Susanna Rogers Professor Redding English 1102 18 June 2012 “Brownies,” by Z. Z. Parker: Racism in Youth American has a long history of people striving to gain social equality in this big melting pot of a country. For years countless African Americans hard fought for their freedom, and over time they eventually achieved what they so-longed for. The thirteenth amendment was established in December of 1865 and all African Americans gained the freedom that they always longed for, but with this freedom came some issues. Many white people in America were very uncomfortable with the freedom of black people and began to display racist behavior towards them. In the story, “Brownies” by Z. Z. Packer, a pattern of racism is revealed. Packer writes a story about a group of fourth grade girls at “Brownie” camp, called Camp Crescendo. During their time at camp, these girls regularly express racist behavior, especially towards the white girls of Troop 909. Due to their past experiences with racism, the Brownies from Packer’s story often in-turn exhibit racist and prejudice behavior towards society around them. One their bus ride home from camp, some of the girls were sharing stories when Laurel, the narrator, gets the courage to share one of her own stories, ““He said,” I began, only then understanding the words as they uncoiled from my mouth, “it was the only time he’d have a white man on his knees doing something for a black man for free” (Packer 372). Laurel tells the girls about a time that her dad got a white family to do him a favor. She tells the girls about a time she was with her father at the mall and spotted an odd looking family, “These were white people dressed like Puritans or something, but they weren’t Puritans. They were Mennonites” (Packer 371). Laurel proceeded to explain to the other girls the significance of the Mennonite religion, explaining to them how it is one of the Mennonites’ primary rules to accept when someone asks them for a favor. Because of this “rule”, Laurel’s father took his encounter as an opportunity to get a white family to do a chore for his black family, something practically unheard
of at this time in American history. When telling her story, Laurel begins to understand the reasoning behind her fathers actions and does not like what she encounters. Thinking back to the day she watched the Mennonites bending down to paint her porch, she remembered the way Daphne had bent down to clean the restroom at camp. As she began to tie the two instances together, her father’s racist actions became clearer and she did not like it. Many of the girls in Laurel’s troop displayed very similar behavior to Laurel’s father throughout the story. Packer reveals the racist behavior of Arnetta and some of the other girls in Laurel’s troop when coming in counter with the girls in Troop 909. Troop 909, consisted of a group of young, white girls, in which Packer describes with complexions being “a blend of ice cream: strawberry, vanilla” (359). Walking past the girls of Troop 909, Arnetta began to complain, “ “Man, did you smell them?” Arnetta said, giving the girls a slow once-over, “They smell like Chihuahuas. Wet Chihuahuas” (Packer 359). Arnetta and her best friend Octavia would continue to make fun of the girls in Troop 909 until Mrs. Hedy, Octavia’s mother and the girls’ leader, stopped them. For no particular reason, Arnetta and Octavia find the need to taunt the white girls, exhibiting extremely racist behavior in the process. Although these girls are young, they have clearly been influenced by society in a way that simply the appearance of the white girls in Troop 909 reveals feelings of bitterness for Arnetta and Octavia. Arnetta and Octavia seem to constantly be searching for reasons to pick on the girls of Troop 909. One day at camp, Arnetta and Octavia suddenly claim that some girls in Troop 909 called Daphne the “n” word. Although this most likely did not happen, most of the girls in Laurel’s troop instantly believe them. The girls make a plan to beat up the girls in Troop 909 by sneaking up on them in the bathroom one night, when they know both troops will be unsupervised. Parker acknowledges the troops’ mutual feelings of bitterness towards the white girls when informing the reader that no one except for Daphne and Laurel attempt to stay out of the “big fight”. Due to their past experiences with racism, many of the Brownies from Parker’s story exhibit racist behavior towards society around them. At the end of the story, Laurel tells the story about her father
asking the Mennonites to do him a favor for no reason other than to see a white man on his knees for a black man. This shows that the girls’ parents could be the reasoning behind some of the girls’ racist behavior. Throughout the story, girls from Laurel’s troop express racism towards the white girls of Troop 909, which they could have learned from their parents, or others in society.
Works Cited Packer, Z. Z. “Brownies.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature: Reading, Thinking, Writing. Ed. Thibault, Sweeney, and Naudin. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. 373. Print.
Susanna Rogers Professor Redding English 1102 11 June 2012 Article Critique: Being a Minority in the Nineteenth Century The World’s Columbian Exposition was a large fair, held in Chicago in 1893, to celebrate the four-hundredth anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in America. During the time of this epic fair, America was undergoing some great changes in the history of our country. The Civil War had recently ended and many critical changes and movements were taking place in the United States. Two of these essential movements were the abolition slavery and the women’s rights movement. Both events brought about changes that are still relevant in American society today. In the article “Fixing Race: Visual Representations of African Americans at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893,” Bridget R. Cooks discusses the common issue of racism due to the recent abolition of slavery, while Susan E. Searing draws attention to the Women’s Rights Movement in her article, “Women in the White City”. In each article, both authors draw awareness to a group of Americans trying to gain equality, highlight the importance of literature during this time period, and exhibit creativity in expressing the controversial feelings regarding their subjects. Though examining two completely different groups of people in their articles, Cooks and Searing both explore each group’s constant struggle for equality in America. In the article, “Fixing Race: Visual Representations of African Americans at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893,” Cooks recognizes the rising issue of racism in America during this time. Being recently freed from the bondages of slavery, countless African Americans were
striving to gain their equality in America, which made many white people very uncomfortable. In the article, the author writes about a cartoon series, released in the Harper’s Weekly during the time of the Chicago World’s Fair. The cartoons were called “The Johnson Family” and were created by Peter Newell to express the common uneasiness of whites regarding the rising equality of black people in this time. In this article, Cooks describes the significance of Newell’s cartoon series, “However, the Johnson family cartoons are remarkable because they are the only racist images in the issues of Harper’s Weekly in which they appear, highlighting the importance of their message that African Americans were an unwanted presence at an event that served to solidify America’s national identity” (436). Though black people were now legally free in America, most white people were very bitter towards the growing equality of black people. Both Cook and Searing’s articles are alike in that each article includes the rising equality of previously neglected groups. In the article, “Women in the White City,” Searing dissects the fight for equality among women during the time of the Chicago World’s Fair. She shares her knowledge of the Women’s Building and the collection of literary achievements held in the library. The Women’s Building was a huge establishment for women at this time, “Never before had a library been assembled for the express purpose of showcasing women's literary achievements” (Searing). Each article highlights the fight towards equality amongst these two groups of very strong-willed people. Both Searing and Cooks emphasize the importance of literature during the time of the World’s Columbian Exposition in their articles. Up until this time period, literature was society’s primary way of expression. In the article, “Women in the White City,” Searing illustrates the essential use of literature in the Women’s Building Library and the hard work put forth to establish such an inspiring collection, “Committees of clubwomen in nearly every state of the
Union identified female authors, living and deceased, and shipped copies of their works to Chicago. Many foreign women contributed books as well. The resulting collection topped 8,000 volumes and represented 24 nations. Women librarians, handpicked by Melvil Dewey, were hired to catalog the books and interact with the public.” Cooks also emphasized the importance of literature in his article to reiterate the uneasiness of white people when reflecting on the racist cartoon series, published in Harper’s Weekly. Many white people used literature to voice their racist feelings towards the presence of black people at the Chicago World’s Fair. Both authors clearly highlight the importance of literature during this period in American history. Creativity is displayed in each article, by both Newell, in the creation of “The Jones Family” cartoon series, and by all the honorable women, driven to establish something as remarkable as the Women’s Building. Searing writes about the significance of the Women’s Building, “The Woman's Building and its library stood as shining examples of what women could accomplish.” For a building of this excellence to be created entirely by women was a huge accomplishment for women at this time. Like the women engaged in the creation of the Women’s Building, Newell also had a creative way in expressing the feelings of many white people in America in the late nineteenth century. Newell exemplified creativity in the creation of his cartoon series, where he used cartoons to express the common discomfort of white people regarding the constant presence of blacks in Chicago during the time of the World’s Columbian Exposition. Both authors introduce two creative means of expression within these issues. Both Searing and Cook draw attention to brave groups of Americans, struggling to gain equality, they highlight the importance of literature during the time of the Chicago World’s Fair, and discuss the creativity used by both groups of people in each author’s article. During this time period, both women and African Americans were fighting for their right to social
equality in America. Searing discusses the importance of the Women’s Building at the Chicago World’s Fair and the significance of something as outstanding as the library inside, filled with the achievements of women from all around the world. In Cook’s article, she reveals the feelings of white people regarding the mass presence of black people at the fair. Each authors point out the significance of each group during the time of the World’s Columbian Exposition and the importance of these groups in America, today.
Works Cited Searing, Susan E. “Women in the White City.” American Libraries 43.3/4 (2012): 4445,47. Print. Cooks, Bridget R. “Fixing Race: Visual Representations of African Americans at the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893.” Patterns of Prejudice 4.5 (2007) 435-465. Illustrations.