March 30, 2007

Learned Racial Prejudice and Behavior

"If you seen one you didn't know what he was," Mr. Head said, completely exasperated. "A six-month-old child don't know a nigger from anybody else."

Flannery O'Connor, "The Artificial Nigger"

The battle for racial equality is still ongoing, making discussion of the more opinionated stances difficult and easily tip-toed around.
In the opening pages of Flannery O'Connor's "The Artificial Nigger," Mr. Head makes a point that is one such tip-toed around stance. Nelson doesn't know what the physical differences between the races are due to lack of exposure. The only differences he knows are those that have been inflicted upon him. Mr. Head states it from the point of view of Nelson's naivety as a downfall rather than a more natural un-biased opinion.
In class last night, Dr. Jerz shared a story about the maturing of his young daughter when it came to terms of racial prejudice. Racial prejudice isn't in-born; as is proven by the bold expression of Mr. Head and the innocence of the young lady Jerz. It is rather learned from an environment - like most strongly opinionated viewpoints.
In order to have strong motive behind racially prejudiced behavior, an understanding of the differences that are disapproved - and why - must be established. While Nelson hasn't been exposed to the actually physical differences, his behavior has already been established in his particular environment.

Posted by Diana Geleskie at March 30, 2007 9:54 AM | TrackBack

I didn't really think about the racial aspect of this story, though it was obviously a huge part of the plot. The racial comments made by Mr. Head bothered me, but that angle of the story didn't really move me enough to blog about. I thought the relationship between Mr. Head and his grandson was a more significant theme and what they learned about themselves and each other throughout their day in the city.

Posted by: Bethany Bouchard at April 1, 2007 3:45 PM

I agree that the central theme of the story wasn't racial. I just was more shocked by Mr. Head's recognition of the fact that all racist behavior has to be learned - you would think this would give him a hint as to the error of his own mentality.

Posted by: Diana Geleskie at April 1, 2007 8:32 PM
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