Discussion of racism in america


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Question: What's your take on the discussion of racism in America?

Evaluation: Morrison's work provides a unique and useful way of reading and re-examining American literature, asking us to consider both the black presence in our literature (or lack thereof) as well as what this can teach us about the creation of whiteness and a particular American cultural myth. Indeed, by emphasizing the interrelatedness of black and white, Morrison reminds us that "notions of racial hierarchy, racial exclusion, and racial vulnerability" impact both races and that power affects those who wield it as well as those who fall victim to it (11). In Benito Cereno, Melville highlights this interrelatedness in two ways. First, by overturning racial stereotypes in the powerful and intelligent figure of Babo, asking his reader to see through Delano's racism and recognize how easily the role of master and slave can be reversed, indicating that the assignment of black as slave and white as master is neither immutable nor natural. Second, Benito Cereno's death and his awareness that the shadow from which he cannot escape is "the negro," reveals Cereno's (and Melville's) understanding that as long as slavery exists, neither slave nor master is free of the other-that as long as blackness is used to create and reinforce white as its superior, the two races will be irrevocably linked. Because, however, the American never progresses beyond his racist beliefs, only the European captain who has experienced a kind of enslavement himself, Melville's novella remains entrenched by the problems Morrison highlights throughout. Writing in 1855, Melville perhaps hoped that Americans would soon follow the European example of emancipation and fully recognize the connection which Morrison's work makes explicit.

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