The theme that I have selected to analyse is Racism. The texts that I will use to explore this theme are the films ‘Django’ directed by Quentin Tarantino, ‘Schwarzfahrer’ directed by Pepe Danquart, the poem ‘Racism is around me everywhere’ by Francis Duggan and the novel ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee. In this report I will research how racism affects individuals with dark skin, what the consequences of racism are, and how racism is the norm throughout different periods of history. Racism is an ongoing issue and in my report I aim to change the way you think of racism and what we can do to end this abominable behaviour.
Across all texts that I studied, characters are racially ill-treated. In Pepe Danquart’s Oscar-winning short film ‘Schwarzfahrer’, the main character is racially abused because of his African descent. Similarly in the novel ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, an African American called Tom Robinson is falsely accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell because of the colour of his skin. The black man in ‘Schwarzfahrer’ enters a tram, and sits on a free seat next to an old lady. The old lady, who first chose to ignore him when he asked if he could take the seat, starts to insult and berate him; criticizing him on taking the seat ‘just like that’. Throughout her soliloquy, whilst the black man remains quiet, she states that all blacks stink, are unintelligent, criminals and the perfect bearer for AIDS. “…They should at least have their names changed when they come over here, or else you can’t tell them apart at all. What’s more, they smell awful. But there is no law against that!” The old lady in Schwarzfahrer separates herself from the black man by referring to herself as “we” and referring him as “they”. She uses this language to indicate that his race isn’t as superior as hers. Tom, in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is sentenced to death without a fair trial because of his African descent.
His Lawyer Atticus Finch is the only being in the town of Maycomb who believes Tom’s story and is trying to defend Tom against the white supremacist jury. The speech Atticus shares with his children indicates how unjust the law system is towards people of African descent. “There’s something in our world that makes men lose their heads – they couldn’t be fair if they tried. In our courts, when it’s a white man’s word against a black man’s word, the white always wins. They’re ugly, but these are the facts of life”. Atticus tells his children this so they understand Tom is a victim of racism and nothing else. Tom in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ knew he was going to be judged by the colour of his skin and not by his innocence, so decided to take matters into his own hands and flee from jail and all the racism. He is then shot seventeen times.
In society people are often too quick to judge someone by what they are, instead of who they are. The treatment of these characters doesn’t make sense to me, If we’re all part of the human race, why are people still so racist? After all, there are no biological differences between people. No race is superior or inferior to another. We’re all part of the same race, the human race; why can’t we be like any other species? A samoyed dog wouldn’t discriminate a labrador just by the color of its fur, it would treat it like any other dog would. I believe we are like this because It’s just human nature to oppose something different from yourself – people with glasses, someone with a cleft palate, people who like things you don’t, etc… Racism is just another way to discriminate someone who is of a different race.
In the texts that I have studied, the one main outcome of racism was violence. In the opening scene of the Motion picture, ‘Django’; we see seven African Americans chained up by leg irons and following two white men on horseback to be sold as slaves. They are all repeatedly beaten and whipped until they have no more free will and accept whatever fate they receive. Its not until Dr.Schultz, the German bounty hunter appears, that they decide enough is enough. Dr.Schultz shoots the slave masters horse which falls on top of him crushing his legs. He then turns to the African Americans and throws them the key for their shackles. “So as I see it, when it comes to the subject of what to do next, you gentlemen have two choices. One, once I’m gone, you lift that beast off the remaining Speck, then carry him to the nearest town. Which would be at least thirty-seven miles back the way you came. Or….Two, you unshackle yourselves, take that rifle over there… put a bullet in his head, bury the two of them deep, and make your way to a more enlightened area of the country. The choice is yours.” They decide to use violence in an act of vengeance after they have been repeatedly whipped and beaten for the color of their skin.
This is a similar case as in ‘Schwarzfahrer’, when the black man seeks revenge against the old lady who repeatedly racially abuses him for no reason at all. As the ticket collector comes round to see who is a ‘Schwarzfahrer’, the black man violently grabs and swallows the old lady’s ticket. When asked by the collector for her train pass her reply of “this nigger just ate it!” is “the stupidest excuse I have ever heard” and the old lady is then escorted off the train. In both these texts revenge is sought after a response to racial treatment. The black man in the train in ‘Schwarzfahrer’ acted rashly just to get rid of the lady so she couldn’t continue her racist pontificate, and the seven African Americans in ‘Django’ murdered the white man in an act of violence. The fact that they were slaves would have taken all of their self pride and they have to blame someone for what’s happened to them and their family. People will seek for revenge because racism not only hurts physically, but mentally also. Discrimination is injustice and people are willing to fight to make it right. For some people, violence is a relief to the pain they received from discrimination and racism.
Racism is an ongoing issue but it differs across different times in history. In the Motion picture ‘Django’ the year is set in 1858, and the number of black slaves has reached close to 4 million. In these times racism was more than just one person telling another that his race is better; it involved publicly hurting and even killing a person just to prove that point. White people believed that their race was superior and that blacks were brought to earth to be slaves for them. Francis Duggans, in his poem ‘Racism is around me everywhere;’ depicts how the modern world views racism.
“So many people still judged by their race
For such there never ought to be a place
‘A fair go’ those untruthful words I do recall
There is no such a thing as a ‘fair go for all’.
Though we live in a so called democracy
Of racism we never will be free
They judge you by where you come from and the colour of your skin For many equality and respect seems impossible to win.”
From this segment of the poem we can see that racism is still an ongoing problem, with individuals still being judged by the color of their skin. Duggan has tried to indicate how we live in a ‘so called’ democracy with government in control, but even they still judge us and lack respect because of skin color. However if we look at the motion picture ‘Django,’ which is set in the year 1858; racism is viewed in a different light. “Why don’t they kill us?” asks Calvin Candie, a white southern slave owner. Candie asks himself why the African slaves he brutalises and murders do not rise up and take revenge. “The science of phrenology,” he exclaims, “is crucial to understanding the separation of our two species.”
He then hacks away at the back of an Africans skull with a saw, removing a section of the cranium and points to a supposedly enlarged area. According to Candie, this bump is found in the region of the brain associated with “submissiveness”. This is how unpleasant racism was in the 1800’s, for Candie and a large majority of white folk; they believed that phrenology not only explained slavery, but justified it. In todays society, as touched on by Francis Duggans poem, racism isn’t as extreme as it was but it is still a problem for all involved. Racism has become subtle, rather than consisting entirely of violence it now involves verbally hurting or excluding someone from society for the color of their skin.
Racism has become less obvious over the years, as depicted in ‘Schwarzfahrer’, which is set in the early 1990’s. The old lady racially abused him with her words – rather than physically, but if the same situation had happened in the early 1900’s, she would have had the black man thrown off the train for sitting next to him, and not in the back seats. You can see that she is treated like an outsider as the other passengers on the tram choose to ignore her while she continues her racist rant. This shows that racism has changed over the years and we don’t accept it like we used to. The other passengers seemed glad when they see her escorted off the tram. I believe racism is going to continue for a number of years, but with the world becoming more globalized, I understand that it will begin to simmer down until people finally accept every race and culture.
In conclusion, I found that individuals with black skin are continuously racially abused for something they are born with and cannot change. I also found that the one main consequence of racism is violence, and that people seek for revenge as it is a relief to the pain they received from discrimination and racism. Also that racism has been a part of our society for as long as we know and that it differs from different periods of history. The problem with racism, is that unless we do something about this abominable behaviour, it will stay a part of our society forever.