Why couldn't Maniac McGee understand it when black people were referred to as black?

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anthonda49 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Maniac McGee was raised in a time of segregation or near its end. Having little contact with African Americans until he ran away, he was puzzled by the reference to blacks. His child-like innocence was revealed by this comment. Black is the absence of light. These people had so many varying shades of color in their skin, mostly browns, that he thought black was too simplistic. They were the color of chocolate, coffee with cream, tan etc. To extend this concept, why are Caucasians referred to as white? White is the absence of color. Caucasian skin tones range from pinks to reds to tans, to cream. Under integration, which most readers were raised, questions about blacks in the story seem unrealistic, such as "Do black people eat mashed potatoes?". Segregation fostered many such strange notions among each group. As a child, I was taught that African Americans were colored. I remember asking my mother what color they were- green or purple. A story such as this shows life in a historical time period that is incomprehensible to us today.