Term Paper: Man Racism Isn't an Inborn Characteristic

Pages: 2 (677 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Black Studies  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Man

Racism isn't an inborn characteristic of the human heart; it's something that's learned and reinforced over time. James Baldwin's "Going to Meet the Man," is a heart-rending short story that unpacks how one man devolved from a tolerant young boy to a cruel bigot. It is the purpose of the viewpoint essay to discuss how Baldwin's protagonist in the story, Jesse, learns to be a racist and the dire costs associated with this transformation.

Jesse as a young boy is a tolerant and curious boy. He has black friend named Otis. He likes Otis, they play together and Jesse looks up to Otis for information concerning the complexity of race relations between southern whites and blacks, "He had grown accustomed, for the solution of such mysteries, to go to Otis. He felt that Otis knew everything. But he could not ask Otis about this" (Baldwin). That "this" is the gelding ceremony (the torture and subsequent mutilation of a black man), and Jesse has a palpable sense that something's amiss. He hasn't seen any black people in a few days, and he's wondering why people are acting different. On some level, he knows that something's wrong, that he is about to betray Otis in some way; hence that's why he cannot ask his friend about this event.

Sure enough, what Jesse participates in, what he witnesses, changes his life forever. During the lynching, his humanity is irrevocably altered. But because he is young and naive, he does not fight the transformation; he embraces it. And he loves his father for introducing it to him, "At that moment Jesse loved his father more than he had ever loved him. He felt that his father had carried him through a mighty test, had revealed to him a great secret which would be the key to his life forever" (Baldwin). That key is the false notion that he is superior to black people, that they are animals, that they are subhuman and loathsome. However, this is a secret that… [END OF PREVIEW]

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