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Limits Of Racial Barriers In The Usa English Literature Essay

The subject of many literary works are changes in the spiritual atmosphere of American society of the twentieth century, and the related revaluation of cultural and moral values in the society. It is the right of all peoples to live in dignity in the contemporary United States, which became the common home of descendants of Indians, blacks and other races and nationalities that have shaped America's unique multi-ethnic community.

Speaking about cosmopolitanism and the need to protect and preserve rights of all large and small national-cultural identities in the general unity of American culture, many public figures have called for the rise of cultural patriotism. In this case, certainly the most relevant are the discussions on African-American component in the culture of the United States in light of contemporary cultural pluralism.

The purpose of this paper is to show the state of modern multiculturalism, to consider African-American component of American culture, taking into account permanent bilateral interaction and mutual enrichment of white and black cultures, speak about racial barriers. It is necessary to show the place of African Americans in the U.S. life last third of XX century on the basis of the work “Colored People” by Henry Louis Gates.

Henry Louis Gates is a well-known American literary critic, historian, writer, professor at Harvard University. He is a scholar of African American culture and history, he made several works on this topic. “Colored People” is one of the most well-known of his works, and also it is considered among the best works about African-Americans. This work is written as a memoir, that is why it is very "strong" in terms of ideological and moral content. After all, the author himself is a representative of the "colored people”, he and his family better than anyone knows about the situation of colored people in the society of modern America, and elsewhere in the world. The author himself is aware of the barriers for black people in the modern world, and unfortunately such barriers are still present, despite the proclamation of the equality of all citizens of America, and of all races and nationalities around the world. The author knows and feels and prejudices about black people, and prejudicial to them. And on his own behalf and on his own experience he tells about the "colored people." 

Henry Louis Gates “Colored people” gives very good explanation and understanding of who are black people, but though his own experience and understanding. In this memoir Gates speaks about history of two families, Colemans (the author's mother's family) and the Gates (the author's father's family). He wrote “My grandfather was colored, my father was Negro, and I am black.” It is interesting how Gates uses different words: colored, Negro, black, which all mean something different at different times and places. He several times uses rhetoric of racial identity, for example: “But my uncles and I did battle more and more, especially when I stopped being a Negro, turned black, and grew the first Afro in Piedmont, West Virginia” (Gates, p.184).

It is possible to say that the author speaks about the problem of perceptions of blacks, attitudes toward blacks. It is known that in the second half of the 20th century it is not permitted to openly use the word “black”, and because of political correctness there was introduced the word "African American" to avoid mention of skin color. But if it is not permitted to use it, then black or dark skin color means something offensive? That is, avoiding the word "black" already implies that something is wrong, humiliating in this word, assuming it is obvious that the word "black" is equivalent to the word "slave". Thus the author of different uses such words as black, Negro and African-American. 

In “Colored people” the author tells about his childhood and his family, about their life and position in society, which coincided with the process of desegregation and integration of people in America. This process took place during 1957-1968 when were adopted laws on civil rights, racial segregation and discrimination in their resettlement in public places, with fair housing and employment, in education, health care and voting rights.  It is important to note that Gates belongs to the generation of African-Americans who lived in the post-Civil Rights period, and first experienced results of integration. Radical shifts in the social structure of African-American community in the second half of XX century made more flexible boundaries between the classes, and also between different layers in the black class. (Sethi, 2004)

The author shows on his own experience what changes in society occurred during that integration process, how white and black for the first time began to live and work together on equal terms. That is, in his memoirs Gates attempted to show the life that the black lived, and he said: "You want to know what being black is, here, let me show you." (Gates, 1995)

One of the most interesting is considered the chapter “In the Kitchen”, in which Gates tells about African American hair. He writes about his mum who straitened her hair, as “good” hair is straight, and “bad” hair is kinky. That is, the black are trying to imitate certain stereotypes of beauty. In fact, this example shows stereotypes concerning not only the hair, but the way of thinking and ideology in society, as black people want to get rid of stereotypes and some attributes of black nationality, to become part of the country of whites.  And Gates writes that: "I want to be black, to know black, to luxuriate in whatever I might be calling blackness at any particular time," he writes, "but to do so in order to come out on the other side, to experience a humanity that is neither colorless nor reducible to color." (Gates, 1995)

After all, whatever the achievements in the field of human rights and racial relations in the American society and the international community, still there are racial barriers among the black and white. Henry Gates shows that despite the "color barrier", the African Americans has always had the confidence that they can become equal Americans. A thought about the potential of flowering of African American culture under the condition of racial equality in the United States is found in all the work of the author.


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