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Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Mississippi Burning
Prejudice is just a word until a book or movie puts pictures in your mind. In Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Mississippi Burning, there are several scenes that have an impact on me. Both stories tell how badly the black families of Mississippi were treated, and they show how they suffered through it and came out the other end with courage and honor. It also tells how unfair the white men were to the blacks, inside and outside of the courtroom. Prejudice is an ugly subject, and is still taught today. The horrible things that the white man did to the colored man make me realize how ignorance certainly is bliss.
In both Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and Mississippi Burning, the black people were tortured and tormented for no reason other than that they were black. The black families in the book Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry live in constant fear of the nightriders. The nightriders would kill a man for looking at them the wrong way in those days. It is for this reason that the black people tried to have as little to do with the white men as possible. In the book, Papa tries to explain to Stacey why it's not such a good idea to get involved with Jeremy. "We Logans don't have much to do with the white folks. You know why?" Papa says, " `Cause white folks mean trouble" p. 158. In Mississippi Burning, the FBI agent Mr. Anderson tries to explain to his partner how prejudice the white men of Mississippi are. In this movie, the members of the Ku Klux Klan kill black men because they stepped out of line. When trying to explain this to his partner, Mr. Anderson tells him " Down here, things are different; here, they believe that some things are worth killing for." He also tells how thirty years ago, a black man could be hung for stealing a watermelon. After all the bad things that the white man did to the black man, I wouldn't be surprised if they still didn't forgive us.
When comparing the book and the movie, I can't help but notice the honor and confidence that the black people possess.
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Prejudice is a terrible thing to encounter, especially when dealing with ignorant and dastardly people. It is bad enough that the white man treated the black man unfairly on an informal day-to-day basis, but it is so much worse when they carry it into the judicial system. In the book, the white men try to make sure that the Logans lose their land. To do this, the bank demands more money and one time than Papa can pay, and there is nothing Papa can do about it. He can't go to the police or the courts, for they are all ruled by prejudice white men. Papa says, "Granger's got a need to show us where we stand in the scheme of things. He's got a powerful need to do that" p.233. In the movie, when the three white men go to court for setting a black man's house on fire, the judge rules very unfairly. The judge states that the crime that they committed was triggered by outside influences, and that it wasn't their fault. He implies that it is alright to do what they did, because the FBI agents that are in town are provoking them. Prejudice and partiality trigger the type of unfairness the judge shows. The judge was white, and so were the men on trial. What else could he do but acquit them? In his mind, the judge saw that as the right thing to do.
Even though the book Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, and the movie Mississippi Burning were not made to go together, anyone can't help but notice the striking similarities. This is very sad though, because the stories take place about thirty years apart from one another. This just shows how stubborn people are, and how they prohibit change and difference. Both stories tell about how the black people were treated so viciously, how they were brave and honorable, and how the judicial system made spineless efforts to make black people as miserable and deprived of rights as possible. Prejudice is not something someone is born with, it is merely taught at a young age. In an ideal world, everyone would get along, and treat each other fairly. There would be no such thing as hate crimes, racial discrimination, or deprivation of civil rights. The violence and terror levels would plummet, and the streets would be safer for today's children. The word prejudice would vanish, and words like equality and unity would have new meaning. Dreams like these are broken, though, because truthfully, who ever said this was an ideal world?
Taylor, Mildred D. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. New York: Puffin Books, 1976.
Mississippi Burning. Dir. Alan Parker. With Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe. Written by Chris Gerolmo. Orion Pictures, 1988.