This term paper will be on an analysis of two books that we read throughout the semester which are: Black like me and The color of water. These books basically, talk mostly about racism towards black and white people and towards those who are of different religion. The first type is called ethnic racism and the second one religious racism. From my point of view, ethnic racism is the ideas that each race has about themselves as the most powerful or the weakest of all races. Moreover, religious racism can be defined as the ideas that a religion can has about itself as the best or the worst. So these are one of the major topics I found in these books, that’s why I consider to talk about racism very interesting.
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Black like me and the color of water are two books beautifully written in the form of memoirs. Both are an historic representation of what is a real suffering for black people. For years, this group of people has been a notorious black spot on society, for those who have some sort of resentment towards black people either who have had a bad experience with some person of that color, by the strong ideology of empires and nations that demonstrate their anger at those who are different, the rivalry between races, such as biological differences, cultural, political, religious, sexual and gender, among many others.
This is an issue which triggered a number of social problems. Some of these problems are: the segregation between nations, peoples, members who share cultural similarities or just from one person to another.Segregation is the manifestation of rejection and separation between different racial groups and racial. Another problem that causes racism in society is the violence, some people are capable of physical assault and verbal mind to a different person, given that rejection and intolerance becomes extreme towards the person who is attacked.
For me, racism is a serious problem in society that not only can be seen with the naked eye, but is a soul disease that kills anyone who has it and that subsequently affects at psychological level.
Also, this has been a movement that has marked several regions. One of these places has been India which was one of the sitesaffected with this disease where Gandhi promoted the fight against racism through nonviolence. South Africa was equally struck by this horrible disease, time in which the South African president Nelson Mandela, showed his opposition against the racist regime of South Africa, called “apartheid.”
Spite that such movements were manifested not only physically, many authors and journals of earlier times, expressed their disagreements in their books or personal experiences that were born just through close contact with this illness. Such is the case of John Howard Griffin, the author and main character of the book Black like me, and James McBride, the author and the protagonist in The color of water.
Now to address these books and to reach an analysis of both I should seek the similarities and differences between them. First of all, I have to mention that both share a lot of similarities, for example, they have written in a memoir way, both are written by white men and also they were written at an historical time, and this have so importance because they has a great influence in the past and in the present, so these volumes led to the reflection of many intellectuals of that time.
Black like me was written approximately in the era of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement, time in which the United States of America was crossing a crucial stage of transition in terms of racism. Moreover, the color of water represents the historical backdrop of the Black Power movement.
Talking about themes, these books share some of them into the story. As a main topic both have racism as a protagonist, in black like me is presented the racism against whites to blacks, and in the color of water not only is showed racism of white people to black people but racism towards people of different religion. So this is one example which was expressed by John H. in the book Black like me, “When all the talk, all the propaganda has been cut away, the criterion is nothing but the color of skin. My experience proved that. They judged me by no quality. My skin was dark.” November 24, p. 115. (Taken from http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-black-like-me/quotes.html).Another important theme is segregation. In black like me we can see this topic when John goes to get a job, when he is in the bus, to cash a check, to find a bathroom and be freely in a park without being attacked by white people. Moreover, in the color of water this topic is showed when James and his mother are segregated by people in their suburb because James’s mother is white and the place where they live, people are black, also Ruth is rejected because of her religion and she is seen by their neighbors as a rare person. This is a quote which was told by James and this talks about the bad experience of her mother about this topic: “Her oddness, her complete nonawareness of what the world thought of her, a nonchalance in the face of what I perceived to be imminent danger from blacks and whites who disliked her for being a white person in a black world. She saw none of it.” Chapter 2. (Taken from http://weberenglish.wordpress.com/2008/05/28summer-reading-the-color-of-water/). The next similar topic which both books have is discrimination because despite both talk about this theme, this is presented in a different way, that’s mean that in the book Black like me the main character receives discrimination by whites because he has decided to be a black man changing his color skin by a treatment and in the color of water, black people treats very different and badly to James and his mother because they are whites and also Ruth tells how she was discriminated in her childhood because she was a Jewish girl.This is an example which was expressed by James where he say how big was the fear he and his mother had to black people: “But there was a part of me that feared black power very deeply for the obvious reason. I thought black power would be the end of my mother. I had swallowed the white man’s fear of the Negro, as we were called back then, whole.” Chap. 4, Black Power, p. 19. (Taken from http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-the-color-of-water/quotes.html)
Also negative bias is considered for me as another important and interesting topic into both stories. In black like me we can note how white man pre judge black people without given them an opportunity to be closer to blacks and know them better. In the color of water this is reflected how blacks pre judge whites because they have the idea that white people are prepotent and bad. This is presented when people only have an idea of what another group of people different in race, idiom, culture, etc. are. Another one is transition only that in both books this is showed in a different way. In black like me the main character’s life change when he decided to be a black man but more when he begins to live as a black he starts to experiment by himself how black are discriminated and attacked only because they are different of the others. This is one example of this topic where John shows his feelings about it, “The completeness of this transformation appalled me. It was unlike anything I had imagined. I became two men, the observing one and the one who panicked, who felt Negroid even to the depths of my entrails. I felt the beginnings of great loneliness, not because I was a Negro but because the man I had been, the self I knew, was hidden in the flesh of another”. (Taken from http://quizlet.com/750335/black-like-me-quotes-flash-cards/).
On the other hand, both volumes have themes in which they differ, one of them is identity. This topic is showed in the book black lime me when John decide to change his color skin because he wants experiment how black people feel about discrimination, so when he does it, he goes at the mirror and sees himself as a black man, so he does not recognizes him as the man he always has been. In contrast, in the color of water, the lost of identity was indirect because both characters do not know how to face their differences and their identity of what they are so until they are Christians they remember what is their identity and their importance to God and that he always is going to love them it does not matter what race they are. “God is the color of water” as Ruth told James when he asked her what color God was.
Past versus present is another topic which is presented in one of the books and not in the other. In the color of water this is presented when James discovers that to understand the problematic in his life and in the reactions of his mother he has to go back to his mother background. So he can face their problems of discrimination thanks to the past to survive in the present. Secrets without disclosing are showed when Ruth does not reveals James that when she was a teenager she was pregnant of her first boyfriend and also she keeps the secret of Tateh’s sexual abuse of her. Those are secrets that happens in the past but that persist in the present of James family because they are traumas that Ruth acquired in the past and that affects to herself and to her family in the present.
In addition, motifs in both volumes are a little different. In the color of water the author writes this story in a memoirs technique but also he portrays his mother’s life to understand not only his own background but to understand racist people in the world. On the other hand black like me portrays the experience of the main character.
As a conclusion, I think these copies are just a small proof that shows to the whole world that racism exists in different places at different times. So is very important to take into account how serious is this problem, whether in ourselves, in our society or in the world. is a need to reflect that each person can make change, change our minds, leaving aside the false ideologies that only act as barriers to the union and the common good in people and unity in society. For me, to read both of them let me a strong impact about racism, I could not imagine how much hatred can exist in a soul; how this kind of feelings can take control of a person that can become a disease. The worst thing is that this type of illness can destroy to the person who has it and also to people who are victims of this one.
Finally, in my own opinion, I think they are excellent samples of humanity which try to give a sensitive message to anyone who decides to change its attitude towards situations or people different from him.
Outline: Analysis of the books Black like me and the color of water: racism
1. – Introduction
*What is racism?
*Background of racism
-Causes and consequences of racism in society and in a person
*Different manifestations of racism
2. – Body
*Talk about different manifestations of racism as: segregation, discrimination, and show some quotes as examples
*Talk about other themes such as: identity, negative bias, past versus present and show some quotes as examples
3. – Conclusion
* Significance in both books
-Why is important to take into account the racial problematic in our society
* My personal opinion about the books
Tania Enríquez Figueroa.
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