Whitewashing Of African American Culture Exposed In Song Of Solomon

1483 words - 6 pages

Whitewashing of African American Culture Exposed in Song of Solomon

 
     White culture would rather keep the African American culture at a distance and shape it into what the white culture believes it should be rather than accept the enrichment offered by the African American culture. This may be because of the white culture's fear of anything and anyone obviously different in appearance. However, it is not enough for the dominant culture to separate itself from the African American culture, it has to shape and mold that culture into the stereotype projected upon the minority culture. African American culture is shaped by the dominant/ white culture, among other things, through the white culture's use of fear within the minority group, the bestowing or withholding of innovations and wealth, and controlling the mobility of the African American.

 

The white dominant culture uses fear to shape and control people and cultures different from them. In Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, the fear evoked by the white, dominant culture comes from the thought of being lynched and beaten by any white person who might take offence at the presence or actions of an African American. While this is not an obvious, overlaying theme in the novel, it is present nonetheless in the existence of the Seven Days as the Black answer to the lynchings and murders of African Americans by whites, as Guitar said, "'when a Negro child, Negro woman, or Negro man is killed by whites and nothing is done about it by their law and their courts, this society selects a similar victim at random, and they execute him or her in a similar manner it they can' (154)." This fear of lynching or physical pain kept African Americans in the limited roles and geography allowed them by the dominant culture. For example, when Macon Dead II first thought about creating a summer retreat for colored people, there was the question not only about whether colored people could afford it but whether it would be allowed by the white system. African Americans were also confined to their section of the city for places to live and work unless they were working for white people. If a "colored" person were to venture into the "white" neighborhood after dark they could be beaten unless they had express permission from a white employer. Black people were not allowed to own guns, as mentioned in regards to Hagar trying to kill Milkman, "'This time she might have a pistol.' 'What fool is gonna give a colored woman a pistol?' (119)" It was not logical for Milkman to fear the possibility of Hagar trying to kill him with a gun because there was no way for her to get one to use on him. Violence toward African Americans is an underlying current throughout the novel as expressed by Guitar, "'Everybody wants the life of a black man. Everybody. White men want us dead or quiet - which is the same thing as dead' (222)." While the violence is not as openly condoned in the time period of Song of Solomon as it was...

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