James Baldwin, Martin Luther King and Colson Whitehead illustrate the dreadful struggles of African Americans in their works. Despite their equivalent views on racial discrimination, these authors propose distinctive solutions to the same problem. White superior has stripped away African American identities. The desire of control and hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of people.
Baldwin’s letter to his nephew distinguish the harsh realities that he is born into. The racial segregation and discrimination that has constructed by white people. These people consider themselves superior and in their eyes, people of color are worthless. Baldwin describes the lack of encouragement and desire for people of color to succeed in life. He says “You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible, that you were a worthless human being. You were not expected to aspire to excellence: you were expected to make peace with mediocrity” (2). In this society, whites won’t expect you to succeed and they will try to dehumanize your individuality. People of color are only acknowledged for their slave work. For a solution, Baldwin proposes that you must accept their perception but stay true to yourself and values. “You must accept them and accept them with love. For these innocent people have no other hope. They are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it”. You can’t change their view on racism, but you can continue to make peace. You must push through the hardships because that’s what humans are built for. “One can be, indeed one must strive to become, tough and philosophical concerning destruction and death, for this is what most of mankind has been best at since we have heard of man” (1)
From Birmingham jail, King writes a letter in response to the public for being imprisoned due to participating against segregation. He depicts the underlying injustice that people are obligated to follow. King reflects on the brutal destruction of the holocaust and compares it to the circumstances people of color were in. During the Holocaust, Hitler forced thousands of Germans to hate Jews. It was illegal to aid or associate yourself with a Jew. King proposes that this law was unethical. If people disobeyed they were slaughtered. King compares this activity to the Klu Klux Klan. White superior has mistreated African Americans simply because of their appearance and culture. King states, “…white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice” (3). Authority demands control instead of unity. There is no desire to have peace. As a solution, King explains that the superior will eventually come to an end. “Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever. The urge for freedom will eventually come. This is what has happened to the American Negro” (4). King expresses that American society is a common ground for all communities. “We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom” (5). King believes that America is capable of developing the fundamental principles of respect, equality and democracy.
In “the underground railroad”, Cora followed by other enslaved people have never experienced freedom. Life on the plantation and escaping distinguish the two opposites: Freedom and Death. The lives of people of color are highly dependent on white supremacy. When Cora and Caeser encounter a source of transportation, they are befuddled. Lumbly, the station agent mentions, “Away from here, that’s all I can tell you. You understand the difficulties in communicating all the changes in the routes. Locals, expresses, what station’s closed down. The problem is that one destination maybe more to your liking than another. You won’t know what waits above until you pull in.”(7). This highlights the concept that black people were in constant risk. Not knowing where to go and the risk of having their lives taken away from them at any moment. Ridgeway is son of a blacksmith, who grows up to be a slave catcher. This character displays the perception of white supremacy. “Don’t speculate where the salve is headed next. Concentrate instead on the idea that he is running away from you. Not from a cruel master or the vast agency of bondage, but you specifically” (8). He truly believes that white people have the right to enslave black people in order to fulfill structure in America. When Cora gets to South Carolina, she reaches a level of security and peace. “Being free had nothing to do with chains or how much space you had. On the plantation, she was not free, but she moved unrestricted on its acres, tasting the air and tracing the summer stars” (20). Whitehead encourages hope, and the possibility that freedom exist.
King encourages act of nonviolent protest to end racial segregation. Baldwin believes that in spite of the views white people have over colored people, being true to yourself will sustain your self-worth. Whitehead proposes hope. These authors all acknowledge the discrimination and struggle of African Americans. Although they all recommend distinctive acts of optimism. The pain and sufferings are only temporary.