Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Colonel's Dream: race and ethnicity

The Colonel's Dream The theme of race and ethnicity has featured predominantly in several books and articles written by different authors. The Colonel`s Dream written by Charles Chesnutt provides a setting of post-civil war era in Clarendon town of North Carolina (Chesnutt, 2004). It also briefly features the urban setting of New York. In this book, the author talks about the continued oppression and the racial violence that was prominent in the South after the civil war. The economy of the region was performing poorly and the black people had very limited opportunities of climbing the socioeconomic ladder. The author brings out how black people were treated unfairly by their white counterparts in the South at that time. Colonel Henry French is reported to have faced many difficulties as he tried to bring reforms in the southern town. He was met by violence and unfair resistance from the many racists in the town. The black people were economically isolated and oppressed in Clarendon. Although the South had lost in the civil war, the black people were still not given equal opportunities, fair wages or fair treatment (Chesnutt, 2004). The white people are reported to have had fear of the nigger domination leading to the black oppression. The blacks were only allowed to certain schools in which the conditions were different from those of the whites. The Colonel felt for the black people and he committed himself to improve the racial discrimination in the town. His efforts were however not successful as he met a lot of resistance. He gave up his efforts and returned to New York City to continue with business. This shows how deeply racism was rooted in the southern town of Clarendon. In another article written by Joseph R. Johnson, the author also talks about oppression of the black people. Chapter 8 of the book talks about reconstruction (The making and unmaking of a revolution). The revolution in this article refers to the end of slavery within the United States (Deborah et al, 2013). This is the time when former slaves were set free and they were reorganizing their livelihoods as well as reuniting with their families that had been separated through war and slave sales. The author states that new black communities were constructed and the old were renewed. There were independent black schools, churches and business enterprises. The freed blacks pursued education and they were able to acquire job skills within a decade. Although the former slaves had reorganized themselves, the lack of land prevented them from attaining economic independence. This pushed them into oppressing labor patterns similar to slavery in which they depended on white landowners. Various revolutions put in place to help black people from the south to attain economic stability have always been short-lived causing endless problems (Deborah et al, 2013). The blacks dispersed into various parts of the country to engage in various activities but they always encountered discrimination. This led to the conclusion that the only way blacks could survive is through self-elevation by building strong communities. Ishmael Reed in his 2004 article also wrote about the life history of Charles Chesnutt describing him as a person who fought for the rights of the black people (Ishmael, 2004). He describes Chesnutt as a dedicated writer who was committed to addressing the needs of oppressed people in the society. The theme of racism features predominantly in all novels written by Charles Chesnutt. The book by Stephen Steinberg also talks about the problem of racism. Chapter 3 of the book titled “The reconstruction of black servitude after the civil war” highlights how black people were struggling to reconstruct themselves after the civil war. The author states that although the civil war had brought slavery to an end, the economic functions created by slavery remained (Stephen, n.d). This led to development of compulsory paid labor. The Freedmen`s Bureau contributed greatly to the development of the exploitative surrogate systems which so black people being taken back to work in cotton fields. The blacks were trapped in the south with no capital and land to sustain them. Although the government had a lot of land, none of it was given to the black people. White people were given priority in employment at the northern industry. Considering the whole issue of racism and ethnicity, fiction was greatly used by the white people to oppress the black Americans. The white leaders falsely accused African-Americans as a group of people that cannot do anything on their own unless they are made to do it. They were termed a group of idle Negros which had to be forced to work. This perception was used as a basis for oppression of black people through slavery. The African Americans were not given equal rights as their white counterparts and instead they were forced to do odd jobs at lower wages. They were denied land and other government benefits on the basis of their color. This impacted negatively on the society creating discrimination that is yet to be completely dealt with. References Chesnutt, Charles W., 2004. The Colonel's Dream. Ed. SallyAnn H. Ferguson. New Milford: Toby Press. Print Deborah White et al, 2013. Freedom on my mind: A history of African Americans. Chapter 8 Reconstruction: The making and unmaking of a revolution (1865-1885). Boston: Medford/St. Martins Ishmael Reed, 2004. The Colonel`s dream: Cherles Chesnutt Stephen Steinberg (n.d). The reconstruction of black servitude after the civil war.