Perhaps unlike any other country on Earth, the construct of race plays an integral part of our existence, Racial identity heavily influences one’s reality, worldview and lived experiences. More importantly, race is a fundamental element in how individuals perceive themselves and one another. Historically, the notions and perceptions associated with Black people and black culture have been overwhelmingly negative and damaging 7 and while it is expected that a considerable number of White Americans harbor problematic views about “Blackness”, there is an equally engaging discussion to be had about the way that Black men and women view themselves and their community Even as more and more African-American‘s begin to define what is authentic “Black” on their own terms, racist ideals frequently present themselves when African-American‘s explore issues of Blackness with one another.
Quite often, difference in opinion on issues of Blackness, resistance, respectability, assimilation and the like are drawn across lines of class and educational attainment, Alice Walker’s 1973 short story “Everyday Use” and Ralph Waldo Ellison’s “Flying Home, are two text’s that take the intra-racial discussion on black identity” into account “Flying Home” and “Everyday Use” both examine encounters between polarized sections of Black America, while also comparing and contrasting their respective worldviews. Walker’s text details the familial interactions between a young and educated Black woman named Dee who comes home to visit her less fortunate mother and sister in the rural Southr Immediately the reader can observe a divergence in worldview ariser Dee, who has opted to be called “Wangero” as opposed to the family name that was passed on to her, considers her racial identity to be rooted in her distant African ancestry.
Interestingly, she does so at the expense of her more immediate lineage. By contrast, Mama and Maggie hold a reverence for their more recent lineage. Both parties hold a reverence for ancestry. In an attempt to reclaim her lost heritage from “the people who oppress” her. Dee actually ends up disregarding a core part of her identity The dynamic portrayed in “Everyday Use examines how social strata in the Black community influences values and mores relating to race, Mama and Maggie are women who find value and worth in simplicity. As seen during the altercation about the quilts. Dee is critical of this way of thinking Ironically, while she has adopted an authentically “African “identity”, the reader may observe that pretentious mannerism is — in some ways 7 reflective of the socialized superiority doctrine that many whites harbor. Especially, when one considers that her success is born from their sacrifices, and she chooses not to lend a hand. Based on her behavior, one could argue that Dee is ashamed of her rural southern upbringing.
As Whitsitt phrases it, Dee disregards the “link between herself and the place she came from. She doesn’t seem to realize or acknowledge that she stands upon the shoulders of her aunts, as well as Mama and Maggie, Spawned from an era characterized by Black Pride and self-love movements. “Everyday Use” serves to foster a discussion on how Blackness is not monolithic, and that all segments of the African-American community have value 7 even in instances where parties may not see eye to eye Ellison’s “Flying Home” is a short story that shares the same spirit of “Everyday Use‘K It details an encounter between a prospective Tuskegee Airman named Todd, and an Alabama sharecropper named Jefferson and his son Teddy. Since the text details a time in which Blacks were considered to be mentally inferior, one can understand the immense personal pressure Todd is under to perform.
After the crash, Jefferson and his son make a heartfelt effort to assist Todd — a friendly gesture that makes Todd uncomfortable for fear of being associated with an “old black ignorant man. Todd appears to subscribe to the idea that proving himself capable to Whites in leadership will set him apart from average Blacks in the South, Both Todd and the sharecropper are cognizant of the realities of Jim Crow. However, they respond in very different ways. One can conclude that Jefferson and Teddy are much more in tune with the violent reality in which they exist, thus they feel it incumbent upon themselves to lend a hand. In contrast, Todd seems to believe that his status as a pilot in training gives him a position above the sharecropper and others like him. Thus, he tries his hardest to separate himself and refuse their help.
Much like the dynamic in “Everyday Use”, education and opportunity seem to manifest themselves in Todd as character flaws stemming from a warped sense of reality. However, Ellison takes his text a step further than Walker’s by providing a turning point. Upon meeting Dabney Grave’s and suffering violent and racist treatment at his hand, Todd eventually looks to Jefferson and Teddy as sources of comfort to relieve him from his “overpowering sense of isolation” (Ellison 172). While the broader culture generally tends to compartmentalize Black people as a one-dimensional group, Walker and Ellison shatter these notions with character interactions that serve as mediums for broader conversations surrounding Blackness, respectability, assimilation and culture. What the reader can conclude from these texts is that the definition of a Black identity is a nuanced and ongoing discussion with no easier answers. Thus, it is critical to remain open when such discussions occur.