Coates vs Stockett

As Coates explains in his essay, Why do so few Blacks Study the Civil War, the Civil War was “a story for white people—acted out by white people, on white people’s terms”. The idea that black people merely featured as “stock characters and props” in their own war for liberation allows us to understand the question better. How can a black man succeed equally to a white man when a black man’s fight for freedom was not his own? With so few black people in positions of power, it is difficult to argue against the lack of equal opportunity for blacks and whites. With this basis for an economy, although the intent may not be to continue a legacy of colonialism, does intent really matter if the behaviour exhibited in our society demonstrates minimal regard for equal opportunity in life?

That being said, I also feel that it is important to recognise behaviour with good intention when it is being displayed. For example, I felt that Coates’ critique of the Obama years of the presidency was quite unfairly cynical. He argued that Obama wasn’t truly a “black man’s” president, however, it is important to understand what it meant to be president. Obama was elected to be president by a majority of the population, not all of whom were black. As president, he must appeal to the entire population, not isolate black people in an attempt to benefit them. Even if he did want to do change laws and policies to benefit the black population, the presidency does not give absolute rule over a country, meaning unless there was a majority vote from both black and white senators, he would be unable to do so.

When comparing the Stockett and Coates passages, it is important to take into account their audience and the similarities that can be drawn from the two texts. In Stockett’s book, The Help, the maids are almost enslaved to the words they shared as even though they allowed to tell their stories, it was still under the rule of a white person. A comparison can be drawn to Coates’ essay, Why do so few Blacks Study the Civil War, as during the civil war black people could “never to truly join the narrative” but to “speak as the slave would” indicating a similar idea of white rule despite their intentions. In ‘The Help” the intention of the Skeeter (the white protagonist) was to tell their stories and in the civil war, it was to free the slaves. Despite the best of intentions, in both these scenarios, the white people ultimately gained the most. In the book, even though Minny got revenge on Ms Hilly, the readers never truly had the sense that it was enough. Additionaly, Skeeter, a white character, gained the most from the book. Similarly, in the civil war even though it was slavery was outlawed, the segregation following the war was so prominent that its racist effects are still seen today.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to toolbar