silence, processing what happened, as the rest laughed about how bad they whipped tail. They were calling each other bad-ass niggers and it all clicked. I turned
and yelled at them, Why are you calling each other that? Don t you see, that puts you on the same level as them, using the same language, that doesn t make sense! Amazingly, they all got my point right off. I ve never heard any of them use that word since.
After this event, the story got around to Wellston where the Skin Heads come from. A week later they were picking on a school nerd. The nerd hauled off and cracked one s nose then preceded to fight three at once. Then the football players jumped in and beat up the skin heads. Later that month the school officials band team jackets and hats from being worn on school property. Because they couldn t dress alike they seemed to not be as strong because they didn t have that team tie. They were all dominoes waiting for the right push.
This is why we should keep reading units about race or any other problem. People are aware, sure, but most don t really understand and so they wouldn t have the ryme or reason to
stand up to fight. Others need to hear it so that when they are pressured to follow the group and be racist they understand what it does. Readings such as What s in a Name are not here for the
blacks, or the racists. It s written for the people who wouldn t normally take a stand.
Any name used to catragorize a group of people in a negative sense shows pure ignorance on that person s part. When that group begins to call members of their group the same name then they are letting the ignorance controll them. Taking a stand against it in a given situation will inevitably lead others to take the stand. There is strength in numbers. The more fighters, the more strength and versitility-which consequently brings in even more people to the fight. Whether physically and publicly fighting, or writing a simple essay, they both form the simple purpose of informing nuetral people of the degree of pain that racism brings, and exposes the
ignorance of it to the idiots who don t hate but want to fit in some how.