The Costs of Racism
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” Racism is one of the deepest stains on the pages of American history. What began as feelings among whites of being superior to blacks turned into possibly the worst phenomenon the United States ever dealt with. Even 100 years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, many white people were still treating blacks atrociously. It took many decades before blacks were granted truly equal rights that white Americans were given. In Anne Moody’s autobiography, Coming of Age in Mississippi, she discusses growing up in Mississippi. She writes about her memories of childhood, high school, college, and finally her courageous work in the civil rights movement during the 1960s. Moody offers readers a startling and remarkable story of her life. She also gives great insight into the effects of racism on the victims of it, on those who practice it, and the effects on American society.
The effects of racism on the victims differed depending on age and whether or not a person would withstand the abuse. Moody makes these connections in her book by realizing that when the civil rights movement picked up in the 1960s, older blacks usually remained dormant and never stood up for themselves by speaking out against the abuse they received. In contrast, younger black Americans, notably teenagers, were more likely to be fearless and take part in the Movement. This theme can be seen throughout the whole book, from when Anne was a young girl and never understood why her mother condemned her any time she spoke of equality, to when she was in her twenties and could see for herself the difference between the passions of the young versus the old. It wasn’t until she was in her twenties that she realized the future of civil rights was in the hands of the young.
The effects of racism on the victims also depended on gender. Moody makes this point clear when Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old boy from a nearby town, was murdered for supposedly having sex with a white woman. “…every Negro man in Centreville became afraid to walk the streets. They knew too well that they would not get off as easily as the white man who was caught screwing a Negro woman. They had only to look at a white woman and be hanged for it.” (p. 131). Moody makes the connection that a black girl could get away with having sex with a white man, but if it was a black man having sex with a white woman, then it was a crime punishable by death. It was the same with anything else as well; black men were treated more violently than black women when it came to doing something the whites did not approve of.
For those who practiced racism, the effects of racism were detrimental as well. Racist viewpoints were...