Assimilation of Blacks in Song of Solomon, Push and The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
Our African American texts call for close examination of the status of slaves and subsequent generations of free Blacks, how they fit into American society, and their quest for and denial of the benefits of Americanism. So does one assimilate or resist? But The Melting Pot Theory is not inclusive of Blacks since the process of assimilation could not work its magic on black skin.
In the slave narrative, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, The African, the capture of Africans, their ultimate enslavement in the Americas, the West Indies, and Europe exemplify the assigned inferior status to Blacks in societies of the alien worlds. Blacks have less than their proportionate share of wealth, power, and social status, and are discriminated against by those in the majority. The yoke of slavery did not sanction inclusion, instead it convoluted their status as immigrants or a colonized minority and that sentiment remained a constant. Equiano's race and his life as a seafaring slave narrowed his opportunity of citizenship in a landed community; consequently, he was neither immigrant or colonized. In fact, he was more displaced that ever, sailing under whatever flag happened to be that of his owner/captain. In Song of Solomon and Push the characters are several generations removed from slavery so the question is not whether the position of Blacks is that of immigrant or colonized minority, even though it could appear to be either. More importantly, theirs is the problem of dealing with the ambiguities of being "up from slavery," as the characters come into their own. The subject of assimilation and/or resistance while being forced into a quasi colonization permeates throughout each work.
According to S. Dale McLemore, author of Racial and Ethnic Relations in America blacks were
[an]immigrant" minority in the sense that they had been removed from heir native lands and had entered the host society as a subordinate group, [however] their subordinate position was not regarded as something temporary. They resembled a colonized minority in the sense that they had been physically "conquered and, subsequently, had not been accepted as suitable candidates for full membership in the society of the conquerors. But they were not a conquered people in their own land (311).
Nonetheless, a forced or quasi colonization fostered a partial assimilation. McLemore goes on to point out that even though the slave community could not assimilate under "normal" circumstances there was a forced assimilation in that slaves who survived the Middle Passage were in no condition mentally or physically to object to whatever plans of participation were laid out for them by the dominant culture (40).
In as much as Olaudah Equiano did not understand the condition of slaves in the West...