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Using evidence from the essay "My Dungeon Shook"  is it correct to say that the U.S...

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joellle | Student, Grade 11 | Valedictorian

Posted January 17, 2012 at 3:55 AM via web

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Using evidence from the essay "My Dungeon Shook"  is it correct to say that the U.S is a white man's country?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 17, 2012 at 4:09 AM (Answer #1)

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It is quite clear throughout this short essay written by James Baldwin that he is writing this essay in a context in which whites rule supreme, and blacks come a definite second. Note the way in which Baldwin talks about the "dispute" he has with his country and how he accuses the US of ruining and destroying thousands upon thousands of lives. He elaborates on how this is achieved precisely through using his nephew--the recipient of this letter--as an example of how powerless blacks are in this white man's world:

You were born where you were born, and faced the future that you faced because you were black and for no other reason.  The limits of your ambition were, thus, expected to be set forever.  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.  Wherever you have turned, James, in your short time on this earth , you have been told where you could go and what you could do (and how you could do it) and where you could do it and whom you could marry.

What makes this claim all the more poignant is that this letter is written to Baldwin's nephew on the one hundreth anniversary of the emancipation of slavery in the US. For Baldwin to analyse and argue that, in spite of the emancipation, his country is still dominated by the same underlying assumptions and beliefs that made slavery possible, is particularly meaningful. As he says, the only way to give into such power is to believe that you are the "nigger" that the whites believe you to be.

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