Legaciesof Racialized Slavery in the US History and On Contemporary SocialRelations
Literatureplays an important role in the society that enables us to understandissues in society that touch on economic, political, as well associal aspects. It is not only in the present times but also thathappened in the past such as during the slavery times among otherhistorical events. History, thus, enables people to understand thepast, the present as well as enable people project about possiblefuture eventualities. Race and ethnic relations are among the mostancient subject that has dominated literature in the world that talksabout social concerns in most of the society and American literaturein not exempted. The American society is among the few that has richhistory touching on race and ethnic relations. It is due to itsactive involvement in the slavery times that was mostly donealongside racial lines that have impacted the American society to thepresent times. It has manifested itself in policy issues, civilliberties and struggles, as well as political contexts, as recentlyexhibited. However, this paper compares the work of Roxanne Gaytitled “Un Untamed State” and that of Ta-Nehisi Coates titled“Between the World and Me” showing how they deploy the idea ofbodily captivity and theft to shed light on the legacies ofracialized slavery in the U.S. history and on contemporary socialrelations.
First,the plot of the two writers enables them to deploy the ideas thatshade light on the radicalized slavery in the US history as well asin the contemporary social relations. Gay’s plot entails taking ofcaptivity where the main character Mireille Duval Jameson was takencaptive and the captors asked for ransom before they could releaseher (Gay, 14). The plot itself is symbolic and enables researchers torelate to what happened or was done at the times of slave trade.People were captured and forcefully used as commodities or propertiesby the middle-men cooperating with traders in the slave tradebusiness at the time. It was booming due to cheap labor and relatedinjustices were done to the slave. The same context can be replicatedin the story or plot by Gay. The captors, in addition, tortured heras well as gang-raped her that symbolizes what similar actions weredone to people who refused slavery at the time and refused tocooperate with those that were involved in the slave trade by killingthem and torturing them among other injustice that people at the timeof slavery experienced. It explains the reasons some historical booksstate that men and women went into hiding at the time to avoid beingcaptured and taken as slaves. Moreover, when the story of slaves istold by survivors and those that experienced first-hand slavery, theslaves that were reluctant to cooperate and work with their mastersin the plantation farms where they were deployed were also tortured.Furthermore, for female slaves some used as sex slave where theirmasters abused them sexually that is indicated and replicated in theplot and story by Gay. The story, thus, despite happening in Haiti asa setting, is a metaphor that represents also what happened in theUnited States among other areas that slavery dominated thatexperience massive abuse of human rights simply because the slavetrade was done along racial lines. Most of the masters of the slavesviewed them from the perception of commodities and property that wasto be used the way or at the discretion of the master as they werebought through the agent and brokers that benefitted from such trade.In the same context of the plot presented by Gay, Jameson was alsoimprisoned for 13 days by her captors. The same can be analyzed as ametaphor in the sense during the slavery times, slaves that refusedto cooperate were imprisoned and tortured as well as denied theprivileges such as food that ensured that their life was miserable toinstill fear in them. And, hence, corporate and do as the slavemaster wanted. The plot, thus, is symbolic of what transpired at thetime of the slave trade that was done alongside racial lines thatcontinue to witness even in the present societies where racialconnotations such as ‘negro’ that were common at the time stillcontinue to be used to the present times. It is despite the numeroussteps that have civilized most of the populations and reduced theencounters experienced in the past along race and ethnic lines.Similarly, Coates plot in his story also enables presentation of theexperiences that have traversed the African-American population rightfrom the times of slavery to the present times. Coates gives hisexperiences while growing and answers the critical questions from hisson related to the many challenges that the son and theAfrican-American society experiences (Coates, 32). For example, henotes how the police have profiled the black youths and people atlarge since many years ago. It is an aspect that continues to beexperienced in the present times as experienced in the Americansociety. Where black teenagers have been killed or arrested inseveral incidences that have caused massive protest and demonstrationsuch as exemplified in the Fergusson case among others. The authoralso notes the discrimination, stereotyping and prejudice labeledagainst the black populations that are either institutionalizedlimiting the opportunities for the black people such as noted in thetimes of voter suppression, segregation and slavery. They onlybenefited the white people at the expense of the blacks andreiterates that the white people cannot appreciate and reciprocatethe favors that the black people offered them enabling them toprosper and live the wealthy and better lives than the blacks.Coates, in addition, also presents a short story that shows his sonfriend Prince Carmen Jones Jr., that came from a slightly wealthyblack family is targeted and killed by the police. It indicates thatirrespective of the socio-economic status that any black person isin, they are the obvious target by the police and the white peoplesimply because of their race. The plot, therefore, enables manytraces and link the slavery times and the present times and how thesubject of racism impacts both moments. The father according to thesetup acts as a reference point where ancient concerns related torace and in particular of the blacks is answered and the son presentsthe current generation that has not experienced intensive racialencounters as noted during slavery and the past years. Many civilliberations and movements that struggled to end racism anddiscrimination of the black race have changed a number of issues. Thepolice have also used theft and crime at large that they have used asan excuse to enhance racial profiling of the black populations. It isexperienced in the American society where suspects of black race aretreated differently when compared to other races. Also, they haveformed the notion and have the mentality that most blacks getinvolved in criminal activities and, thus, highly profiled aspotential suspects of a crime. The author also disagrees with aprominent figure from the black community such as Malcolm X andMartin Luther King Jr. perception towards Black Nationalism and anintegrated society. He notes that system presently available onlyenhances and maintains the status quo of white supremacy with no realmeasure to end them. The plot, thus, enables readers to relate theslavery history and the moments on the society that have transpiredthat try to eliminate negative race and ethnic relations andimportant people involved in such movements. Hence, the set-up offather and son relationship and story, thus, enables Coates topresent his message and ideologies with an ease that metaphors thereal experiences in the social relations both in the past andpresent.
Secondly,the themes used in the two pieces also enables presentation of raceand ethnic relations concerns as experienced in the past as well asthe present times. Gay, for instance, uses the theme of poverty toexpress his ideas. For example, Mireille comes from a rich backgroundand his father is a rich developer a situation that most of theHaitians do not subscribe to. It made her think that kidnapping was abusiness transaction. Such a theme of poverty enables readers tounderstand the division that exists in the society that in itself issymbolic of the times of slavery and presents a state where mostblacks live in poor neighborhoods as a result of limitedopportunities in the production chain. For example, most offeredtheir labor for little income that could only sustain themselves andnot engage in any major investment to create wealth while most of thewhites owned the means of production such as land and capital. It isalso the reason slave trade was enhanced for a longer time and abooming business at the time of slavery. It is because they madeproduction process cheaper for most whites that owned the means ofproduction due to cheap labor from the slaves. The status has beenmaintained to the present that explains why most blacks live in thecrowded and poor neighborhoods in the United States enabling thestory and concepts of the author to be easily presented. Likewise,Coates also uses themes such as poverty to express his ideas relatedto race and ethnic relations. For example, he notes how the fathergrew up in a poor neighborhood characterized by chaos and fear ofbodily harm. It indicates that most of the blacks were poor in thepast that also helped him explain the poverty issues that touchesmost of the black population to his son. The theme of poverty, thus,helps the author present concern that he has related to race thatlinks the slavery times to the present.
Lastly,the characters used in the piece enable current social relations andhistory of slavery to be displayed in the work. Coates, has usedcharacters with African-American background that makes the storypresented from the first person. It enables them to express theirdisappointments and experience that they have felt related to race,social relations and slavery. It enables the story well presented asthey are able to trace their lineage and ancestry. They, hence,present the experience realized during slavery days to the presenttimes. For example, Coates narrates to his son that to destroy theblack body is heritage in the American society. It helps link andtraces slavery and current social relations explaining why thetension between different races exists and the root causes of suchtensed relation exist both in the past and in the present times. Therace of the characters, thus, help the author put up his story withease. It enables them to talk and express the experiences that theyhave felt and also that experienced by their ancestors that haveroots traced to slavery. The characters, hence, acts or play the roleof primary resource persons that provide information that they haveexperienced or their close relatives experienced from theAfrican-American background. It makes the story flow with ease.Similarly, Gay also uses characters that enable slavery and currentsocial relations expressed with ease enabling the story presentedwell. The relationship between the characters, hence, enables readersto relate with the current social relations in the society andslavery history. The experience felt between and among people ofdifferent racial background is also relevant that enables readers toreflect and relate to the present experiences understanding thesubject deep. The use of characters in the two pieces withAfrican-American background enables the creation of relationship andfirst-hand experience that the characters have gone through or peopleclose to them. It helps readers easily understand as they act asprimary sources or resource persons making the story presented withease.
Whatthe two books say differently about the history of slavery andcurrent social relations in the US.
Thepiece by Coates notes that slavery, in particular, is the turningpoint that made America and countries that benefited from it rich andwealthy. It is a factor that most whites fail to acknowledge andappreciated when they point out their achievements and successes. Itpresents the beneficiaries of slavery in terms of the race where itpits whites against blacks or African-American. Gay, on the otherhand, notes wealthy and poor citizens from slavery that forms thebasis for conflict. It is because the majority of the people in thecountry have the same racial background, thus, socio-economic statusbecomes the main factor that determines ethnic relation. There weremiddlemen or brokers who benefitted from slavery as agents thatworked with colonialist. They were mostly favored and givenopportunities and resources that made most of such agents wealthy asopposed to the majority of the slaves. Coates book also talksdirectly about slavery and related experiences done alongside raciallines while Gay talks indirectly about slavery by presenting apost-slavery scenario. Coates notes that the current social relationscannot be changed despite the numerous efforts put up by blackmovements because of the structural setup that favors the whiteprosperity and white supremacy. He has given up completely and has nohope of change. Gay, on the other hand, sees arrays of hope whenMireille met the husband while attending the graduate school in theUS. The scenario symbolizes hope and improved social relations beyondthe racial lines.
Inconclusion, the work by Gay and Coates presents examples of Americanliterature that have elaborate information touching on race that hastranscended the history of slavery to the modern times. They, hence,form a good resource for studying issues related to race and ethnicrelations because they provide in-depth information. They havedeployed the idea of bodily captivity and theft to shed light on thelegacies of racialized slavery in the U.S. history and oncontemporary social relations.
Coates,Ta-Nehisi. Betweenthe World and Me.Melbourne, Vic. The Text Publishing Company, 2015. Web.
Gay,Roxane.An Untamed State.London: Corsair, 2015. Print.