Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

Synopsis

This series of allegorial stories and encounters with fictional characters sheds light on some of the most perplexing and vexing issues of the day: affirmative action, disparity between civil rights law and reality, "racist outbursts" of some African American leaders, and more.

Excerpt

In these bloody days and frightful nights when an urban warrior can find no face more despicable than his own, no ammunition more deadly than self-hate and no target more deserving of his true aim than his brother, we must wonder how we came so late and lonely to this place.

--Maya Angelou

When I was groing up in the years before the Second World War, our slave heritage was more a symbol of shame than a source of pride. It burdened black people with an indelible mark of difference as we struggled to be like whites. In those far-off days, survival and progress seemed to require moving beyond, even rejecting slavery. Childhood friends in a West Indian family who lived a few doors away often boasted--erroneously as I later learned--that their people had never been slaves. My own more accurate--but hardly more praiseworthy--response was that my forebears included many free Negroes, some of whom had Choctaw and Blackfoot Indian blood.

In those days, self-delusion was both easy and comforting. Slavery was barely mentioned in the schools and seldom discussed by the descendants of its survivors, particularly those who had somehow moved themselves to the North. Emigration, whether from the Caribbean islands or from the Deep South states, provided a geographical distance that encouraged and enhanced individual denial of our collective, slave past. We sang spirituals but detached the songs from their slave origins.

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