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Racism in Cullen's Incident and Soyinka's Telephone Conversation Essay

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Racism in Cullen's Incident and Soyinka's Telephone Conversation

 

The poem  "Incident," by Countee Cullen, deals with the effect racism has on a young black child vacationing in Baltimore.  The child is mistreated by a white child and disturbed in his innocence so much that after spending seven months in Baltimore, this is all he remembers.  A different poem,  "Telephone Conversation, " by Wole Soyinka, also deals with this issue, but from a different perspective.  In this poem a man is trying to rent an apartment but the owner of the complex doesn’t want him to move in because he is African.  She asks him  "How dark?   Are you light / Or very dark?. "  Each black person in their respective poems deals with the prejudice in the best way they know how.  The way they handle it shines a light on the strength and wisdom gained, while casting a negative light on the ignorance broadcast from the racist people.

 

In America at the time  "Incident"  takes place, people were very much againstthe black population.  This was also the case in England where  "Telephone Conversation  takes place, only not as much so.  The white child in  Incident  has obviously been taught to hate or look down on this race of people.  He will probably grow up to be as closed-minded and ignorant as the woman in  "Telephone Conversation."   It is probable that the woman in  "Telephone Conversation"  was taught this from her youth as well, although the poem doesn t specify this.  It is also possible that it is a decision she made on her own.  She is older, however, and should know better.  The black man in ...


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...e and identity insulted is a horrible thing, but to be able to stand strong inside yourself and know who you are is true strength and displays a sense of true wisdom.  Though the young boy in  "Incident" couldn't realize this at his young age, it can be assumed that he eventually did and became confident enough to write about it.    These two poems show a chronology of strength and wisdom gained from the black child through the black man, and also a chronology of ignorance and racism gained from the white child through the white woman.  These poems fit together greatly and each intends to send the same message, only from different perspectives.  A great message about strength in one's own identity can be gained from reading each individually, but if you read them together you can really see the importance of the message intended.



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