Learning the Difference Between Black and White: The Racial Struggle Between Black and White Americans as Represented in a Selection of Chester Himes' Short Stories

GRIN Verlag, 2007 - 28 páginas
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Seminar paper from the year 2007 in the subject American Studies - Literature, grade: 1,3, University of Paderborn, 31 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: Despite the ferocious anti-racism of his early works, Himes is best known and appreciated for his detective stories. Whereas these were very successful especially in Europe, the bitterness of his first books did not find approval at first. His short stories, however, were popular enough to sell mostly to black newspapers and magazines but also to Esquire. The stories treated in this paper were published posthumously in the anthology The Collected Stories of Chester Himes. These short stories, written between 1933 and 1978, deal with themes ranging from women and poverty to life in prison, war, and, above all, racism. Some of them could be considered semi-autobiographical. They are Himes' way of dealing with his situation as a black American in a white segregationist society and reflect his anger and hopelessness. This paper will concentrate on two short stories treating the subject of racism against African Americans which is omnipresent in Himes' works. Whereas in "All God's Chillun Got Pride" Himes emphasizes that the inferiority of blacks is not a natural phenomenon but a tradition forcibly imposed on them by the whites, "Rufus Jones" is a bitter-sweet humorous attempt to unveil the absurdity of racial stereotypes. To understand the bitterness and cynicism of Himes' short stories it is necessary both to recall the historical developments that influenced them and to look at the author's biography. Therefore, I will first introduce a short historical and biographical overview, to then focus on the selected short stories and finally sum up the outcome.

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Página 7 - States that there shall be no discrimination in the employment of workers in defense industries or government because of race, creed, color, or national origin...
Página 19 - Albert Camus once said that racism is absurd. Racism introduces absurdity into the human condition. Not only does racism express the absurdity of the racists, but it generates absurdity in the victims.
Página 10 - Los Angeles hurt me racially as much as any city I have ever known— much more than any city I remember from the South. It was the lying hypocrisy that hurt me. Black people were treated much the same as they were in an industrial city of the South. They were Jim-Crowed in housing, in employment, in public accommodations, such as hotels and restaurants.
Página 10 - Home, the black actors and actresses were refused service in the MGM commissary where everyone ate. The difference was that the white people of Los Angeles seemed to be saying, "Nigger, ain't we good to you?
Página 14 - ... abstract truth and viewed Negroes and whites in physical, spiritual, mental comparison, detached from false ideologies and vicious, man-made traditions, dwelling only on those attributes which made of what he saw a man, and not of what his forebears might have been nor what he claimed to be by race, he would see, aside from pigmentation of skin and quality of hair, little difference in anatomy, mentality, and less difference in soul. He would see the same flesh, the same bones, the same blood,...
Página 9 - Black students could star in any of the school athletic activities, but they could not live in the school dormitories on the campus, nor eat in any of the restaurants near the campus, nor attend the movie theaters, nor visit or become a member of the white fraternity houses. Yet this was Columbus, Ohio, where all forms of racial discrimination were prohibited by state laws.
Página 14 - Scotch some day and it would go to his head and make 'that nigger crazy' and he would pull Mr John Sutter Smythe out from under the table and ask him, 'Look, Mr Smythe, just what makes you think you are so superior to me?
Página 14 - ... rights, such as liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, were of small consequence; but he had learned, also, that this ideology did not apply to him. He never really sat down and thought about it for any length of time; because he knew that if he ever did, living in America would become impossible. That if he ever made an honest crusade into abstract truth and viewed Negroes and whites in physical, spiritual, mental comparison, detached from false ideologies and vicious, man-made traditions, dwelling...
Página 14 - ... the impelling urge for wealth, the destructive desires for power, the seeds of untold lies and the skeletons of deceits, he would see the same knowledge gleaned from the same founts; and when he looked into their souls and saw all the rotted falseness of ideologies imposed upon them all so that the few of any race could live and fatten from the blood, sweat, and tears of the many of all races, all the corruption of religions and philosophies and laws by which they all chained themselves to spiritual...

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