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Gregory Howard Williams' Life On The Color Line

1005 words - 4 pages

Gregory Howard Williams' Life on the Color Line

Life on the Color Line is a powerful tale of a young man's struggle to reach adulthood, written by Gregory Howard Williams - one that emphasizes, by daily grapples with personal turmoil, the absurdity of race as a social invention. Williams describes in heart wrenching detail the privations he and his brother endured when they were forced to remove themselves from a life of White privilege in Virginia to one where survival in Muncie, Indiana meant learning quickly the cold hard facts of being Black in skin that appeared to be White.      This powerful memoir is a testament to the potential love and determination that can be exhibited despite being on the cusp of a nation's racial conflicts and confusions, one that lifts a young person above crushing social limitations and turns oppression into opportunity.

Williams is defiantly a man of two worlds. In one world he had promise and comfort, in the other he lived in deprivation and repression where one had to work in order to just survive. Williams's recollection of his ?life on the color line? is a unique testimonial of the life of an individual who has walked in both the shoes of a White man and then those of a Black man. His story provides examples of real life experiences and events that can further the research of social psychologists by offering insight into the understanding of many social psychological theories and concepts, such as modern racism, in-group favoritism and confirmation bias just to name a few.

From beginning to end the reader is bombarded with all kinds of racism and discrimination described in horrific detail by the author. His move from Virginia to Indiana opened a door to endless threats of violence and ridicule directed towards him because of his racial background. For example, Williams encountered a form of racism known as modern racism as a student at Garfield Elementary School. He was up to win an academic achievement prize, yet had no way of actually winning the award because ?The prize did not go to Negroes. Just like in Louisville, there were things and places for whites only? (Williams, 126). This form of prejudice is known as modern racism because the prejudice surfaces in a subtle, safe and socially acceptable way that is easy to rationalize.

Another form of racism experienced by the author is blatant racism which is racism directed towards members of the outgroup that is direct and is in no means masked. The mod of white boys who shouted ?Lets get the Niggers? and then continued to follow Carl and Gregory down the block chanting ?Nigger? would be an excellent example of blatant racism. Many other examples of blatant racism were found throughout the book, such as after the basketball game ?the fans threw rotten vegetables, popcorn boxes, and empty Coke cups at us. Then one group near the exit began chanting. ?Niggers!? ?Niggers!? Outside the stadium as we waited for the bus, a small crowd of boys...

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