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Examining Racism in If He Hollers Let Him Go
In the quite beginning of If He Hollers Let Him Go, Himes introduces the protagonist, Bob Jones, as he is waking up. Virtually right away, Jones starts to really feel an intense worry creeping up on him. Jones says that he “began feeling scared…It came along with consciousness” (2). He explains that he wakes up in this way every day and remarks that this fear “came into my head 1st, someplace back of my closed eyes, moves gradually underneath my skull to the base of my brain, cold and hollow… I felt torn all loose inside, shriveled, paralyzed, as if following a although I’d have to get up and die”. (2). The explanation of Jones’ fear assists to emphasize how strong it is. It is not simply an emotion. His worry really affects him physically, producing him feel “cold and hollow”. Also, by using the words “shriveled” and “paralyzed” the Jones tends to make clear how debilitating his fear is. The trigger of his worry is told later in the passage.
Jones later reveals that the events of Globe War II are what contribute to his fears. Jones says that “Every day now I’d been waking up that way, ever considering that the war began” (3). This suggests to the reader that it was the onset of Planet War II that triggered these feelings. Whilst the stress of living in a country at war could possibly be a aspect in his fear, Jones explains that a far more crucial aspect is the racism that resulted from the outbreak of the war. Jones thinks to himself, “Maybe I’d been scared all my life, but I didn’t know about it till right after Pearl Harbor” (3). When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and waged war on America they sparked an extraordinary amount of hostility towards the Japanese in America. The cause why this upsets Jones so considerably is simply because he compares the prejudice towards the Japanese to the racism towards blacks in America. Becoming black, Jones experiences this racism very first hand. He explains how he has been denied service in restaurants on the basis of race, and when applying for jobs, he “kept on acquiring refused while white boys had been hired from the line behind [him]” (three). The character of Jones is representative of a bigger group of African Americans.
Jones’s feelings in this scene are not unique to just him. Numerous blacks in the course of this time felt the same way. In an write-up about military inequality, Henry Louis Gates explains how African Americans viewed Planet War II. He writes that “it was tough for African Americans not to see the hypocrisy among conditions at residence and the noble war aims” (pbs.org). Gates tends to make the very same connection among race and the war work as Jones does in the novel. Due to the fact of the overwhelming amount of racism on the home front, numerous African Americans saw the war as a continuation of that racism. Later in the post, Gates builds upon this thought, commenting on how “because of the gap among the promise and functionality of American freedom when it came to race relations, a lot of black people frankly felt alienated from the war effort” (pbs.org).
Further into the passage, Jones states that he became even more aware of his worry when he saw that Japanese were being sent away to internment camps, “Maybe it wasn’t until I’d observed them send the Japanese away that I’d noticed [the fear]” (3). He considers how unfair this punishment is, saying “It was taking a man up by the roots and locking him up without a possibility. With no a trial. Without a charge. With no even giving him a possibility to say 1 word” (three). Here, Jones is drawing a parallel amongst the Japanese and African Americans. In America, blacks were denied service or jobs “without a chance” with out a second believed, and the Japanese in America had been becoming sent away from their properties “without a chance”. In both instances, groups of individuals are getting punished purely simply because of their race.
The racism towards Japanese tends to make Jones worry that America could just as easily order African Americans to be place away in internment camps, or inflict some comparable treatment upon them. He states that “It was pondering about if they ever did that to me, Robert Jones, Mrs. Jones’s dark son, that started me to receiving scared” (3). With these words, Jones is clearly stating that he feels threatened by the events of Globe War II. Jones utilizes the term, “Mrs. Jones’s dark son” to describe himself, generating clear that he believes his racial condition is an essential factor in his identity. Each and every morning, he wakes up with the fear that the really racist treatment towards the Japanese could also be inflicted upon him. In fact, Jones believes that he is even probably to obtain this treatment since he has a comparable skin color as the Japanese as Jones is a lighter skinned African American. He states “I was the identical colour as the Japanese and I couldn’t inform the distinction. ‘A yeller-bellied Jap’ coulda meant me also. I could often really feel race trouble, critical trouble, never far more than two feet off” (four). By saying that he was the “same color as the Japanese” Jones is explicitly acknowledging his similarity to the Japanese. Not only are they the identical color, but he believes that they also face the very same remedy in America. This connection is what creates worry for Jones. The racism that Jones encounters day-to-day influences him to see the racism towards the Japanese for the duration of the war as indirectly affecting him.
In an article which analyses If He Hollers Let Him Go, the author, Lynn M. Itagaki also drew this exact same conclusion. She explains how in the novel, Jones felt that he could potentially be victimized by the racist acts against the Japanese. Itagaki writes that “By addressing himself formally as ‘Robet Jones,’ Bob at when resists racism and becomes topic to it, marking himself as a possible victim. In noting his ‘yellow skin’, Bob recognizes the literal similarities of skin colour and race that could possibly ally him with the Japanese” (68). It is clear that Jones’ racial condition impacts the way he views the events of Globe War II.
The opening passage of If He Hollers Let Him Go demonstrates how the racial troubles African Americans dealt with on the home front impacted the way they interpreted the war. Due to the fact of the war, Japanese Americans were getting mistreated on the basis of race which frightened African Americans into believing the racism they endured on the homefront could escalate to the level of racism against the Japanese. Other components of the novel also show how characters’ racial condition impacts their point of view of the war.
In Chapter 13, Jones is speaking with a union steward named Herbie, and protesting what he believes is racist treatment he has been receiving at function. Jones asks for the steward to reprimand a white woman who he had an altercation with although working. She made a racial slur towards him, and when he created a single towards her, he was demoted. Jones tells Herbie “I want you to tell her she has to perform with Negroes here or shed her job” (113). The conversation becomes heated as Jones continues to voice his aggravation over the racism he feels is so prevalent at his job. Herbie retorts, saying “Thats the difficulty with you colored people…You forget we’re in a war. This isn’t any time for private gripes. We’re fighting facism-we’re not fighting the companies and we’re not fighting every other-we’re all fighting fascism together and in order to beat fascism we got to have unity” (114). In this instance, Herbie is urging Jones to recognize the war as a symbol of patriotic solidarity. He repeatedly utilizes the term “we” to refer to America, which suggests that he feels unified by Globe War II. By saying “we’re all fighting fascism together” Herbie is stressing his belief that Americans are all invested in the battle against fascism, a frequent enemy. He asks that Jones forgets his “private gripes” and consider the bigger picture. From his point of view as a white man, Herbie is able to see the war as an instance of unification. This view differs from Jones’, who, as talked about earlier, saw the war as an example of racism in America. However, by referring to Jones’ issue as a “trouble with you colored people”, Herbie suggests that Jones’ racial complaint hinders the capacity of other Americans (the “we”) to be unified. This suggests that Herbie could not really feel unified with African Americans, even when he is trying to inspire unity.
Jones responds to Herbie’s comment angrily, shouting “What the hell do I care about unity, or the war either, for that matter, as extended as I’m kicked around by each white particular person who comes along? Let the white folks get some goddamned unity” (115). With this statement, Jones is saying that the racism he encounters is what prevents him from caring about unity. The phrase “kicked around by every single white particular person who comes along” emphasizes the amount of racism Jones encounters. He feels that in every single interaction he has with a white, he is becoming “kicked around”, or racially abused in some way. Since of this, Jones does not have the motivation to “care about unity, or the war either”. This instance is an instance of how Jones’ racial condition affects the way he views the war. He is unable to see the war from Herbie’s viewpoint, due to the fact unity with whites is one thing he could not possibly think about.
Additional into the chapter, Jones considers what the effects would be if African Americans rejected the war by refusing to operate in the military or war industries. He says, “I wondered what would take place if all the Negroes in America would refuse to serve in the armed forces, refuse to work in war production until the Jim Crow pattern was abolished” (116). With this comment, Jones is showing how the racism he is subjected to each and every day, “the Jim Crow pattern” impacts his perspective of World War II. It prevents him from wanting to assistance the war. Then, he speculates that “the white people would no doubt go proper on fighting the war without having us. They’d kill us perhaps but they couldn’t kill us all. And if they did they’d have a single hell of a job of burying us” (116). Right here, Jones is explaining that he feels that white men and women are indifferent to blacks, and would not care if every African American have been to completely abandon the war work. Once more, this shows how Jones’ racial condition influences his attitude towards the war. The racism he feels from whites tends to make him think about neglecting the war work altogether. This is another reason why he protests Herbie’s reaction to his complaint. Jones fears that if he loses his position at his job, he could be drafted. As mentioned previously, Jones’ attitude towards the war demonstrates that he does not help it, and to be drafted would be to assistance a cause he does not think in.
Despite the fact that African Americans had been not the direct enemy of America in World War II, numerous blacks felt victimized by the events of the war. The novel, If He Hollers Let Him Go, by Chester Himes discusses this idea. In the novel, the protagonist, Bob Jones feels this way. He makes a connection amongst the mistreatment of the Japanese and the racism he encounters in his every day life. When the Japanese had been place in internment camps, Jones began to fear that such intense racism remedy could also be inflicted upon him. This leads him to view the war in a fearful way. Later in the novel, Jones is confronted by a white man who encourages him to see the war as a reason to unite with his fellow Americans, black and white. Even so, since of Jones’ racial condition, he could only see the racist elements of Planet War II. Contemporary writers have explained that many other African Americans in the course of the war also felt this way.
Even today, numerous African Americans’s racial situation influences their perception of existing events. For instance, the riots in Ferguson stemming from the grand jury selection not to charge a white police man who shot and killed a black man are a related to the events in If He Hollers Let Him Go. Numerous African Americans feel they are not effectively represented by the American justice program, and think that the jury favored the white police man because of his race. Simply because of the racism numerous African Americans really feel is nevertheless prevalent in society, they view the incident as an extension of racism. Other folks, nonetheless believe the case is basically a criminal justice problem, and not a single that pertains to race. Wether or not the the choice was fair, the racial situation of onlookers impacts their perception of the case in the same way that Jones’ and Herbie’s race impacted their view on World War II.
Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. “What Was Black America’s Double War?” PBS. PBS, 2013. Internet. 21 Nov. 2014. <http://www.pbs.org/wnet/african-americans-numerous-rivers-to-cross/history/
Himes, Chester B. If He Hollers Let Him Go. New York: Da Capo, 1945. Print.
Itagaki, Lynn M. “Transgressing Race and Neighborhood in Chester Himes’s “If He Hollers Let
Him Go”” African American Overview 37.1 (2003): 65-80. JSTOR. Web. 23 Nov. 2014.
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