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Who Invented White People

← Modеrn Nation-Statе and Transnational ЕntitiеsThе Quеst for Knowlеdgе and Progrеss by Josе Arcadio Bundia →

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The article by Jay, “Who invented and White People?” and Wright’s “The Library Card” are similar because both authors talk about the issues of racism and the problems associated with white supremacy. At the same time, the rhetoric, structure, and meaning of these articles are inherently different. Whereas Jay speaks about racism and skin-color on the global level, Wright addresses the problems experienced by minorities in a personal way. Jay presents a brilliant philosophical argument about the delusion of white race. On the contrary, Wright offers a private and personalized account of the difficulties experienced by black individual willing to read and educate himself. Nevertheless, the largest similarity between these two articles is the appeal to the whole American society, but not just the isolated black population. Jay shows that with America’s power and prosperity on the rise, many people tend to think that its internal problems have also long been gone. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s seems to be forgotten as its principles are thought to have been implemented in the modern society. Yet, as represented by this author racism is still a wide-spread issue in modern America and that blacks are often denied their inherent human rights to employment and fair treatment. This paper critically compares Jay’s article “Who invented and White People?” and Wright’s work “The Library Card”, focusing on the issues of race, white supremacy, and prevalent discrimination against blacks as depicted by these authors.

Jay notes that in the 1950s and 1960s American blacks emerged as America’s premier victims. A number of nonviolent civil rights protests throughout the American South, which spanned almost a decade, brought many changes in the society. Religiously inspired and well-disciplined, the Civil Rights Movement expressed to the nation blacks’ willingness to sacrifice themselves for equality before the law. Showing another face of their victimization and protest, urban blacks, beginning in 1960’s--the time of the passage of the Civil Rights Act--and continuing during the next decade, rose up with destructive and angry violence. Yet, as noted by Jay, when the whole system was changed, “Americans faced the fact that changing the laws did not change the feelings and beliefs of individuals, black or white” (Jay para 3).

A different approach is taken by Wright. He lived during the times preceding Civil Rights Movement and depicted prejudice against minorities as he saw it. At this point, one should note that, historically, blacks challenged the American conscience in a way Native Americans did not. Native Americans stood as a great moral threat to all claims of American goodness and innocence. They were lied to, poisoned, killed; their land was taken away, their way of life destroyed; and taken as a single people, they were injured by white diseases, commerce, land-hunger, technologies, and cultures. The injury they suffered was beyond reparation and compensation. The disordered life of the great majority of Indians stands as direct consequence of the triumph of American civilization. The fate of Native Americans was that of indigenous peoples everywhere across the globe. What they suffered was typical of what all traditional and primitive people suffer in the modern world. Their destruction was joined to the destruction of nature itself by civilization. In light of the growing ecological sensibilities of the 1960s and 1970s, the Indian’s troubles were understood to be everyman’s troubles.

However, Jay notes, for a variety of reasons, black suffering more than Native American suffering captured American conscience in the 1960s. There were many more blacks than Native Americans. They posed a more direct threat to American order and reputation than Native Americans did. They had far more allies in the universities and the Democratic Party. They were far more articulate about their suffering, problems, needs, and wants than the Native Americans. Furthermore, the blacks possessed a rich literature and tradition of protest that was amplified by the Civil Rights Movements and urban rebellions.

The stories by Wright and Jay illustrate the historical sequence of events; the authors complement each other. In other words, those battered blacks depicted by Wright later claimed to be victims of white civilization, as portrayed by Jay. Wright, using personal narrative style, clearly illustrates that blacks had suffered great injustice. He notes that slaves in the past and second rate citizens, blacks had suffered every type of cruelty, exploitation, and injustice. In turn, Jay argues that their moral claim against America and its government was not restricted to a given abuse or a fixed period of time and correspondingly could not be compensated or indemnified with a fixed sum of money by payment to a definite number of victims.

The heart of their moral claim for special and preferential legislation was their innocence and the wrong they had suffered at white hands. Whipped, raped, lynched, families split apart and sold at auction blocks-they had everything taken from them. The linkage of blacks to victim status made blackness and victimization status virtually synonymous. Black identity was a moral identity; it was a righteous suffering owed. Blacks became the typical victims. Blacks hold a special place in the liberation theories.

Jay states that in contemporary world, blacks invite white society to join them in doing what is right. They permit whites to form a mutual moral community with them. Together they would suffer and sacrifice for the good. Yet, in the course of the 1960s, especially after the death of Martin Luther King in the spring of 1968, much black rhetoric became exclusionary. Advocates of black power, the Black Muslims, and others argued that blacks were a unique and separate people unto themselves. In the name of their past suffering under slavery and its consequences, they indicted white society universally. The most extreme interpretations against white society were global and violent, and all discussion of black violence and black racism of black against black were sharply suppressed.

            Jay argues that racism is still present in the contemporary America. The author explain that “too often in America, we talk about race as if it were only something that people of color have, or only something we need to talk about when we talk about African Americans or Asian Americans or American Indians or Latino Americans” (para 4). The society does not accept African American beliefs and style of life, constantly questioning their indigenous tradition.

To continue, Wright laid the path, which was later followed by such authors as Jay. After careful analysis of his article, Who Invented White People?” it becomes apparent that the impact of the Civil Rights Movement on fundamental social patterns proved to be limited; the campaign did not revitalize the many ghetto neighborhood in the country. Yet this result cannot be fully understood without referring to the many powerful forces that spun these communities into a downward spiral. The situation depicted by Wright when black people were prohibited even from reading illustrates the degree of tension that was increasing at the beginning of 60’s. Furthermore, as different industries shut down ghetto people lost their traditional jobs. Fewer jobs and less income destabilized the already weak social structure of the ghetto. As the black middle class fled these declining regions, the impoverished became packed together, isolated from the mainstream. Even true followers of the movement, despite their good intentions and the considerable power they had, failed to reverse these trends. Ironically, perhaps the most fundamental contribution of the Civil Rights Movement to this broader process has been to accelerate the opening of more communities to blacks, which ultimately hastened the flight of the black middle class from inner-city neighborhoods.

Jay shows that the rise of local leaders marked a number of important developments, rooted in individual states, but with national consequences. Yet when Martin Luther King and his followers launched the Civil Rights Movement, they strived for a more immediate impact on American race relations. They hoped to spur a full-scale assault on enduring and pervasive racial injustice.

In conclusion, it may be noted that Jay and Wright’s works are very similar in nature, yet differ in rhetoric and narration style. Furthermore, the authors lived during different times, which influenced their realization of the processes depicted in these works. The era of 1960’s and 1970’s was a time when young people from ethnic and mainstream groups in various parts of the country sought to express their hopes for the liberty. In the history of the U.S., no other era embodies the rise of youthful self-conscious idealism. Young white Americans participated in a process, which they expressed in art and in politics. Even though, Jay rightfully claims that blacks are far from celebrating their victory in the war against injustice and discrimination, it is clear that those times depicted by Writing are long gone and are unlikely to ever return. Hence, the progress has been achieved and blacks did not fight in vain. 

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