So Far Removed: A Response to Native Son and Knock on Any Door

As I sit here wallowing over the death of my laptop, I can’t help but to swallow the all-encompassing $200 horror with glassy eyes- It’s a lost cause, really, the screen has a gaping fissure the size of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge right through the center. It’s quite ridiculous to be so engrossed in such a minute tragedy (if you could even call it that…) And I am one hundred percent cognizant of this.

I mean, there are A LOT of other horrific things that could occur in someone’s life, right? After all, you could get attacked by one of those ridiculous, unnerving clowns roaming about lately. Or, in the case of Richard Wright’s protagonist Bigger in Native Son, the entirety of your existence as a person of color could be undermined by prying, condescending white people who claim to want to enrich the lives of the oppressed, but are really only interested in supplementing their own reputations in the hegemony.

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Perhaps even more unfortunate is the fact that instances synonymous to that of Bigger’s are not uncommon for POC in our supposed “modern” world (hence the emergence of the “Black Lives Matter” slogan, which really shouldn’t even have to be articulated, but is in fact extremely necessary in our contorted society.) In such a case, I REALLY hope that I’m not comparable to Jan and Mary- butting my head into issues that I could never possibly comprehend; but realistically, I probably am. I mean, I have wholesome intentions- I try to bring awareness to the profound injustice that is our nation’s race relations, but ultimately, I am indeed well acquainted with the fact that my perspective is jaded by my situation in our overpoweringly whitewashed society.

In this way, I suppose that I am not only (unfortunately) like Jan and Mary from Native Son, but that I’m also comparable to the protagonist of Knock on Any Door, Nick Romano (Chapter 17 Nick Romano, at least.)

As Nick wanders through the area around the old Maxwell Street market, he tries to approach its impossibly diverse community with humility and understanding. Not once does he presuppose the individuals of the bustled, impoverished locale to be a destructive or repellant people (despite the fact that it would be incredibly easy to do so, provided the combination of circumstances and his position in the hegemony.) However, as Motley concludes, Nick was still merely “staring through the little diamonds of [the] tall wire fence” (Motley, 237). A privileged Italian-American living under the supervision of a mother who cared about his well-being, unlike the “little kids, looking like they belonged to no one” (Motley, 235) he observed during his crusade through the area, his empathy was shrouded by his inherent inability to fully comprehend the extent of their demise.

And there’s the Catch-22, if you will. Like Nick, I am a Caucasian individual with virtuous intentions- I try to view disparaging issues through a compassionate and overall, conducive lens. To my dismay, I may also appear to be like Jan and Mary, trying to speak on issues that I couldn’t possibly understand with being so far removed from the situation as a result of my white privilege. Either way, my lens is fogged. (Savana Robinson/CoS Student)

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