Humanities Essay, Research Paper

Dr. Carol A. Martin

Hu 208 Intro to Humanities

February 08, 1999

In the memoir, Colored People, Henry Louis Gates Jr.

talks about what was the untalked about racial rule in

integrated schools. Now that the races had been ?blended

together? there was still the ?line of race and

gender?(Gates p.98) that could not be crossed.

In the story by Langston Hughes, Cora Unashamed, Cora

is a daughter in the only black family in town. She ends up

pregnant by a white boy who drifts in and out of her life.

She is looked down upon by her parents, but is unaffected by

this. To Cora, her baby was a ?living bridge between two

worlds.? (Hughes p.43) Gates and Cora share both

similarities and differences in their hope for a society,

which sees no color. Gates struggled with the fact that his

peer and confidant throughout childhood, Linda, could never

be more than a friend and classmate. He loved her as an

equal, as he knew she loved him. Cora, on the other hand

accepted the fact that Joe, the father of her child, could

not be a part of her life and she did not try to fight it.

Gates and Linda were both taught by society that they

were different. It is not evident to a child that race is

even an issue, it is something that is taught in hush hush

conversations, and slight undertones. It is like a cancer

that grows unnoticed, and then one day just takes over.

This is what happened to Gates and Linda. The fact that

they couldn?t progress in their relationship didn?t

completely occur to them until they were about eleven years

old, when as Gates puts it ?The strictures of race has

entered our lives, catching us unawares? (Gates p.108).

Cora accepted the fact that there would be no future, even

from the beginning of her relationship with Joe. ?Of course,

she hadn?t expected to marry Joe, or keep him. He was of

that other world, too? (Hughes p.43) Gates and Cora both

knew that the wall of racism, especially between genders was

too high to climb and too thick to break down. Gates speaks

for both Cora?s situation and his own when he says, ?…the

fact that it was an impossibility for us did not have to be

spoken? (Gates p.106).

Both Gates and Cora lived in a time where seeing eye to

eye, and especially beyond skin color was very rare. Gates

talked about how he was scolded in class because he referred

to his mother as ?she? and how ?it made me feel good, this

white woman talking about my mama like that, in front of the

other kids? (Gates p.93). Cora was used to being talked

down about. Being the only black family in town, and her

father being a drunk, Cora was forced to stay in town to

support her family and help with the other eight kids. The

people of Melton, her town, referred to her as a ?Negress

when they wanted to be polite? (Hughes p.40).

Stereotypes and accusations were just two of the

everyday battles that Gates and Cora had to fight. Cora

picked her fights, she figured fighting against the ?other

world? was a losing battle and lived her life the best she

could under the circumstances. Gates, with the help of his

mother learned how to fight back. When his teacher accused

him of stealing her scissors, he got back by receiving

straight A?s for the rest of the year. In academics, he

achieved astonishing scores as well as awards. By setting

his sights so high and achieving so much, he was able to say

in his own way, ?Nothing you can say or do will discourage

me, it will only make me work harder and set my sights


Unfortunately, Cora did not have the role models like

Gates did in his parents and brother, Rocky. Cora did not

have great opportunity to fight back. She was one against a

community of many, and if she did, she might lose her job,

the only thing that promised her a decent meal and a stable

way of life. Cora?s only way of fighting was to keep her

head held high, despite everything that was against her.

She projected an air about her that despite the things that

people did and said and the names they called her. She would

stand tall.

Gates and Cora were two people in an unfortunate time,

where not many choices were given, and going against the way

of society was considered suicide, especially for one?s

reputation. Both dealt with racism in their own way, both

in a way that slightly defied society?s ?prescription.?

They were both children raised with an uphill struggle ahead

of them. Were when some climbed as hard and as fast as they

could, even though the top was nowhere in sight, others gave

in and toppled to the bottom, reasoning that the harder they

fought, the longer that climb would be.

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