Coming of Age in Mississippi
Anne Moody had an underprivileged childhood; her various experiences formed the woman she grew up to be. Throughout her childhood and adulthood, one recurrent feeling that she had all the time was her frustration with the black race, the ease with which they accepted the place that the society had allotted to them, and the apparent contentment with their position. Consequently, she grew up to question the system that she was born in. A poignant example can be found in the first part of the book where she wondered what made the white people different from her; she thought it was in their privates and actually conducted an exam to have a look at their privates and discover the answer for her. She was frustrated with her mother who let her stepfather’s family treat her the way they did. Her interaction with the white people in her childhood was not particularly troublesome except for her penultimate employer while in Centerville, with whom she experienced first hand what it means to have her life threatened. She saw the docility of the Negro population in Centerville after the murder of Emmett Till and the Taplin murder/arson; under those circumstances, no one spoke up at the time. She knew first hand the struggles of the Negro population from the perspective of her mom, herself, the young people of her age, and the men in her life; thus she was a proper spokesperson for the cause. So, it is safe to say that her childhood shaped and ordered her adult life.
When she finally did leave Centerville for New Orleans, she entered into a phase of independence where she had to make her way through life. She worked in a restaurant where she was exposed to the frustrations of her aunt Winnie. In that setting, she began to really experience the glass ceiling that hung above the black people in the US at the time, the frustrations of working extremely hard to earn slave wages like in the chicken factory where she was employed temporarily. She had also began to see herself as an individual who had an opinion and lived by certain principles. In two occasions, she had to stand up for herself; the first time was when the basketball coach Miss Adams was throwing her weight around, and she refused to serve what she knew would lead to an underserved punishment. The second time was when the school cafeteria served unwholesome food; she encouraged the students to refuse the food until the conditions in the kitchen improved and actually sponsored the action with her own funds.
The book, in my opinion, is made for very intense reading. However, there was no part that gripped me like the scene in Canton where the young man McKinley Hamilton was brutally assaulted by the police, and people including two FBI agents just stood around and watched. For me, it was almost visceral, because I could imagine how being in that immediate environment would feel; the heart might be pumping in powerlessness and frustration with the knowledge that this could be a make-or-break moment. The crowd was so close to going over the edge, and it was so well described as to make the reader feel the intensity of that very moment. I think that this scene encapsulated the feelings, issues, and emotions that were prevalent at the time. The injustice and the inaction of the law enforcement agents and the feet dragging by the judiciary meted out a particular race and showed how frustrating the whole scenario would have been to a Negro in that time.
The civil rights movement shaped Anne Moody’s life and gave her an opportunity to help her people get out of the oppressive system they were under. Unfortunately, though it is pertinent to state that although some of the issues in the book have been resolved, a few of them are still present as they were relatively spoken of. Take the case of Trayvon Martins (Elijah Anderson, 2013) and that of Emmett Till; almost six decades ago, yet the murders of these two young men are very similar. The only difference is in the response of the African-American community to both murders: after the Trayvon murder, the public outcry was massive. Racial profiling is a relatively new term, but it is just like malicious the stereotyping in Natchez back in the day (Keith Rushen, 2013). Equal opportunity is still a very huge issue in the United States, the ghettos exist in most big cities of the US, and this is almost harmful and degrading as the segregation took place back in the days of separate white and black social amenities. These ghettos are essentially still largely black populated and, comparatively speaking, have lesser infrastructure. The correction system does not treat the African-Americans particularly better; statistics shows that there are three blacks to every white person in the correction facilities (NAACP).
A lot of progress has been made on racial issues, but there yet remain issues that are to be addressed. I love how the protagonist emphasized her educational journey. Enlightenment is still very important, and emancipation is attainable only on the basis of a sound education.