Title and Author
Growing up colored by Henry Louis Gates Jr
Date of Issue
American heritage magazine 2012, volume 62, issue 2
The article is a web version link: http://www.americanheritage.com/content/growing-colored
Gates narrates his boyhood story and the challenges he experienced as a result of racism while growing up in Piedmont, West Virginia. African Americans were discriminated by the whites because of their skin color. The story presents the challenges experienced by African Americans as a result of racism.
Piedmont, West Virginia was originally occupied by immigrants of Italian and Irish origin. There were also colored people including Gates who lived in Piedmont. Gates asserts that the colored people migrated into the region in the early 20th century. By 1950, white people already had a considerable presence in the region. The white people worked at the mills and in banks as tellers. However, there were also some white people who visited the colored people. The visitors were accorded names based on their mission in Piedmont. Names such as Mr. Mailman would be issued to the white people. The names were given according to the tasks they performed in Piedmont.
Gates asserts that not all white people were concerned about their skin color. There were white people who performed their duties without being affected by racism. Racism was evident because all colored people were expected to stand while seeking for services in offices occupied by white people. Racism was the order of the day in 1950s, but Gate’s family had their own pride and held negative views about the white people. In 1957, Gates’ mother had to relocate to the white people’s neighborhood. Racism did make them consider another neighborhood because Gate’s mother considered the whites to be dirty.
In 1950s and 1960s, racism was experienced even in television channels. African Americans were expected to watch their programs in colored channel 2, while the white people had everything in their life colored. The white people were too obsessed with racism that they did not want the black people to be associated with them. Gates asserts that there was nothing common between the white people and the black, except the location in which they were born. In addition, Gates’ parents used to warn black children against accompanying white people to other social settings because all they did was to mock the black Americans based on skin color. Racism was rampant in Piedmont thereby forcing the colored people to develop immune to the racist abuses directed to them by the white people.
Racism was also experienced in professions. Gates asserts that there were no colored people working as doctors, nurses or mailmen. All these professions were reserved for the white people. The blacks could only dream of such professions. In addition, there were no white people employed in craft unions. Seeking employment in white dominated social settings was impossible. The blacks could also not gather or drink liquor at the white VFW (Gates).
Due to rampant racism, civil rights groups emerged to fight for the rights of the colored people. Civil rights groups used televisions to communicate their views to the racist white s. However, the white people did not bother to listen to such messages. Civil rights groups ensured that the color of skin did not determine how human beings received services from government officers. In addition, the whites saw the need to respect the colored people in their places of social gathering. White people could be viewed on channels previously viewed by the whites only.
Colored people were also not allowed to sit down at the Rendezvous bar. The color of the skin determined whether authorities could allow an individual to eat pizza at the Eddie’s. In addition, the colored people had specific locations where they were expected to buy property. Furthermore, the colored people were not expected to move into the white neighborhood. However, prominent colored people in the world such as Mike Tyson and Nelson Mandela gave the colored people a sense of pride about the color of their skin. The colored people believed that they could achieve their full potential in the society despite the challenges in society. Mike Tyson and Nelson Mandela were effective civil rights activists. They fought against white domination and discrimination against the colored people. Piedmont experienced rampant racism due to existence of different races. There were immigrants of Italian and Irish origin, colored people and the white people.
Colored people were not allowed to eat pizza at the Eddies. In addition, racism is evident when colored people were not expected to sit down when receiving services from doctors and insurance service providers. Racism was also experienced because colored people were prevented from drinking liquor and the white VFW. Furthermore, colored people could only view their colleagues on Channel 2. All doctors and nurses in Piedmont were white people, while colored people could only dream of such professions.
The article presents a clear picture of how African Americans suffered from racism in the early 1950s and 1960s. The author asserts that civil rights activists such as Martin Luther king Junior, mike Tyson, and Nelson Mandela fought against discrimination and mistreatment of colored people by the whites. In addition, the author informs the reader on the racial background of people who lived in Piedmont. Piedmont was first occupied by immigrants of Italian and Irish origin. The colored people migrated into the region in early 20th century. Racism in Piedmont is as a result of different races living in the region.
The author presents the story of racism through the use of historical evidence. In 1950s and 1960s, colored people were not allowed to get jobs in craft unions. In addition, the colored people were not allowed to have a drink at the white VFW. Historical evidence concerning civil rights groups in 50s and 60s are also presented by the author.
Gates asserts that colored people were not expected to sit down while seeking services at hospitals and in insurance companies. These are evidences of racism presented by the author that makes the story to be credible. In particular, Gate’s father was not allowed to sit down while they were at the doctor’s office. The article therefore becomes imperative in understanding how racism affected African Americans in the 20th century.