Significance of Race and Society in Dictating Racial Identity

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Significance of Race and Society in Dictating Racial Identity

            The notion of race has always been viewed as a biological construct. In an effort to establish the predominance of the white race, the concept has been pushed forward since the acquisition of African slaves to the contemporary era, whereby blacks are consistently subjugated to discriminatory and prejudicial actions. In the text, “Coming of Age in Mississippi,” Anne Moody addresses the extent to which the construction of race by society has managed to establish the disparities that exist between white and black people in the United States. Using her experiences as a child and as an adult at a time when racism was rather considerable, Moody manages to illustrate the way race and society assume an essential role in dictating “blackness” and “whiteness.”

One of the ways in which Moody illustrates the dictating role of race and society in determining blackness and whiteness involves her contextualization of her grandmother. She utilizes the example in question in an effort to show the extent to which race and society position blacks and whites in different social positions. Accordingly, Moody’s representation of her grandmother is a plausible representation of underprivileged black women. Even though the notion of slavery had been expunged for nearly a century, black women were constantly perceived as servants. As a result, they were subject to economic manipulation as evidenced by Moody when she notes that, “her [grandmother’s] deep sad eyes were filled with tears” towards the conclusion of her life, whereby she died poor and exhausted (Moody 190). The oppression that her grandmother suffers throughout her life allows Moody to show the way the society’s racial perception of blacks and whites establishes the disparities between both groups.

Consequently, Moody utilizes the murder of Emmett Till in an effort to illustrate the way blackness and whiteness is constructed by society. Accordingly, it is clear that Moody writes for the aim of challenging the characterization of the black man. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, white people began to initiate false accusations against black men that established the latter as a threat to white women. Due to the history associated with such accusations, Moody asserts that the construction of the black man as a threat created fear among the members of the community. After all, “Emmett Till’s murder had proved it was a crime, punishable by death, for a Negro man to even whistle at a white woman in Mississippi” (Moody 139). This representation managed to reduce the black person’s presence within society hence enhancing the white person’s power.

Lastly, using her stepmother’s injury as an example, Moody shows the role of race and society in dictating blackness and whiteness by utilizing a financial-based perspective. While trying to intervene in a dispute, Moody’s stepmother (Emma) is shot by a neighbor’s husband. Moody, while remembering the incident, voices Emma’s retort and accentuates the notion that her stepmother did not place blame on the individual that nearly maimed her. For Emma, the event would never have occurred “if these damn white folks ain’t shooting niggers’ brains out they are starvin’ them to death” (Moody 226). The inference is that white people are responsible for the distressed conditions that most African American families encounter. Moody further adds that black men and women are desperate to the point that they nearly lose their sanity. Accordingly, such desperation is based on the economic hardships that blacks face which are attributed to the white community.

In “Coming of Age in Mississippi,” Anne Moody utilizes her personal experiences in an effort to illustrate the role that the social construction of race assumes in the dictation of blackness and whiteness. Foremost, she utilizes her grandmother’s tiredness and poverty – attributed to her service to the Carter plantation – as an illustration of the way society dictates racial identity based on class. Consequently, she utilizes the characterization of the black man as a threat to white women for the aim of showing the extent to which racial stereotypes consistently affect or influence the dictation of racial identity. Lastly, Moody utilizes her stepmother’s injury in order to illustrate the role that economic conditions assume in segregating black people from white people.

Works Cited

Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. Dell, 1968.

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