Racism In Sherman Alexie's 'Gentrification'

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Sherman Alexie’s Gentrification first sets out to show the effect a white man has on his black community, but ends out taking a deeper dive into the protagonist, instead. Gentrification is littered with the internal struggles this person faces as a minority in his community. The white protagonist of this short story appears very self-conscious of his race, perhaps even apologetic.
The story’s protagonist sounds very afraid of being thought of as racist. “The simple names are the easiest to remember. So, in this regard, perhaps I am racist.” Throughout the story, he continuously insists he is not racist and that he sees his neighbors as no different than any other he’s had, “My neighbors are like any other group of neighbors I’ve ever had.”
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“Who was the most racist in that situation? Was it the white man who was too terrified to confront his black neighbors on their rudeness? Was it the black folks who abandoned their mattress on their curb? … Or was it all of us, black and white, passively revealing that, despite our surface friendliness, we didn’t really care about one another?” He never blames the black neighbors for their disregard of the mattress because their black, but sounds aware of the stereotyping and how he comes off addressing it. He also knows how much he stands out in the community as a minority, wondering what the cops would say to him, “ ‘Buddy,’ the cops would say. ‘You don’t fit the profile of the neighborhood.” Despite his pride in his actions of disposing of the mattress, the mistreatment by his black neighbors comes off as an unfortunate, but expected, consequence, “I knew the entire block would shun me. I felt pale and lost, like an American explorer in the…show more content…
He makes connections between himself and an African woman carrying a vase on her head when he performs a similar action, “My only option was to carry mattress on my head, like an African woman gracefully walking with a vase of water balanced on her head…” This isn’t the only time he makes a reference to African culture: he points out the difficult to pronounce African name of one of the neighbor’s sons and goes on to identify him by said description. When he is shunned, he draws a parallel to American explorers on foreign land, emphasising how much of an outsider he feels himself to be, as quoted above. He even calls himself “pale”, as if his light skin is a negative, unsightly
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