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Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston

Sweat by Zora Neale Hurston, an interesting short story that discussed the vileness of a physically and mentally abusive relationship between two individuals. This story also attempted to and succeeded in discussing the idea of retribution and karma. I found this story very interesting and it was something that I was able to follow. Something that Zora Neale Hurston does within her stories is be able to take dialogue from the time period, dialogue that for the average individual would be difficult to decipher and read. But for many black Americans this dialogue is exactly what we have grown up hearing, and it adds a sense of relatability to her stories. 

            The relationship between Delia and Sykes can be described as violent, and hateful. On many occasions through this story, he calls Delia names that can be labeled as degrading and hurtful. Even though they have been together for 15 years, you would think that there would be a sense of closeness and love between the two. But unfortunately for those 25 years Sykes has taken all of Delia’s love, and her ambition for their relationship and crushed it. He ridicules her by calling her a nigger woman, saying that she is too skinny, and unlovable, he even takes up with other women. A powerful statement made in this story was that Sykes simply “Made no room for her. [Delia]” However, Sykes did not take away her strength. She understands that she is the sole provider of the home and she has her own business to manage. The strength that we see in Delia, allowed me as the reader to hope that she may see peace and happiness one day.

            A common theme that we discussed this semester is the idea of retaliation or retribution. I knew when reading this story that Delia would soon find her retribution for the cruel and hard treatment she faced from her husband. Especially after he decided to torment her by placing a snake in their home. Sooner rather than later we finally see that his sick ways would be cut to an end after Sykes gets bitten by the snake, and we can assume that he has died. Something that I noticed during this part of the story was the way the sun was coming up, not only to symbolize a new day had arrived, but I also took it as a symbol of a way to say that a new life was beginning for Delia. One that she truly deserved.   

American Son – Racial Inequality in the eyes of the Law.

The Film “American Son”, tackles the major themes of racism, injustice and police brutality, by telling the story of an interracial couple, who find themselves stricken with worry, over the fact that their 18-year-old son is missing. The mother, named Ellis Connor, wakes up one night and realizes her son, Jamal never came home, which is unusual behavior for him. She attempts to contact him through his cell phone and he doesn’t answer. She decides to call the police and inevitably heads to the police station, and then calls the child’s father. 

            Once she arrives at the police station she is met with an officer who is blatantly rude, as well as dismissive of the problem.  Refuses to give her any information regarding the case and fails to even try to hide the prejudice’s he has in front of the worried mother. She is suspicious of the officer’s true intentions and assumes that the color of her skin is the underlying factor that is resulting in his obscene behavior. Something that black women in America know all too well.  I felt especially drawn to the story of the mother within this film. Portrayed by Kerry Washington, she played the role of a black mother, frustrated by the inability of the world to listen to her words and take them seriously. We still live in a world in which this scenario continues to get played out. Black people, not just women, within the criminal justice system, or when having ANY interaction with law enforcement find themselves, being demeaned and overlooked. Have their truths be turned away and unheard because of the systematic racism that still runs through the veins of this country. In a way, this story relates to Harper Lee’s to kill a Mockingbird. The parallel between the characters of Tom Robinson and Ms. Ellis Connor, is hard to miss. Major themes that have been displayed in both bodies of work include, the presence of inequality at the social and legal stage. No, these characters do not share the same story but their struggles are similar. Both having to fight to have their truths believed by the public. Both experiencing symptoms of the generational trauma against black American’s. Over 50 years apart. 

            Once the father arrives, the police officer mistakes him for the lead investigator because Jamal’s father is white. Before he realizes he begins to spill out information regarding the case that he purposely, refused to disclose to Jamal’s mother. This is where the film begins to highlight and contrast how the criminal justice system treats white people versus how they treat black people. It becomes clearly apparent that the two parents of Jamal have plenty of disagreements over how their son should be raised and how the world may view their bi-racial child.  Mr. Conner associates Jamal’s disappearance to the fact that he has begun to embrace his black roots. By hanging around other black kids, and wearing cornrows, Mr. Connor thinks that “Ghetto hair and hanging with black delinquents is a big risk.” But Mrs. Ellis Connor describes their son Jamal’s behavior as attempting to figure out who he is, and making sense of being surrounded constantly by white people. She describes an incident in which Jamal explains to her that he feels as if he is the “face of the race.”  The people around him look to him as the only black boy in the room. The poster child for all of their questions, and all of their glares. People who do not share the same lineage, traits or struggles. Something that I often times face, being a black woman at a PWI. Whenever the discussion is brought to race, I have to look around and see that everyone is already staring at me. For anyone, this can be especially hard. It makes you feel as if you are an outsider, it makes you feel like, the world looks at you as this object, and not a person with feelings. Jamal’s father however, does not understand this concept and decides that this is just some “Victimhood Psychobabble”, projected at him by his mother Mrs. Ellis Connor. He does not see his son as a black male, he does everything in his power to not see the color of his son’s skin. But he fails to realize, that not seeing Jamal’s color of skin, is to not see Jamal for who he is, a black male. 

            Unfortunately for Mr. and Mrs. Connor, their worst fears were realized when the true investigator of the case, comes and explains that Jamal was involved in a traffic stop gone wrong. He had been with two other black males, who both had warrants out for their arrest. When asked to get out of the car and wait in the rain, Jamal made one critical false move. His movement away from the car caused the officer to shoot Jamal in the head, instantly killing him.  This story is the ending that many black Americans will face and have faced in this country, and even the world. It is a story that truly depicts the actions of law enforcement, as well as the fears of the parents of those who have begun to be entangled within the criminal justice system. 

Gerardo – Toxic Masculinity

Death & The Maiden followed the story of a woman named Paulina who after escaping from being a political prisoner, believes that her husband has picked up the doctor who played a role in her being subjected to torture and torment within her imprisonment. Paulina then decides to take “justice” into her own hands by holding her own form of a trial for her captor, named Roberto. Her husband Gerardo disapproved of her tactics from the very beginning and attempted to convince his wife to release the man who he doesn’t believe was her actual captor. 

One major theme that I observed while reading this story was the unwillingness of Paulina’s husband, to simply believe his wife. From the beginning, when Paulina says to Gerardo that Roberto is the Doctor from her time spent being a political prisoner, he immediately dismisses her case by saying that “You’re Sick.” Knowing that Paulina suffered from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder and is not fully at terms with it, I found that very abusive in nature. As a married couple, I feel that it is very detrimental to the relationship to be so dismissive of your partners feelings, especially after going through a traumatic experience like the one that Paulina experienced. 

            As an individual within the judicial system and a member of the justice commission, one would assume that Gerardo would have the skills to be able to separate his emotions and be impartial enough to listen to Paulina, instead of instantly dismissing Paulina’s point of view. But when it came to Gerardo, he had the decency to treat him with respect, and listened to his point of view. “I’d rather speak to you as if you were a client, Doctor Miranda. That will help me out.” Gerardo said. But would not have those same intentions with his wife. Gerardo’s actions very accurately depicted the concept of toxic masculinity. It is this concept that is harmful to women in more ways than one, and in the case of Paulina could have been very detrimental. 

Haitian Constitution

After close comparison of the Constitution of The United States, to the Imperial Constitution of Haiti of 1805, I felt that the Haitian constitution had great intentions for what they wanted to be the outcome of their country. Due to the language and content of the of the articles listed it is very clear that the Haitians were tired of French and imperialism influence within their country. The Haitians wanted to evoke drastic change in order to ensure that they would never be put in the position of being subordinate in their own country again, and even went as drastic as to say within their declaration of independence that they would chose death over not being allowed to have their freedom. 

One of the articles that I would like to point out that caught my attention was Article 9. “Nobody deserves to be Haitian who is not a good father, a good son, a good husband, and, above all, a good soldier.” This article coupled with Article 10 “Fathers and Mothers cannot disinherit their children”, I feel that this shows that Haitians attempt to have a strong family dynamic along with their values. I think that these are important and attempt to shed light on their culture. Along with their strong family values this document also shows how they felt toward French imperialists and ways in which they could tackle their rule within this country. 

The United States constitution does not have articles that discuss family values and I think that that definitely shows what we value as a country. It also shows what was important to us at the time of us creating this country. We were worried about foreign rule in a similar way Yes but our founding fathers were not being enslaved, and being stolen from. They were doing the enslaving and stealing and wrote the constitution so that those rights would not be taken away from them. There are similarities between the two constitutions but it shows that the warfare and imperialism within the country of Haiti was not the same as the United states reasoning for the creation of the country. 

The Property of Whiteness

In “The Property of Whiteness, Cheryl Harris, brings into discussion how the system of expansion and the transatlantic slave trade, was fueled by the overall growing incompetence to control the white labor force. This system created an institution that led to the permanent socioeconomic status of black people within this country as well as the dismantling of the entire Native American land and culture. To be white or the idea of “whiteness”, is to have the wealth and privilege to be able to go somewhere, take land, and people, and call them your property. 

White individuals within this country have stolen lands and people and used them for their own gain and profit and this is what Harris wants us to understand. This country was not based on the principles that everyone has rights but that only certain individuals have certain rights, and they may use those rights in order to subordinate an entire group of people. These “rights” are what has kept white people in a position of power for hundreds of years, because they made sure that the establishment of the law would work in their favor. 

The idea of Whiteness being property is to understand that being white, benefits you financially, socially, and overall in all aspects of life. But, the term of “Blackness” has zero positive connotation to it. To go out in society and seen as white, you have a clean slate, white a world full of opportunity at your feet whether you realize it or not, but to be black it means to constantly be aware of your surroundings, knowing that as soon as you leave your doorstep you will viewed differently and there is nothing you can do about it. To know that you will have to work 10 times as hard as your non poc counterparts but receive not nearly as much credit.