GoingTo Meet the Man
Racism is the curse of the American society that boasts that it isthe melting pot of all cultures. Nothing exemplifies this curse ofracism than the short story ‘Going to meet the man’ by JamesBaldwin. The short story is written in a simple, descriptive way withappropriate choice of vocabularies. Baldwin story is based on tragicand ferocious racism against the black race of North America. Theshort story is narrated through the perspective of a white man to hiswife. Throughout the story, the author provides horrifying accountsof brutality meted on colored community. The narrator tells the storylike one big joke and he still thinks that being white he is a betterperson it is weird how the narrator seems amused by the brutalitymeted on Negros. The narrator (Jesse) tells the story to convey thedeep inequality, harsh attitude and sexual exploitation that theblack race goes through. While the story covers other diversethemes such as sexual exploitation, political oppression, the maintheme in the story is racism which is expressed in various waysagainst the black and colored community.
Baldwin story is purely based on racism theme. The story starts withJesse (the narrator) trying to make love to his wife but he is unable(Baym, Levine, Wayne, Gura, Klinkowitz et al… 1328). Consequently,Jesse begins to reflect on his life and the various scenes hewitnessed and participated on black race harassment. The narratortells his wife that ‘he is going to do her’ as the colored malesdo. The narrator is unable to perform sex to his white wife yet hesexually lusts for black women. By showing Jesse’s sexualdysfunction and the narrators thirst for black women, Baldwin wantedto show that the white race is just as ‘bad’ as the coloredpeople (Baym, Levine, Wayne, Gura, Klinkowitz et al.. 1329).
In addition, Baldwin wanted to show that the white race is also avictim of racism. Baldwin intended to show that the narrator’snotion of self as been ‘just’ and ‘good man’ was distorted.The narrator is a racist but he sees himself as ‘good.’ In thiscase, Baldwin constructed Jesse as a white man who is inhibited byracism yet he considers himself a just man. For instance, it is quiteamusing that Jesse ‘enjoyed’ a scene in which a black man wasbrutally tortured to death just because his parents had given himchance to witness it (Baym, Levine, Wayne, Gura, Klinkowitz et al..1330). However, through the reflection of Jesse the reader realizesthat the narrator has also realized that the black race is not as badas treated by the white race. This is evident when Jesse startsthinking of how ‘sexy’ black women are and has in the pastengaged in sexual encounters with them.
As the story unfolds, the reader is told how Jesse wishes that hiswife was a black woman to perform sexual acts that arouses him(Baldwin 1754). Again, Jesse’s racism element is revealed when hethinks that his wife Grace is ‘pure’ and cannot perform sexualacts like the black women (Baldwin 1753). This shows that thenarrator takes black women as ‘impure’ while the white women are‘pure.’ To illustrate this, Jesse equates his wife’s name“Grace” as a “sanctuary” (Baldwin 1751).
It is through Jesse life reflection that the reader learns about thedeep racial brutality meted on black race. For instance, Jesse tellshis wife that earlier on the day he witnessed a singer (Big C Jim)beating black people for their songs (Baldwin 1753). Jesse feels thatit is like the black people has no value and are thus treated likeobjects by white people. To this he remembers how several black womenhave been sexually assaulted. The narrator further narrates how he isproud of his father. We are told that Jesse ‘was actually happythat his father allowed him watch a black man as he was tortured’(Baldwin 1753). This aspect shows how the narrator upholds racismacts although he appears confused on whether to detest such racismacts. Jesse’s reflection takes the reader through various scenes ofviolence, hatred, segregation and force which reveals him as part ofthe racists white men (Baldwin 1759). For instance, when recountinghow the black man was tortured to death, how the black men werebeaten for singing or how black women were sexually exploited, Jesseappears to have enjoyed the scenes. Jesse narrates the horrificaccounts of black harassments as he would narrate an exciting drama.The narrator does not hold an iota of sympathy or regret but narratesthe story as one big joke and this portrays him as a whitesupremacist.
The author presents the story by hinting to the audience his stanceon the white community. Reading through the story a reader is able tonotice Baldwin’s detest for the white racist acts against thecolored community. For instance, the author ‘makes’ the narratorlook as a part of the larger white community discriminating thecolored race. This is revealed when he presents the narrator asfeeling proud of his father hostile act against blacks (Gorman 120).Baldwin is justified by this presentation since he was anAfro-American and possibly had experienced racism at one time.Baldwin element of racism is conspicuous as expressed in the story.For instance, he highlights Jazz music as part of the black raceculture. The author depicts the use of Jazz music by the black peopleto express their dissatisfaction with the oppression, struggles andhardships encountered.
Baldwin depicts the narrator as lying beside his sleepy wife whilefilled with anxiety of a black man uprising. In part, the narratorimpotence appears to be more influenced by the horrific terror thathis race has meted on black people. As the night wears out hereflects on recent protects and marches staged in which one young manwas brutally beaten. The narrator is disturbed that the white ‘areunited’ in criminalizing the black race and none makes attempt tostop. In this, Jesse appears guilty for the inhuman acts perpetratedagainst black race. It is while reflecting on these numerous horrificscenes of violence against the black race that he realizes that hissexual dysfunction is connected to this racial bigotry. As the guiltof racism weighs upon him, the narrator feels lost bin his ‘mask’and cannot tell whether he is ‘black’ or ‘white.’ It is whilehe is struggling to retain his ‘grace’ of life that he turns tohis sleepy wife Grace and engages in sex with her. In this way, Jessebecomes similar to the black ‘rapist’ who the white race brutallymurdered.
Baldwin’s short story is indeed a depiction of racialhypersexualization of the colored people and attempts to portraywhite race supremacy. The story depicts the white men as protectors,saviors and powerful compared to the black males. For instance, afterJesse fails sexually, he attempts to justify how he beat up a blackman for raping a white woman. In this case, Jesse sexualizes racism.Even Jesse the narrator beats and rapes up a black man with abandonanger in order to ‘protect’ the white women of his race (Baldwin1756). At one point Jesse is quoted as saying to the black man ‘youare lucky, we pump white blood on your women’ (Baldwin 1756). Thisassertion by Jesse was part of affirming his racism bigotry overblack men.
Racial hyper-sexualization is also evident in the manner Jesserecounts how black men were tortured while he was young. The whitemales would beat up black Americans and sexualize them in an attemptto demonize them. This observation is made by Hale (231) whocollaborates Baldwin narrative by stating, ‘by late nineteenthcentury black males were attacked, stripped and killed.’ At thestart of the story, Jesse describes the horrific beating of a blackman in a racist way Jesse says ‘the black African Jungle cat layjust there naked’ (Baldwin 1756). This statement is meant toracially sexualize the victim in a negative way.
Jesse’s description of the scene in which a black man was killedshows how he also holds racial bigotry. In Baldwin (1752), Jesse isquoted as saying this for the white male who killed the black man ‘hecut the niggers privates, caressed them…they were bigger, huge andthe blackest.” This statement is an example of hyper sexualizedracism that most white supremacist had over the black male. It isthus surprising how the author shows the white male as biased theysexually exploit and adore black women yet kill, maim and hypersexualize black males (Gorman 123). The author wished to express theextent of racial bigotry that was at the climax during the latenineteenth century.
Baldwin’s short story ‘Going to meet the man’ is indeed writtento project extreme racism. Throughout the story, the author depictsthe white man conquest to oppress the colored and black communitythrough whichever means available. Through the narrators eye, theauthor depicts the white race as extremely violent and hell bent toreinforce white supremacy to the other lesser races. The storydepicts extreme racial harassment through sexual exploitation.
Baym Nina, Levine Robert S., Wayne Franklin, Gura Philip F.,Klinkowitz Jerome et al. The Norton Anthology of AmericanLiterature. USA: Norton &Company, Inc. 2011. Print. P.g 1328
Baldwin James. “Going to meet the man.” Pdf. P. 1750-1761.Retrieved fromhttps://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CCkQFjACahUKEwjPsemzooXHAhXIPxQKHfBxChM&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.unh.edu%2Finclusive%2Fsites%2Funh.edu.inclusive%2Ffiles%2Fpdf%2Fmlk%2F2011%2FGoing_to_Meet_the_Man.pdf&ei=Y1y7VY_0Esj_UPDjqZgB&usg=AFQjCNH9w5JojDAQpZW7rGIHj2FCdeunyQ&bvm=bv.99261572,d.ZGU
Hale, Grace. Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in theSouth, 1890-1940. New York: Pantheon Books, 1998. Print.
Gorman, Joe. “Oppression through Sexualization: The Use ofSexualization in “Going to Meet the Man” and “The ShoyuKid.”Undergraduate Review, (2009).5, 119-124.
Available at: http://vc.bridgew.edu/undergrad_rev/vol5/iss1/24