Essay Lesson Before Dying Racism

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Skindeep Throughout history and in literature, Black has always been portrayed as evil, whereas White has represented purity and light. These oversimplified stereotypes of something so abstract as skin color has plagued our culture with prejudice and hatred. Ernest E. Gaines, author of A Lesson Before Dying, tells the story of a young black boy named Jefferson who is set to die for essentially being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and a schoolteacher who is faced with the task of making him a “man”. The novel takes place in Bayonne, Louisiana in the 1940’s, a time when racism prospered. At this time in history people faced extreme prejudice based on the color of their skin. Though slavery had been abolished almost eighty years…show more content…
Gaines reinforces this stereotype and the horrible way Blacks are treated by portraying White people in this way. The education system in Bayonne was also far from ideal, and Gaines shows the injustices Black children face versus their white peers. The students are forced to get down on their knees to use the benches as desks or do their work in their laps (36). The students are so incredibly disadvantaged that they do not even have desks to write on to do their work, whereas the White children presumably have a well furnished school. This clear distinction between children’s’ learning environments shows just how bad the racism in Bayonne truly was. They are merely innocent children and they are already treated differently from their white peers. Gaines describes Grant’s class to show readers the circumstances of the Black community in comparison to the White school district. Additionally, the school year, according to Grant is only,” five months, and when the children are not needed in the field” (36). Even though slavery had been abolished almost a century prior, the Black children were still deprived of a proper education due to the field work that they were forced to complete. Grant also has to attempt to ration his supplies, because the school board does not give him an adequate amount for the year and at one point tells a
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