Rewriting Possibility: 86%
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 sass’s, a time when racism respired.
At this time in history people faced extreme prejudice based on the color of their skin. Though slavery had been abolished almost eighty years prior, the repercussions of the concept of an inferior race prevailed. Racism is arguable the biggest social issue in A Lesson Before Dying, and this racism holds down the Black people of Bayonne, and makes them believe that they are indeed inferior, and that nothing will change for them. Gaines portrays this racism through Grant’s struggles as a teacher, the way the Judiciary system treats Jefferson and through the colored people of Bayonets daily lives.
The novel takes place in the town of Bayonne, Louisiana in the sass’s, a horrible setting for African Americans. Grant assesses that there Is a “Catholic church uptown for Blacks, and a Catholic church downtown for Whites” (25). Though slavery has been outlawed, segregation Is still a major Issue for the people. Their facilities are inferior to those of the White people, and often times are completely decrepit. Additionally, the Black people of the town face prejudice in almost everything they do. When Grant went to deliver food to Jefferson, for instance, he sheriff searches the bags of food (70).
Grant Is only trying to perform a good deed by delivering the food, not to mention tutoring Jefferson, yet he is treated like a criminal. Additionally, Jefferson is not allowed utensils in the jail, and is forced to eat his meals like the “hog” the White people believe he is (70). This proves that not only do the White people believe he Is a “hog” or less than human; they believe he should be forced to act like an animal. 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 rated 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 fled” (36). Even though slavery had been abolished almost a century prior, the Black children were still deprived of a proper 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 child to put the chalk down for deed have to buy new supplies with his own money if he was to run out (36). Dry.
Joseph, the school superintendent, also only visits the Black children’s schools once a year, whereas he visits the White schools twice (53). When Doctor Joseph attempts to compliment Grant on his teaching style, he comments that Grant has “an excellent crop of students”, which again classifies the Black individuals as less than people (56). This could also be Doctor Joseph attempting to speak in a language Grant can relate to, the language of slavery, which is obviously innately racist and humiliating these vents and conversation, Gaines communicates that the education system is highly flawed in Bayonne, Louisiana.
Racism in Bayonne, however, goes far past everyday segregation and abuse of power. Foremost, in the trial of Jefferson, his court appointed lawyer chooses to portray him as a “hog” or a man unaware of his actions and implications of these actions. The lawyer suggests he would “Just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this,” suggesting that Jefferson life has no more value than that of an animal. This serves to show the reader Just how horrible the racism is n Bayonne. The lawyer then argues that Jefferson is so ignorant that he is not even a human and “what Justice would there be to take his life” (5).
Rather than to argue that Jefferson is innocent, he decides to portray him as an animal, too stupid to recognize his own actions. Though the lawyer is obviously attempting to get him off, he only serves to humiliate Jefferson and the Black community. His futile attempts may have proved to be adequate if not for the fact that the Jury still did not listen and sentenced Jefferson to death for being Black. Even more than this, the Jury only notations twelve white men (2), who obviously do not provide an accurate sample for the town of Bayonne.
It is incredibly ironic that White people are to Judge the trial of a Black man who has been prosecuted because of other White people The legal system is designed to protect one’s rights and bring balance to a society, but in the novel, injustice lies within this system. A Lesson Before Dying personifies racism through the way White people speak to colored people and the unjust treatment bestowed upon them. Ernest E. Gaines wrote this novel in order to show the clear separation of rights between Black and White individuals.