Jim Crow] Party at the Square
[Jim Crow} Party at the Square
After the civil war, when slavery ended, and up until the 1930s, a black man's life wasn't worth much in the South. White southerners were tremendously afraid of what ex-slaves (black people) might do to them -- the revenge they might take -- given the chance. A system of law sprang up that was called Jim Crow to control the black population and keep black people from ever gaining any power. Jim Crow laws allowed black men to be lynched on the slightest provocation and sometimes for no reason at all, other than "fun."
Jim Crow laws functioned entirely to keep African-Americans "in their place," that is, at the bottom of the societal heap. Racism was so severe that black people were not really seen as human beings with feelings, hopes, and dreams. The story conveys this in the fact that the man who was burned alive in the story is never called by any name except "the nigger." It is a disturbing story seen through the shocked eyes of a young man fresh down from Cincinnati who is learning how things are done in the South. The story vividly portrays a malignant form of racism in which white people have all the power and black people are victimized and murdered with impunity. The sheriff stands nearby and does nothing to stop the killing.
Whether or not the story should be kept as one of the stories young people read in school is a question of whether or not race relations have improved enough to warrant getting rid of it. In my opinion, the story is about a time that is completely past. Lynchings, which were a ghastly fact of our nation's history, no longer take place in the United States. We should concentrate on the future and what will bring the two races together rather than focusing on the terrible events of the past. A story like Ellison's "A Party at the Square" hinders the process of establishing inter-racial harmony.
An old saying is, "What's done is done," and can't be changed. Most white people regret what their ancestors did and understand the consequences. They wish they could go back and change what happened so that the two races could enjoy better relations now, but as much as they would like to change the past, it is impossible to do so. Our white ancestors certainly don't deserve forgiveness, but African-Americans would be better off they did forgive what happened -- for their own sakes. When people carry around resentment about events that cannot be changed, it uses up a lot of energy that could be devoted to productive activities -- activities that would enrich and satisfy their need to live fulfilling and meaningful lives. The story awakens and fans resentment, and there really is no room in it for forgiveness. At the time it was written, Jim Crow was still going on. The story is a protest against Jim Crow practices, barbaric laws and hateful customs. These no longer exist, so the purpose of the story, which was to destroy them, has been fulfilled. It's time to patch things up and mend the broken fences between us.
What our white ancestors did -- no matter how despicable -- have little to do with what their descendants do today. For example, the great majority of white Americans would never use the word nigger or…