Views on Racism Essay


Views on Racism Essay

Racism is an ideology that dominated this country for hundreds of years and still has influence even in the twenty first century. Two authors that express the influence of racial tensions in there works are James Baldwin in “Notes of a Native Son” and Judith Cofer in “The Myth of the Latin Women.” In both of their passages, the authors speak of their interaction with racism and how they responded to stereotypes and racial actions. Both of these authors show examples of racism and how they can affect the people whom racism is used against. But while they have similar components in there passages, the content and tone of the articles differs greatly. James Baldwin and Judith Cofer both discuss racism but while Baldwin focuses on the effects of racism on the individual in a depressing tone, Cofer discusses the idea of racism on a culture in a more forceful and arrogant tone.

In these passages both Baldwin and Cofer refer to racism as something that affects the lives of themselves and the people around them. But while they both discussed racism Baldwin seems to discuss more institutional racism and Cofer seems to discuss more interpersonal racism. In the Baldwin essay he speaks of racism was used to put individuals down, such as segregation and Jim Crow laws, which were large parts of institutional racism which is racism built into laws. In his essay he discusses times where he would not be served at white restaurants and had to get food from the back. Baldwin mentions one instance of this in the passage, “She did not ask me what I wanted, but repeated as though she had learned it somewhere, “We don't serve Negroes here.”” showing how his race were not even allowed in certain areas.  Baldwin would also talk about times when people would look at him with anger in there eyes just because of his skin color and suspect him of things. The racism discussed in this essay was a more intense racism based on hate and the institutions of racism that were implemented into law. This was in contrast to the type of racism that was discussed in Cofer's passage. In “The Myth of the Latin Women” Cofer discusses how stereotypes are still common place in the United States today and they are used to judge a group of people. Cofer discusses interpersonal racism which is based on judging a race based on stereotypes. In her essay, she describes the stereotypes of the Latin women and how they are meant for domestic work and are seen as being uneducated as well as hot tempered. Cofer states one stereotype that is used quite often, “Mixed cultural signals have perpetuated certain stereotypes for example, that of the Hispanic woman as the “Hot Tamale” or sexual firebrand” showing how people base ideas about cultures on stereotypes.  In her essay, she talks more of a racism that is generalized and seen by society and sticks mainly to stereotypes. She does not discuss how racism was used to hurt people or how it was used against them as segregation was. Instead she talks about how people are perceived due to being part of a certain race of people in this case Puerto Ricans. So even though both essays discuss the matter of racism the context of the racism was very different going from hardcore extreme racism to the use of stereotypes by society.

Another difference in the way these two authors discuss racism come from how they talk about effects of racism. While Baldwin focuses more on the racist effect on the individual person, Cofer talks more about racisms effect on a group of people. In the Baldwin essay, he discusses how racism has affected him and how it can hurt a person very deeply. Baldwin talks about how racism had affected him as well as his father making them bitter and untrusting of all white people because of the racism at the time. Baldwin goes into how racism does not only hurt society but can blacken the heart and soul of a good person making them paranoid and bitter. In the essay Baldwin states, “I saw nothing very clearly but I did see this: that my life, my real life, was in danger and not from anything other people might do but from the hatred I carried in my own heart.” showing how racism turned him into a hateful and cynical person. Cofer focuses on a different point of view of racism and how it affects a group of people such as Puerto Ricans. Cofer goes into stereotypes and how they are keeping Puerto Ricans down because people have predispositions to them such as them being loud and provocative. Some of the stereotypes are Latin women are good at domestic work implying all of them are maids or waitress. Also she discusses the idea that Latin women are provocative and sexual, making all men believe Latin women are easy to get into bed. She explains how stereotypes are keeping people down and not allowing people to see the real person but just the stereotypes. In the essay Cofer states, “Its origin is simple to deduce. Work as domestics, waitressing, and factory jobs are all that are available are all that's available to women n with little English and few skills” showing how people see the Latin culture in the U.S. In Cofer's case, she is talking about how stereotypes lower the way that certain cultures are seen while Baldwin tries to show the internal struggle of a person being affected by racism.

While the content of the essays may be similar, the way in which the authors express themselves with tone is very different. In his essay, Baldwin took a depressing tone in his work which was probably a reflection of the dark topic his essay was based on.  Baldwin discusses racism's effect on the individual, and he discusses how bad it can make a person using his father as his prime example. The tone of the essay is depressing though out as he goes in to the story of himself and how racism almost turned him into the same bitter and cynical person that his father was. In his essay, Baldwin says “But it was, if anything a rather shorter funeral than most, nor , since there were no overwhelming, uncontrollable expressions of grief” This shows the depressing nature of the passage that no one was sad at his father's funeral. Much of his essay deals with the death of his father and the racial tensions he overcame so it was in a depressing tone about a sad sequence of events. Baldwin shows such a sad outlook at the subject of racism because he knows how racism can rock the core of an individual and turn their hope and dreams into a black hole of sadness. Also the way that Baldwin goes thourgh time is very odd. Baldwin will jump back and forth from the past to later events and then go back into the past. At times it can be confusing but it creates a great background for him to tell his story of racism. Baldwin tries to show off the atmosphere of the world at the time. It was a dark and depressing time during which many of the civil rights riots were occurring.

While in contrast, Cofer's essay does not have a depressing tone at all instead she has a more arrogant and forceful tone. In her essay she tries to pound into us the idea of how stereotypes are used and how they are oppressing people in society's eyes. In her tone she really tries to force her point so we will understand how she feels about these assumptions on her culture. Also, she seems to be a little angry in her essay because she feels that in the present day America we would be able to move past these assumptions on cultures. As with many people who have experience racism in their lives, she seems very angry when a person made even the littlest racial motion towards her even if it was not so bad like the drunk man singing Maria to her. In her essay, Cofer discusses a incident at a restaurant “Thinking (foolish of me) that she wanted me to autograph a copy of my brand new slender volume of verse I went over. She ordered a cup of coffee from me assuming that I was a waitress” showing how a minor incident offended her so much even though it was mistake. So even though she is making a good point on how racism affects the culture, she sounds very angry and upset about all these things that have happened to her and to some extent I can not blame her. When you put these essays next to each other they are similar in some aspects but the tones of the essay differ greatly in how the author sounds and how they project towards the audience.

Baldwin and Cofer both discuss racism in their essays, but they did differ on subjects such as institutional racism and interpersonal. Also they differed on where they focused their racial views and how it was hurting that population of people. While both argue against the use of racism and the horrible things it can cause they each express it differently in how they discuss there type of racism they were effected by. Also they differed greatly on how they expressed there ideas and how they sounded. Overall both express the idea that racism is part of society that needs to be removed and both need show how racism is a plague on our society.