People usually face lots of choices in life. Some of the choices that they can decide by themselves, but some of the choices that already made for them. Identity is a decision that has already been made for one person when he or she was born. However, identity can exist in different ways, and it also can form by various influences. Black people’s living environment, historical and cultural background can influence their identities.
Thus, identities are a kind of property that can lead black people to know themselves and each other.
In this term paper, I will discuss how identity is important for black people, and how identity becomes the roots that will lead them to have enough nutrients to live better in life. By the examples of the “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”, “Autobiography of Malcolm X”, “On the Job”, “The Other Wes Moore’, and the “Sometimes, A Motherless Child”, I will discuss the identity by following points, racism, community environment, and family.
In this section, I will discuss the first supporting evidence which is racism. From the article “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”, Beverly Daniel Tatum refers to an identity. Tatum thinks that a person’s identity is important for them because it will lead them to have different life values to live in a society. An example of this is “A young Black Woman attending a desegregated school to which she was bussed was encouraged by a teacher to attend the upcoming school dance.
” (Tatum 363). For that black woman, she’s racism inevitably results in so-called self-segregation, so when the teacher said that “You people” which made her embarrassed. From different angles, we will have different views.
For the white teacher, he was a nice guy who just wanted to invite everyone to join the school dance. However, the black woman or the people who have the same racism as her may feel that they are distinguished by the different identities. It’s easy to understand when people look at problems with tinted glasses, they will not find the truth; so that the problems will become more serious. Thus, everyone living in the same society should face problems in fairness, whatever who they are, what identities or racism with each other.
The article “Autobiography of Malcolm X”also relates to Identity. Since Elijah Muhammad preached that black people had been left out of the history books, Malcolm searches the library for books about black history. And he finds and devours them. An example of this is “In my own case, once I heard of the “glorious history of the black man,” I took special pains to hunt in the library for books that would inform me on details about black history.” (Malcolm X 174). Muhammad wrote that white’s whitened history which made Malcolm wanted to know more about the black people, so he then begins reading to discover other civilizations besides white ones. He also begins reading about slavery and what blacks went through. Then Malcolm reads about what whites did to other nonwhite nations, about the civilizations of Africa, of the British colonization of India and the Chinese opium wars. The different racism between black and white lead Malcolm to have an ideological division between black and white. In this way, he also gets a clear identity of himself.
The community environment has a lot of influences for black people so that this factor creates an identity for them. The community environment is one part of lives that have a significant impact on black people because they cannot control what hardships they have to face, what things will happen, and even what kind of person around them. From the different situations that they have experienced, they might have various life values and various principles in their life.
The book “The Other Wes Moore” illustrates the different consequences of two black kids. Although two people have the same name, the different living environment makes them different lives. Furthermore, it’s hard to understand Tony’s anger at Wes. Even though he tried to guide Wes down the right way at the beginning, he eventually gave up. Since Wes lost himself and his principle in life. Tony dealt with drugs himself, but he was angry with Wes to do the same thing as him. Tony’s behavior is evidence to explain that Tony knew what is right and what is wrong, and he didn’t want his younger brother to become another version of himself.
And for Wes, who looked up to Tony and wished to emulate him, so Tony’s principle was his principle. Because of the strained relationship with Tony, the other Wes is left alone to figure out how to move forward. While this could have turned him into an opportunity to revalue his decisions and get out of the game, Wes did not have a chance to reflect. The desire of $4,000 back immediately that also made him completely lose himself. What Tony and Wes did wrong not only because they did not make a correct choice, also because they did not go through their efforts to adhere to the right principle. On the other hand, the author Wes was sent to military school seemed somewhat drastic, but gradually grew up. At first, Wes misunderstood by the society around him, so he was back on the streets spray-painting his tag once again. Furthermore, Wes attempted to run away, but Sergeant Austin was genuinely trying to help him which gave Wes the emotional support. Therefore, Wes made a change and realized what policy he should follow.
Instead of having to decide between making responsible or irresponsible choices, he had to obey the rules, which made him from his principle in the future. Although it’s hard to change the community environment; the way to make a difference requires them to have strict demands on themselves and to adhere to the principles of their lives. It’s true that everyone has a unique destiny, but nobody has an easy life. As what appears in the book, these two Wes Moore experienced lots of hardships in life; however, the factors shaped them just because of the external experiences and the inevitable destiny. Black people cannot choose their fate, but their attitude towards the future that determines everything. Thus, the important thing for black people to control their destiny is to turn these external factors into their internal motivation.
Identity is the way that leads black people to manage their life. If blacks want to change their destiny, the most important thing is to change themselves. In the same situation, different people will make different choices, just like these two Wes Moore. Sometimes, black people cannot control their identities because of historical background, environment, and others’ views. However, when black people can change their attitude and try to adjust to the environment, they will also make different changes. Life can bring either laughter or pains, but the real happiness in life is to create hope and a positive attitude for the future. The story of two Wes Moore tells that black people can’t decide their identity but can decide how to control and correct their life directions.
In this part, I will discuss families that can influence black people’s identity. In the essay “On the Job” as the following shows “We were about eight years old, my brother, Vince, and I when we went to a public swimming pool in a park in East Chicago. We took a black kid with us.” (Terkel 281). From this experience, it’s easy to figure out why Gutierrez doesn’t have prejudice with black people, and he doesn’t separate people by their colors. Gutierrez was influenced by his family when he was young, so he doesn’t think that he should live away from black people; conversely, he states “It’s got nothing to do with color; it’s got a lot to do with personality.” (Terkel 282).
He has a deep faith to believe that the difference between each person are their personalities rather than their colors, and he thinks everyone should get along with each other by standing at the same point and level. Gutierrez’s family teaches him how to identify himself and others. On the other hand, the story “Sometimes, A Motherless Child” illustrates that the society and family have lots of influences for one person, and both of them can influence one person’s identity. When the kid pointed at the colored fella, dad; the colored fells is who took my bike. (Clarke 34).
Through the mainstream media, it’s not hard to understand why a white kid had prejudice with black people; even though he was very young, he already separated people by their colors. The social phenomenon influenced children when they were young so that a white kid had a deep faith to think that he was different from black people, the influences from society and family led to his cognitive bias against black and white people.
From the book “The Other Wes Moore”, there also have some descriptions of family issues around Wes. Mary, Wes’s mother, who has very complicated thoughts and education problems for her son. On the one hand, Mary wants to believe Wes. On the other hand, she cannot ignore what Tony said to her. She had been struggling for a long time, and she decided to believe Wes. However, it’s hard to figure out what is the right behavior when a mother makes some decisions for her son because of love. The saddest thing about Wes is the contrast between how much he has changed personally and how little the environment around him ever has changed. Wes has responsibility for his choice and behavior, but his mother should think about why her son has this bad ending. Usually, some parents cannot find a good way to educate their kids so that the children lose the right guidance. As time passed, it’s not easy for Mary to blame her son when Wes made the wrong choice since Wes already grew up. However, Mary keeps silent and turns a blind eye which made Wes lose his identity.
From this Term paper, we learn that the racism, community environment, and family under the black culture literature can influence black people’s values of themselves and identities. In summary, the article “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” Beverly Daniel Tatum informs us that people cannot identify black and white by other’s racism. Moreover, in the article “Autobiography of Malcolm X ”, Malcolm tells how he educated himself to figure out the identity between black and white so that he has his own identity and values of life.
The book “The Other Wes Moore,” tells that being children does not protect the author Wes and the other Wes from having to deal with challenges and issues in life, such as drug crime, gang violence, and police brutality. Both of them are forced to deal with tough and dangerous situations, but they make several choices so that they have different life principles and identities. The environment around these two Wes would force them to grow up fast, even if they were not yet emotionally ready to do so. These two of Wes’s experiences illustrate that the community environment may be hard to change, but the correct identity will lead to the shape of the right values of life. The article “On the Job” tells that identity is important for black people to understand people around them, and family has lots of influence on black people to judge correct directions of life. And the story of “Sometimes, A Motherless Child” examines the relationships between racial discrimination, family neglect, and black masculinity at a time when the white-dominated every societal structure.
Furthermore, from “Sometimes, A Motherless Child”, the story provides some of the events that led to increased discrimination of the minority blacks and subjected them to a lot of pain and trauma. Some of the violence cases that the novel details show a picture of painful moments for the blacks. It has been able to look at the various connotations of society and how the designs outlined have influenced the decisions made by family and community.
In this term paper, I discussed how identity is important for black people. From “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”, “Autobiography of Malcolm X”, “On the Job”, “The Other Wes Moore’, and the “Sometimes, A Motherless Child”, which materials proved my thesis. In these essays, the authors both talk about identities. From these examples, we know how important the identities are for black people under the culture literature.
There are lots of factors that can influence black people’s identities, like racism, community environment, and family. Moreover, there may be other factors that also can influence black people’s identities, such as the cultural background. For lots of black people, they are influenced by their culture so that they inherit their culture in life. But the most important thing for them is that black people can find their own life identity by making proper choices rather than just copy their culture and repeat the bad things again. Thus, racism, community environment, and family provide a sense of identities, and there is still a long way for black people to explore and expand the values of life under the black literature and culture.