Injustices based on racial discrimination and gender bias in a democratic country sounds weird and hard-to-believe. However, what history has witnessed proves what nobody wants to hear or believe. This analytical research paper addresses grave issues concerning racial discrimination and gender bias pertaining to black vs. white and the related causes for the World War II as well as the prejudices that led to the Civil Rights Movement. Thus, the paper revolves around the popular poem “Mending Wall” by Robert Frost, addressing the issue of the racial conflict between blacks and whites in America. Poems by Langston Hughes will also be incorporated in the paper to better explain the black experiences before the WWII and Civil Rights Movement. The Works Cited appends seven sources in MLA format.
Among many renowned literary figures that understood the cost that the world is paying for racial prejudices and the rebellious nature that took birth from the roots of racial injustices and discriminations considering the experiences of all the minorities especially the black living in the United States, Robert Lee Frost, one of the America’s top poets, trough his poetry made fruitful attempts in spreading the much-needed awareness among the masses regarding the catastrophes connected to black white discrepancies. Born in San Francisco in 1874, Frost wrote, “a few poems it will be hard to get rid of” (Robert Frost). Among those few but unforgettable poems, “Mending Walls” was the first poem out of the sixteen noteworthy poetic pieces that was published in 1914 in Frost’s first book, North of Boston (Frost: Five Poems). Composing this narrative and spectacular monologue, Frost has considerably contributed audaciously as well as skillfully to the burning issue of racial disparity among the blacks and the whites. He believes in “saying one thing in terms of another” (Frost: Essay Questions), a quality that is highly evident throughout the Mending Wall, which he has used to address the racial inequality in America regarding blacks and whites.
The “wall” in the poem serves as the humanly created barrier, as Marion Montgomery observes, “barriers were a major theme in his poetry, barriers between man and God, man and nature, man and man. Man is continually engaged in erecting or destroying them” (Frost: Essay Questions). Hence, through the description of wall that stands between the narrator that is Frost and his illogical, self-centered neighbor, the poet provides inkling towards the attitude of whites towards the blacks surviving the coldness of the wintry America. Frost paints a very close-to-reality picture of Black life in America before, during and after the War World II and the Civil rights Movements. He vehemently objects to the physical, social and psychological barriers like “walls” that have been built by mankind, by the people who consider themselves superior in comparison of the minorities on the inhuman, ignorant grounds of color, creed, caste or race, when the poet says in the poem “There where it is we do not need the wall, He is all pine and I am apple orchard, My apple trees will never get across, And eat the cones under his pines,” (Mending Wall) thereby questioning the barriers that men have put up against their fellow men, which blocks their perception and holds them back from distinguishing good from bad, right from wrong, prejudiced from fair and the barriers that isolate one human from another on grounds of race distinction, creating false notions, agony, dissatisfaction among various classes and contempt for each other that has in past led to civil rights movements and international wars.
These barriers gave way to injustices like lynching, public mutilation and burning of blacks and race mutiny that the history witnessed before and after the World War II when records suggest that “primarily the victims were Black males who were often mutilated, shot and beaten before being burned on pyres. Mob lynchings were a common form of death for young Black men. The idea that most of these men were charged with the rape of white women is a false one. Their alleged crimes were numerous: using offensive language; bad reputation; refusal to give up a farm; throwing stones; unpopularity; slapping a child; and stealing hogs to name a few” (America After Slavery). Moreover, blacks and whites were made to attend different schools with whites having access to all the facilities that blacks could only wish for, blacks and whites were forbidden to marry, blacks were also not permitted to use “train cars, toilets and lunch counters,” segregation coupled with inequality were made legal (Tricia). One of the most evident example of black white disparities is that of World War II wherein the army officials did everything to segregate all armed black men serving their country from their fellow white men rather than unify them as a single cohesive fighting force. The blacks felt more hurt, more cheated and mortified after the war. This intense agony brought by the black white disparity resulted in Civil Rights Movement. As Kim Munholland outs it: “The experience of war… began to take a bit of a hammer to segregation,” he said. “It was a humiliating experience, but it was a transforming experience, too…. They experienced discrimination, but they served their country well – heroically even – despite the prejudice they faced” (Chuck: 04B).
Hence, the white supremacy prevailed in it’s worst form decades ago when white men did not bother knowing what they were “walling in” and “walling out,” as the poet in Mending Wall inquires from his neighbor thereby shedding light on the need to realize the significance of equality among races on the grounds of humanity alone, the need to ask oneself as “to whom I was like to give offence,…”before I built a wall.” Similar to blacks when they tried to raise their voices against white supremacy and racial discrimination, whites turned their lives into nightmares, when the poet refused to help his neighbor built the wall again, the ignorant neighbor brought a stone grasped firmly by the top, In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed” and “moved in darkness” implying that it is the dark light of ignorance that has engulfed the minds of the American white men and deeply engrossed in their own world without weighing the pros and cons of what their ancestors did, falling in their footsteps, just like the neighbor in Frost’s poem did, “He will not go behind his father’s saying, And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors” are creating bigger gaps and the more the black dreams are procrastinated, the greater will be the explosion, that gave birth to Civil Rights Movement and that has been best explained by Langston Hughes in his poem Dreams Deferred in the following words: (Dreams Deferred)
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up?
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
Like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Hence, the above poem also reminds the world that there might be another explosion if world’s power does not put an end to black oppression, traces and episodes of which can still be observed in every day situations. Apart from Hughes and Frost, there are other poets like Toomer in the poem “Blood Burning Moon” and Floyd in his poem “The Wall,” who have raised their voices against black repression and white preeminence. Hence, blacks have yet to reap benefits from the so-called American democracy!
Robert Frost (1874-1963). Available at http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/robertfrost/(October 31, 2002)
Frost, “Poetry Of Robert Frost: Five Poems From North Of Boston,” Monarch Notes, 01-01-1963
Frost, “Poetry Of Robert Frost: Essay Questions, Criticism,” Monarch Notes, 01-01-1963.
America After Slavery: From Lynchings to White Riots.” Available at http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/Classroom/9912/lynchingera.html (October
Tricia, Chapter 1: Segregation and Discrimination Against Blacks in the South., The March on Washington: 1963, 10-01-1996.
Chuck H, “Even at war, black soldiers were separate and unequal,” Minneapolis Star Tribune, 05-28-1995, pp 04B.
Dreams Deferred. Available at http://www.plagiarist.com/poetry/?wid=2439(October 31, 2002)
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