In “Going to Meet the Man,” James Baldwin writes of Jessie, a white sheriff in the racially-charged post- civil war south, who is having sexual problems with his wife and is instead sexually attracted to African American women and is seemingly aroused by violence in the jailhouse. Jessie has a flashback during the story to when he was a young child and his parents took him to watch a huge crowd of people lynch and castrate a black man. This, along with violent racism Jessie acts on towards African Americans, brings up the nature vs nurture argument in terms of racism. In this paper, I will argue that Baldwin uses vivid, explicit sexual language to argue that racism stems from dual causes; one being sexist undertones in which African Americans are fetishized and the other that white men cannot accept their sexuality and are thus intimidated by African American men. It is also interesting to note that Baldwin is a homosexual African American writing in the perspective of a white man who is arguably struggling with his sexuality; Baldwin uses this unique perspective to attempt to make sense of what could motivate the racial terrorism he experiences in life. His This writing is important because by being overtly confrontational and using a racist sheriff as the main character, Baldwin brings more attention to the issue of racism in a realistic and bold light that catches people’s attention. By bringing this aspect of sexuality into the racism debate, it catches reader’s attention because racism is discussed so much, yet this potential underlying cause of racism is unexpected. Baldwin also pulls in the nature-vs-nurture debate in terms of racism, begging the question of if racism is taught or inherent.
Black men stereotypically have...
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...ith Otis, a black boy, and they played together a lot, but then he couldn’t think of Otis without feeling nauseous (430). This racism was clearly encouraged by Jessie’s parents because Jessie thought his dad had “…carried him through a mighty test, had revealed to him a great secret which would be the key to his life forever” (435). Jessie, who was only 8 years old, was taught to find joy and beauty in seeing a black man hanging, burning, and see him as “the hanging head” (435) rather than as a person and even wished he was the one castrating him. Baldwin uses this to show how racism is taught to children and is thus deeply ingrained in society. This is important because it shows how difficult it is to eradicate racism.
Baldwin uses explicit sexual references in the story to shed light on racism which is taught from childhood and fostered throughout the lifespan.
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