Is there racism in the novel Possessing the Secret of Joy?  

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kimfuji eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, there is racism and misogyny. The last chapter sums it up. Tashi is talking before she is going to be killed for killing someone. In the letter to Lisette she writes about all the suffering of black women and girls that she could not get out of her mind. She wanted the women's suffering to be the subject of a sermon even though the reverend would not allow it. She feels it is unjust to highlight the suffering on the cross of Jesus, when they(christians) will not speak of women's suffering. She felt angry by that, for all the years she sat and listened to his sermons. She said:


I used to think my mother thought about me. But I identified with her suffering so completely it was I who always thought about, indeed was haunted by, her suffering; and because I believed she and I were one, I made the part of her that was me think about me. In truth, my mother was not equipped, there was not enough of her self left to her, to think about me. Or about my sister Dura, who bled to death after a botched circumcision, or about any of her other children. She had just sunk into her role of 'She Who Prepares the Lambs for Slaughter.' Is it cruel to say this? I feel it is cruel; but that it is only the cruelty of truth, speakng it, shouting it, that wifl save us now. If we do not, Africa may well be depopulated of black people in our grandchildren's lifetime, and the worldwide suffering of our children will continue to be our curse. In all my life it has been Adam and his sister, Olivia, who I believed thought most about me. He married me; she is my best friend. But do you know why my soul removed itself from Adam's reach? It is because I helped him start his progressive ministry - more progressive anyway than his father's and those of most preachers of color - in San Francisco, and I sat there in our church every Sunday for five years listening to Adam spread the word of Brotherly Love, which has its foundation in God's love of his son, Jesus Christ. I grew agitated each time he touched on the suffering of Jesus. For a long time my agitation confused me. I am a great lover of Jesus, and always have been. Still, I began to see how the constant focus on the suffering of Jesus alone excludes the suffering of others from one's view. And in my sixth year as a member of Adam's congregation, I knew I wanted my own suffering, the suffering of women and little girls, still cringing before the overpowering might and weapons of cnng the torturers, to be the subject of a sermon. Was woman herself not the tree of life? And was she not crucified? Not in some age no one even remembers, but right now, daily, in many lands on earth? One sermon, I begged him. One discussion with your followers about what was done to me.