Randy’s discussion with Malachai reveals Randy’s attitudes towards black people. What are they?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter eleven of Alas, Babylon, Randy readies Pete's grocery truck for the ambush to catch and kill the highwaymen who had been preying on travelers in Fort Repose.  At the last minute, Malachai makes a suggestion that he should drive the truck instead of Randy:

It's your face.  It's white.  They're more likely to tackle a black face than a white face.  They see my face they say, 'Huh, here's something soft and probably with no gun' (266).

At first Randy discounts Malachai's idea and is actually "furious" at his interference in his plan, but as the Admiral points out--Malachai's plan has merit.  Randy has "confidence in Malachai's driving and in his judgment and courage," but when it came to the talking part of the plan, Randy doubted Malachai's ability to pull it off (266).  Randy's conversation with Malachai reveals Randy's lingering prejudice toward his black neighbors.  He does not believe that Malachai is quick-witted enough to pull off the plan with the truck. 

This scene says much about Randy's character; on the whole, he has been incredibly fair and giving to the Henry family, including them in the steak cookout, helping them with supplies, and including them in the plans whenever possible, but in this one critical moment, he has his doubts whether Malachai can pull off being the driver.  Even in a fair-minded man like Randy, there is still the lingering shadow of racism.  Randy learns to put his entire trust in Malachai, and after the ambush, Randy realizes the true worth and loyalty of the late Malachai and the entire Henry family.