Racism, Society, And Martin Espada's Beloved Spic

1422 words - 6 pages

Racism, Society, and Martin Espada's Beloved Spic

On April 4, 1968 America experienced the tragic loss of one of its greatest social leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a pivotal leader in the civil rights movement who permeated American history as a man who maintained the importance of nonviolent social change. He fought racism within the public domain by pursuing school integration and basic civil rights for the African-American community. Thirty-one years after his death, America is forced to evaluate the exact implications of his legacy on modern society's attitudes towards race and race relations. Did the civil rights movement really promote positive changes in race relations? How far has American society really come?

Despite the efforts of King and many of his comrades, racism is still prevalent in modern society. However, its presence is evidenced primarily in the attitudes and values which are taught to individuals in the private sector of American life as opposed to the laws and restrictions placed on individuals in the public sector during the civil rights era. Therefore, while racism appears to have dissipated within the public arena, it is most powerfully present in the privacy of our families and homes. This is also the most destructive arena for racism as seen in the poem "Beloved Spic" by Martin Espada. Espada uses his own life experiences to illustrate racism's continued effect and presence in American culture today. Despite society's best efforts to keep racism contained within the private domain, its effects filter through familial boundaries and mock the efforts of past martyrs for social change.

There is a marked dichotomy between attitudes and behaviors exhibited within the public sector and those expressed in the private sector. Espada illustrates this throughout the first verse of the poem. He describes his experience of a minority moving into a predominantly white neighborhood and uses the pronoun "it" to denote the racism he observes. He writes, "the neighbors kept it pressed inside dictionaries and Bibles like a leaf." This line illustrates the indigenous nature of racism as an attitude that is taught to individuals rather than biologically programmed as a component of their genetic makeup. The Bible and dictionaries are each tools used to teach and they are symbolic in the poem as templates for teaching racist attitudes and values. Racism is also " chewed for digestion after a heavy dinner." Here, Espada underscores the internal nature of racism as an ideology that is fed to and digested by family members. It becomes part of who they are as individuals. The author also identifies the secretive nature of racism. He observes individuals who "laughed when it hopped from their mouths likes a secret," and, "whispered it as carefully as the answer to a test question in school." It is intended to remain only within the confines of the private sector because it is...

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