Blacks vs. Whites: Michael Lewis’s accurate portrayal of racism in America through his Biography The Blindside
“An eight year old girl in South Africa recently told Ted Koppel on Nightline, ‘White people are better then black people, I wish I was white but I am not’” (Racism in America’s Schools). This statement is believed to be true by many people. People all over the world feel hatred or dislike toward a certain group of people for no apparent reason, other than because they are different from themselves. Michael Lewis wrote the biography The Blindside that captures the issue of racism through an athletic black man’s life.
In his biography, The Blindside, Michael Lewis accurately portrays racism by exposing prejudice attitudes, demonstrating segregation, and using real world examples about how blacks are treated differently. Throughout his novel, Lewis illustrates that prejudice attitudes are formed from the environment in which the person was raised. Parents model their children, kids grow up wanting to be exactly like their parents and they regurgitate their parents’ behavior. Collected research emphasizes, “Parents are the earliest and most powerful source of racial attitudes” (Racism in America’s Schools).
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This is significant because if every generation grows up with racist parents they will continue to raise racist children. In addition, children spend a lot of their free time watching TV, and certain programs may affect their racial attitudes. The article Mass Media And Racism asserts, “Mass Media has played and will continue to play a crucial role in the way white Americans perceive African-Americans” (Mass Media and Racism). Many children at young ages see the media portraying blacks in a certain way and build prejudice against them.
Lewis accurately demonstrates racism stemming from one’s upbringing through the character of Leigh. Leigh’s father was a very racist man; he did not like anyone who was not a white Christian. At Leigh’s wedding her father said, “Why are all these niggers here” (Lewis 69). Clearly, this demonstrates how racist Leigh’s father was because he could not even enjoy his own daughter’s wedding because there were black people in attendance. He also raised Leigh to be just as racist as he was: the novel notes, “Her father, a United States Marshall based in Memphis, raised her to fear and loathe blacks as much as he did” (Lewis 67).
It is evident that he passed on his racist attitudes throughout her upbringing. His dislikes of blacks changed the way she perceived them. Leigh understood how her father was and stated, “I was raised in a very racist household” (Lewis 68). Leigh knows that her feelings about blacks were changed because of her upbringing. Undoubtedly, a parent’s racial attitude may easily be passed on to his or her children. In addition, Lewis also accurately displays that there is still racial segregation to this day. Research shows that many places still segregate.
In Montgomery, the black and white students have different proms, Corbett wrote “Racially segregated proms have been held in Montgomery County almost every year since its schools were integrated in 1971”(A Prom Divided). It is apparent that segregation is still a major problem; the students want to have prom together, but the parents won’t let them. Famous affluent blacks have offered to pay for the prom if it is integrated, yet the white parents still say deny an interracial prom (A Prom Divided). The parents are so racist and have such sour feelings towards the other race that they segregate what is supposed to be a fun senior event.
Similarly, prisons still segregate their inmates. They believe that inmates of different races cannot be cell mates, and as stated in the article Racial Segregation in Prison, “When cell assignments are made, the inmates are divided into four general categories: black, white, Asian, and other. Inmates are almost invariably assigned cellmates of their own race” (Racial Segregation in Prison). It is absurd that grown men have to be separated by race within a prison. With our correction institutes taking part in segregation, it makes it more acceptable for people to segregate in everyday life.
Lewis displays segregation through the life of Michael Oher. Michael grew up in Memphis where the whites and blacks are extremely divided, and as Lewis explains, “The drawbridge comes down between white and black Memphis” (Lewis 141). This is significant because it describes how divided the people are. They believe that the whites should only live with the whites and the blacks with the blacks. In the same manner, Memphis has still been segregated even after the segregation laws were abolished, Lewis states, “Memphis made you wonder why anyone ever bothered to create laws segregating the races”(Lewis 45).
It is clear that the people are so racist towards one another that they naturally segregate themselves because they do not want to interact with each other. Segregation also occurs in colleges; when Michael was trying to decide which school to go to his mother was told, “He shouldn’t go to Ole Miss because back people weren’t welcome there” (Lewis 246). This demonstrates that even something as large as a college was viewed as being racist and against blacks.
When Michael decided to go to Ole Miss, he asked his teammates on the football team, “Is it true they got fraternities that won’t let in black guys” (Lewis 273). The appalling answer to this question was yes. Even a social group of fun loving fraternity brothers segregated their “frat” because they did not accept blacks. Undoubtedly segregation is a prevalent issue in society. Furthermore, Lewis also correctly displayed that many blacks are treated differently just because of their skin color. Throughout the country blacks are harassed and not given respect just because of their skin color.
In Brooklyn, workers at a fish plant were treated horribly, the New York Times reported, “Managers had subjected black male employees to a torrent of sexual and racial harassment” (U. S. Suit Says Fish Seller Harassed Black Male Workers). This clearly demonstrates that blacks are mistreated even in the business world. They are subject to many conflicts that other employees do not even have to think about dealing with. As the U. S. Suit Says Fish Seller Harassed Black Male Workers article explains, “Employees (black) received slurs, taunts and verbal abuse” (U. S.
Suit Says Fish Seller Harassed Black Male Workers). No employee should have to receive racial slurs at work. Blacks are also taunted in hopes that they will react violently because the media portrays them as violent, angry individuals. This is demonstrated in the article U. S. Suit Says Fish Seller Harassed Black Male Workers “Brooklyn supervisors actively taunted the black men” (U. S. Suit Says Fish Seller Harassed Black Male Workers). Racial slurs and discrimination against African American employees have been occurring all over the country. As the U. S. Suit Says Fish Seller Harassed Black Male
Workers article described, “The commission has had other lawsuits in which both gender and race were factors behind the discrimination or harassment” (U. S. Suit Says Fish Seller Harassed Black Male Workers). It is evident that the mistreatment of blacks is a national problem, and Lewis captures this mistreatment throughout his novel. He depicts this through the discrimination that existed at Ole Miss as he wrote, “In 1958 when a black teacher from Gulfport Mississippi, named Clennon King tried to enroll in Ole Miss, he was instead carted away by state troopers to an insane asylum” (Lewis 263).
Clearly, he was treated differently due to his skin color. It was so absurd to the people that a black man would try to enroll that they determined he must be mentally unstable. Lewis also talks about how black athletes were not even treated equally as he writes, “On the field players became honorary white people, but off it they were still black, and unnatural combatants in Mississippi’s white internecine war” (Lewis 280). It is clear that no matter how the black people contribute to the school or the community, they are still viewed as a lesser people and as a burden.
Lewis also writes about showing blacks around the Ole Miss campus, he writes, “When you show up with them you get this look, like you have the crying baby on the airplane” (Lewis 246). This indicates that trying to get a black person interested in the school makes you a bad person. Thus, the blacks are treated so differently that even those associated with the blacks are mistreated and frowned upon. Therefore, it is clear that Michael Lewis accurately portrays racism in his novel The Blindside.
He demonstrates that racism starts at a young age with your parents, that segregation continues to be a major issue, and that many blacks are not treated with the respect they deserve. “Lewis has written one of the most effective books yet by an American writer on America’s most intractable social problem” (Book Review). Racism is a major problem in everyday life and affects millions of people every day. People should not have to wish to be white; they should be accepted for who they are.