Racism in Cullen's Incident and Soyinka's Telephone Conversation
The poem "Incident," by Countee Cullen, deals with the effect racism has on a young black child vacationing in Baltimore. The child is mistreated by a white child and disturbed in his innocence so much that after spending seven months in Baltimore, this is all he remembers. A different poem, "Telephone Conversation, " by Wole Soyinka, also deals with this issue, but from a different perspective. In this poem a man is trying to rent an apartment but the owner of the complex doesn’t want him to move in because he is African. She asks him "How dark? Are you light / Or very dark?. " Each black person in their respective poems deals with the prejudice in the best way they know how. The way they handle it shines a light on the strength and wisdom gained, while casting a negative light on the ignorance broadcast from the racist people.
In America at the time "Incident" takes place, people were very much againstthe black population. This was also the case in England where "Telephone Conversation takes place, only not as much so. The white child in Incident has obviously been taught to hate or look down on this race of people. He will probably grow up to be as closed-minded and ignorant as the woman in "Telephone Conversation." It is probable that the woman in "Telephone Conversation" was taught this from her youth as well, although the poem doesn t specify this. It is also possible that it is a decision she made on her own. She is older, however, and should know better. The black man in "Telephone Conversation" does not seem to be hurt by the woman's prejudices, he only seems somewhat disappointed by the fact that he is not getting the apartment. He seems to be above the racism and the ignorance that comes with it and able to deal with it properly. The black child in Incident does not have the experience necessary to deal with the racism in this manner. He can only absorb the full impact of the racism. This can be attributed to his lack of experience in dealing with racism. He has spent most of his life up to this point in Harlem surrounded by other black people. This will not be the last time, unfortunately, that he will be shown this type of hate.
Another aspect that creates leverage toward the meaning of these poems is thefashion of writing in that is seen. "Incident" has a very basic rhyme scheme and is very easily read. It does not have many images, and it is very straight forward in what it has to say. "Incident" creates the...