From the 16th century, African American people were facing racial discrimination. As they had a different color of skin, they were treated unfavorably and even violently. With the course of time, the situation changed but still a lot of aspects are to be improved. Even though slavery was abolished more than a century ago, people still feel its influence and suffer from stereotypes and prejudices.
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Of course today the situation with the racial discrimination improved. However, it is still possible to meet a person who believes in the supremacy of the white people. This treatment cannot be easily extirpated as it was considered to be normal for many years. Fortunately, today the majority of African Americans feel free to act as they want without being afraid to be punished due to their race.
Slaves had no right and were the property of their masters, but after its abolishment black people did not become equal to European Americans. They gained worse jobs, less payment, bad homes. African Americans had separate educational and medical establishments and transport, which only underlined the difference. If a black and a white man met in a court, the first one was sure to be claimed guilty.
Soon the situation changed, and several laws were adopted to provide African Americans with a wider range of rights, which made them more close to white population. They were allowed to attend the same places, occupy the same positions and be involved in interracial relationships. Currently, they are to be the citizens of the United stated just like the others. Nevertheless, the history is not easy to forget and neglect. Both African Americans and European Americans refer to the stereotypes and prejudices that came from their past.
An excellent example of such situation can be seen in the abstract “Champion of the World”. It is a chapter of the book I Know Why the Gaged Bird Sings written by Maya Angelou. The author is well-known for her autobiographical texts. This one refers to the events that took place in the late 1930s.
Commonly white citizens were considered to belong to the upper social classes and were called ladies and gentlemen. Today no one pays attention when people are addressed in this way as the phrase became ordinary. However, about eighty years ago these words made Maya Angelou rather surprised. A lot of African Americans gathered in the Store to listen to the commentaries to the fight between a Negro pugilist and a European one.
The announcer greeted the audience and called them “ladies and gentlemen” in general (Kennedy et al. 105). This action made Angelou wonder if he had understood that addressed all black people also. Under the pressure of stereotypes, she underlined that African Americans do not deserve to be called like that. It shows that not only the people who treat others on the basis of the stereotypes refer to them but also those who occur to be victims.
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Prejudice occurs when one forms an opinion that is not based on any facts, even before gets to know something about the case. The prejudice of black men is their belief in the fact that if one of them falls, the others follow him/her. Angelou describes the situation when all African American people associated themselves with the fighter Joe Louis. They firmly believed that if he does not win, they would be going down.
The moment Louis was falling, each person in the Store felt that as if the times of slavery and victimization came back. The fighter would lose, and they would become “the lower types of human beings” under the domination of whites (Kennedy et al. 106). Angelou describes herself and people of her race as “stupid and ugly and lazy and dirty and, unlucky and worst of all, that God Himself hated us and ordained us to be hewers of wood and drawers of water, forever and ever, world without end” (Kennedy et al. 106).
I think that it is more than just wrong if a person is ready to treat oneself in such a way. How immense the influence of the stereotype should be and how unconfident the person should feel to allow such thoughts? The years of humiliation left an imprint on their minds, which can be seen in this scene.
However, the stereotypes and prejudices also have the other side. They can be considered as a driving force for changes. People who understand that those beliefs underestimate them are likely to bring alterations in their lives to prove that they are worth more. Every cloud has a silver lining, and this is shown by the inner power of black men that is slightly underlined at the beginning of the chapter.
Black sky and lightening were used to predict bad events by our forebears. However, the citizens were sensitized to a positive outcome. They claimed that nothing can prevent Louis to win, which meant that they also are ready for positive changes.
Religious stereotypes are common all over the world. According to them, Christians are compassionate and loving, temperate in everything. But Maya Angelou believes that they can show their true nature if something extreme happens. She claims that “even the old Christian ladies who taught their children and tried themselves to practice turning the other cheek would buy soft drinks, and if the Brown Bomber’s victory was particularly bloody one, they would order peanut patties and Baby Ruths also” (Kennedy et al. 105). Thus, the event that is significant for them can show that their inner power is good enough for alterations, not only prayers.
Black people got used to being defeated. They are full of uncertainty and timidity. But the fact that they continue fighting for their rights proves that they are also unbowed. It is the other side of the stereotype that is shown by Angelou. When Luis almost lost the fight, he found extra powers that helped him to win. A black man became the champion and “proved that we were the strongest people in the world” (Kennedy et al. 107).
The chapter “Champion of the World” concentrates on the stereotypes and prejudices regarding the racial discrimination. It shows the way black people treated themselves, their fears and beliefs. It is also an example of the embodiment of the whole “colored nation” in one person. The text depicts the thirst for victory and the strength of will. It shows how one event can influence the lives of many people and make them change their worldview.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that the history has an immense effect on people’s lives. They can even forget what exactly was happening, but the sense of the experience will live in a form of stereotypes and prejudices. Still, they are not always adverse. Sometimes they give people strength to alter their future.
Kennedy, X. J., Dorothy Kennedy, Jane Aaron and Ellen Repetto. The Bedford Reader. 12th ed. 2014. Boston: Bedford/St, Martin’s. Print.